A news article starts thus:

On a cold night in a quiet town, 71-year-old Jeff Knaebel crept into the ruins of an ancient Buddhist meditation center in northern India, doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself alight to protest what he called cruelty in the United States and India.

Continue here to read the wonderful story of Jeff Knaebel.

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The fact that he killed himself might leave some of you with a bad taste. In this particular case, suicide had the opposite effect on me: I respect him for it.

In life, we admire and respect those who take control of each aspect and decision. Yet in death, taking control seems wrong. The cause might be largely social. Here are some of the reasons why you might disagree with a person committing suicide:

1. Religious grounds: That one might not go to heaven if one kills oneself. I reject religious grounds.

2. The fact that life is special. It isn’t. Life is special to us because we are alive. It is self-selection not unlike religious people who believe their religion is superior.

3. The favourite of optimists: Life is beautiful. Perhaps for you, certainly for me, but it is not true for a large number of people and surely not for the person killing himself.

4. Collateral damage: Dependents. We need to classify dependents into two categories:

a) Dependents who are not in a position to even feed themselves: This is a fair enough reason, but not applicable to most suicides. Even when it is applicable, I am hesitant to judge but I grant that your opinion might be valid.

b) All other kinds of dependents: Suicide inflicts a tremendous amount of pain on children/parents/spouses/etc. It is, however, probably of the same order of pain as breaking up with someone, seeking divorce from a spouse because you don’t love him/her anymore and marrying against the wishes of your parents. If we don’t judge these other scenarios because they are personal decisions, then why suicide.

Let me know if I missed out on any reason or if you have an entirely different perspective on the issue. I’m sincerely curious and hope to hear counter-arguments from many of you.

*****

P.S.: I’m not arguing why you should kill yourself. I’m arguing why someone committing suicide deserves respect — or at the very least no judgment from us — (except 4a) for that decision just like we would respect any other decision of theirs.

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