Szasz's Views on Suicide

Categories: Suicide

Suicide is a rational choice. “I believe that, generally speaking, the person who commits suicide intends to die; whereas the one who threatens suicide or makes an unsuccessful attempt at it intends to improve his life, not terminate it” (Szasz 153). Thomas Szasz believed that physicians should not interfere with the choices we make involving suicide. He believed that if we had the right to live our life; we had the right to take it. “It is our ultimate, fatal freedom” (Szasz).

He considers the fact that counseling and other forms of help given are highly desirable and acceptable however he believes that physicians are never satisfied with such minimal treatment. Szasz approaches the point that if a patient with suicidal intentions seeks a physicians help, the physician will diagnose and begin treatment of the illness. However, the patient “is not ill and he has no demonstrable bodily disorder” (Szasz 155).

Forcible intervention is not the solution to the so called illness.” He believes that the physician treats the illness as a threat because of their own moral way of thinking.

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Power also comes into play when the physician wants to forcibly place the patient into therapy whereas the patient “wants to gain control over his own life and death” (Szasz 157). The last point he makes is the fact that taking away the right to kill oneself, it takes away the right to life, liberty and property. “For if suicide is an illness because it terminates in death, and if the prevention of death by any means necessary is the physicians therapeutic mandate, then the proper remedy for suicide is indeed liberticide” (Szasz 161).

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Jonathan Glover had a different opinion. He believed that “intervention is justified” (Glover 172). He believed that suicide is only sometimes allowable and that “people sometimes contemplate suicide without exploring the possibility of less radical steps to deal with their problems” (Glover 170). His point of view was that right before a person commits suicide, they have two questions. Would their future be worth staying alive for, and how would this effect all people involved. Glover believed that before a person commits the act of suicide they should talk to someone close to them or a specialist to see a different point of view. “If life is at present sufficiently bad to make a person think suicide may be in his own interest, he will need to have some idea of how likely or unlikely is any improvement in his state” (Glover 169). Glover also believes that the person contemplating suicide questions if this decision of taking one’s life is better than living or worse (170). Thomas Szasz wrote several articles involving the dynamics of suicide.

One of which was Suicide as a moral issue: Who should control when and how we die? In this article he brings up the point that, “Not long ago the right-thinking person believed that masturbation, oral sex, homosexuality, and other ‘unnatural acts’ were medical problems whose solution was delegated to doctors. It took us a surprisingly long time to take these behaviors back from physicians, accept them comfortably, and speak about them calmly.” Suicide is just like any of those acts except it involves death. Szasz is saying that no matter what our human minds are thinking; it is our right to think it. Suicidal thoughts and the suicide act itself is not an illness and can’t be fixed by forced medical treatment. He believes that, “For a long time, suicide was the business of the church and the priest. Now it is the business of the state and the doctor. Eventually we will make it our own business, regardless of what the bible or the constitution or medicine supposedly tells us about it” (Szasz). It used to be that suicide was considered a sin or considered a crime.

In this day and age, suicide is considered a mental illness and if one is seen as a threat to himself, he is forced to receive medical treatment by law of the state. Thomas Szasz is all about freedom. His ideas and motives are completely honorable and he approaches his points with facts. Suicide is a right to every human being. The other point of view comes from Casey Starkweather. She is a college student who writes essays based on personal experiences. Starkweather feels that “Suicide is a problem. It affects everyone, everywhere.” She also thinks that people who are experiencing depression and are having thoughts of suicide should check out suicide prevention programs. Her take on the subject is that if only we had better programs in schools we would have fewer suicide statistics. “Although suicide is a personal choice and is growing rapidly, we should put in place programs to help prevent suicide from happening” (Starkweather).

As she continues, she talks about how she believes we should retrain our counselors so that when issues arise, they can be handled appropriately. Reading her article, it seems to be that she suspects suicide to decrease due to programs being upgraded. She feels that if only people were involved more with activities and with their community, things would be different. Her ideas are similar to Glover’s. They both believe that intervention is the rational solution. The two ethical writers Szasz and Glover both have strong views on the topic of suicide. Szasz has come to the conclusion that forced intervention is taking away our rights as human beings. On the other hand, Glover thinks that it is our right to force intervention on persons contemplating suicide. Why does Szasz think that intervening in a person’s life is taking away his freedom? He sees it as this: The physician or medical personnel “claims that he only wants to help his patient, while actually he wants to gain control over the patient’s life in order to save him from having to confront his doubts about the value of his own life” (Szasz 157).

Why does a physician always have to negotiate the thoughts of a patient? “Suicide is a fundamental human right. This does not mean that it is morally desirable. It only means that society does not have the moral right to interfere” (Szasz). Glover takes a completely different stand on suicide and whether intervention is necessary. Glover has the mindset that when, “Someone has decided that his life is not worth living and it is not deflected from his decision from suicide by persuasion it is legitimate to restrain him by force from his attempts” (Glover 171). I agree with Szasz that forcing intervention onto a person who has already made the decision to die is wrong but on a different spectrum, I agree with Glover when he says that if a person is contemplating suicide they should talk to someone and get a different perspective on the issue. Szasz wants us to be free with our decisions in which I completely admire.

When one is having suicidal thoughts, it is their divine right to think it. Forcible intervention from doctors is not the way to handle the current situation. Glover suggests that some intervention is necessary and that communicating with them is not wrong. My point is this: If one is having suicidal cogitation, they should not be forced into therapy but rather have the available resources to do so if one is willing. Glover help makes my point best here but yet Szasz is pro-freedom as am I. When a person comes to the state of being suicidal, they are no longer living, they are merely existing. Help is attainable if wanted. Coercing a person that intervention is the only option is wrong. For some, suicide is the preferred choice. For others, suicide is simply a thought in which therapy can be sought after if willing, but can be done alone if chosen to do so.

My position in this argument is a passionate one. I strongly believe that if a person has taken their own life, they were no longer able to make decisions for themselves and the help that was provided for them was overruled by the pain they were bearing. The resources are always available; therefore, the suicidal individual has the right to either use those said resources or not. My reasoning for this belief is because I have been there. As a child I lost a friend to suicide. The pain she was feeling and the hurt she received from her father was unbearable. I also strongly believe that before a person is at that moment in time right before they commit the act, they take a second look at their life and ask themselves if it is really worth it. Ashlyn had shown signs that she was trying to escape her decision.

However, in the end, the pain took control and couldn’t be assessed by any human being. Every eighteen minutes someone in the United States commits suicide; every nineteen minutes someone is left to make sense of it. I was the one left to make sense of this tragic act. I couldn’t understand why Ashlyn had decided to take her own life. Then, I finally recognized what was going on in her life and how she had reached the point of acknowledgement that someplace else out there had to be better than this. At one point in my life I had been suicidal and I had become a victim within my own mind. I used a blade to get past the anger surrounding me. After years of pain; I stood before the darkness and realized that my life was meant to be lived. Suicide is not wrong nor is the thoughts linked to suicide. It is merely the recognition in one’s mind that this life is no longer a place of freedom, it is a place of imprisonment in which the only way to get out, is to leave it altogether.

Works Cited

  1. Szasz, Thomas. “Suicide is a rational choice.” Antioch Review. (1971): Print.
  2. Glover, Jonathan. “Suicide is sometimes permissible.” Causing death and saving lives. (1977): n. page. Print.
  3. Szasz, Thomas. “Suicide as a Moral Issue.” Foundation for Economic Education 49.7 (1999): n. pag. Web. 2 Sep 2011. <>
  4. Starkweather, Casey. “Should we prevent suicide?.” N.p., May 2nd, 2008. Web. 7 Sep 2011. < 416292.htm>
  5. Stevens, Lawrence. “Suicide: A civil right.” n. pag. Web. 2 Sep 2011. <>

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Szasz's Views on Suicide. (2021, Sep 28). Retrieved from

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