Encouraging a suicide

Imagine the following situation. A man is threatening to throw himself off a bridge. A passer-by comes along and tells him to jump. He jumps, and he dies.

Is the passer-by to blame to some degree for this man’s death? I actually don’t think he is, and here’s my reasoning.

When a suicidally depressed man puts himself in a suicide situation in a public place, some people will ignore him, others will plead with him to come down, and some will egg him on. The man is therefore taking a gamble. If the first person who comes to him belongs to the third group, then the man has gambled and lost. (Of course, if he gets physically pushed over, then it’s a different kettle of fish altogether.)

Do you agree or disagree? What would you do if you found yourself in this situation (as the passer-by :slight_smile: )?

I’d probably say “don’t jump, mate” and then walk briskly away.

If they they have a good reason to kill themselfes then they should, if they don’t then they still should for being such sorry asshats but it doesn’t matter much either way in that case.

I’d shout : your making suicidals look bad you unsure prick!

Make the choice before you act you stupid ass hat.

Or sit back and enjoy or carry on with what i was doing.

Also if you said something that would result in him killing himself where he would if you hadn’t, it’s equal to you pushing him out of the window wether he let your or not.

The only difference is wether you knew how it would affect the person.


Good point re not being sure what effect you had.

It’s an ethical debate as to how much responsability we share towards one another. I’m certain that responsability extends into psychological beyond physical, simply because it’s difficult to separate the two anyhow.

I think a good place to start is to ask him “Why didn’t you kill yourself yet?” This is not rhetorical encouragement toward suicide. But his explanation would help him decide the right course of action. Some therapists indeed ask this kind of question.

In America it’s illegal to commit suicide, so I would definitely not encourage the person to jump, thereby avoiding any legal stuff.

The illegality of suicide is one of the reasons why I believe Americans are like infants: we illegalize so many things that are personal choices, we don’t know how to handle them maturely. If suicide were legal, we would know better how to deal with it.

I’ve know some vets that wanted to kill themselves and the fact that it’s illegal is what got them help. You can’t go to jail for it.

The person that does this is wrong. A good person doesn’t go around giving destructive advice to people whose situations they don’t know.

Gaia: that thing about asking them why they haven’t already done it very clever. I’ll use that one if I ever find myself in that situation.

Membrain: interesting point. Am I right in thinking that, in effect, it’s illegal to attempt suicide, because if you’re successful, you’re off the hook?

Predictable: (just to confirm, I wrote “don’t jump, mate”.) But we could also say that a good person doesn’t put strangers in a bad situation, namely one where they think they could save his life. If someone fails to prevent a suicide, that could haunt them for the rest of their life. Threatening to kill yourself in public is therefore quite selfish, a bit like happy slapping.

when you walk out on the street, you’re taking a gamble. most people will ignore you. some will say hi. a few will mug you. yes, the numbers are different, but the principle should be the same. just because you’re taking a gamble doesn’t mean the person isn’t to blame.

I think it is possible to get people help to prevent suicide without it being illegal.

My uncle had to shoot himself with a rifle to end his cancer pain because the doctors couldn’t do it.


OK, but he wasn’t charged posthumously was he?

No, they make it illegal so that the police can seize the disturbed person and try to get them help. After that if the person still wants to do it, then they may quietly do so. From what I understand most don’t, so the police intervention helps.

My uncle wasn’t disturbed. He had cancer. If they wanted to get him help, they would have gotten him a doctor to painlessly end his life. That would have been helping him.

He didn’t want to shoot himself with a gun. He would have wanted a less painful way to die (he didn’t die for hours after the gunshot to the chest).

The Supreme Court apparently says assisted suicide is illegal:

wings.buffalo.edu/faculty/resear … court.html

If a person really cared about suicide, they would want universal health care, since:

“One study showed that only 3% of persons who completed suicide had been receiving adequate antidepressant therapy.”


That would be compassionate government intervention (and prevention), along with the legalization of assisted suicide.

This is well worthy of a response. I think the difference between the two gambles is that the suicide one is “him to them” and the mugging one is “them to him”. The muggers should be punished because they’ve gone to the man, but in the case of a public suicide-threat scene, the man draws them into the situation, so it’s the other way round.

Membrain: sounds like a bad business there…

Did he announce that he was going to do it, or did he just do it.

i don’t think the people who taunt him should be punished, because of freedom of speech, but it’s a pretty despicable thing to do. and maybe the one who stands on the ledge of the building or whatever wasn’t taking a gamble as such because he, being suicidal and desperate, wasn’t really in a calculating mood (or he wasn’t aware that there are so many buttholes out there)

Feel free to argue either. The details of my uncles suicide I’ll withhold.