You’ve Got No Right

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Like most secular people, I used to believe that everyone has a right to choose death. As an atheist, I had no patience for the religious argument that God created your life, and only he should end it. The legal argument against suicide seemed bizarre: you cannot steal from yourself, so it shouldn’t be a crime to take your own life. And, to my mind, the government has no right to force me to live for its sake or for mine. I had never heard a good secular argument against suicide. I suppose I also enjoyed the rebelliousness implied in defending suicide and the satisfaction of acknowledging that life is brutal and deserves to be rejected now and again.

But I have changed my mind about the right to suicide. I’m mostly talking about what I call “despair suicide," not end-of-life pain-management suicide, so it is not exactly the condition being addressed in this special section. Still, I think the discussion is important for this conversation. Let me explain my case against despair suicide.

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