Bioethics Blogs

Ethics and suicide: Are we paying attention to the important issues?

by Victoria Saigle and Eric Racine, Ph.D.

Eric Racine, Ph.D.

Victoria Saigle is a graduate student at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal’s Neuroethics Research Unit. She is a completing her MSc in Experimental Medicine at McGill University through the Biomedical Ethics Unit. Dr. Eric Racine is the director of the Neuroethics Research Unit at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal and holds academic appointments in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at Université de Montréal and in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, the Department of Medicine, and the Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill University. He is also a member of the AJOB Neuroscience Editorial Board.

Discussing suicide can be difficult in clinical, public, and academic settings because many people have strong intuitions about which, when, and whether voluntary death is appropriate. However, discussions about suicide are largely absent from bioethics scholarship. Considering that suicide is among the ten most common causes of death worldwide and the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-29 (World Health Organization, 2014), it is surprising that more attention is not devoted to this topic.

Victoria Saigle

Ethical dilemmas related to suicide intersect with important questions in research ethics, clinical ethics, and public health ethics. However, we discovered in recent work that the majority of ethics scholarship on voluntary death focuses either entirely on physician-assisted dying (PAD – a term we are using here to describe many different acts in which a physician helps to hasten death at a patient’s request) or consists of philosophical arguments about the acceptability or rationality of suicide.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.