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If a 18 year old man decides to jump off a bridge, should his parents be allowed to forcibly prevent him from doing so?

What if it's a 16 year old?

What if it's an 8 year old?

asked May 02 '12 at 23:52

Humbug's gravatar image

Humbug
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Rick's Answer and his associated comments argue in favor of laws against suicide. There are some obvious problems with a law prohibiting suicide, however. What would be the penalty for violating such a law? I suppose the government could fine the wrongdoer, i.e., take over his estate, in whole or in part. That's not too different from what the government does already through estate taxes. Such a law would then actually be about who owns a person's estate after he dies, not specifically about acts of suicide and how to deter them.

It doesn't make much sense to throw someone who commits suicide into jail. How can anyone jail a dead person? Likewise, if the law attempted to impose the death penalty for suicide, the system would soon discover that anyone who commits suicide successfully has already beaten the system to the "punch."

But wait, maybe a law against suicide is really a law against attempting to commit suicide. In that case, it's really just a way of saying to a person: "Your life doesn't belong to you. It belongs to society (or God), and it is not your prerogative to refuse the will of society (or God)." Clearly, then, such a law is a denial of a person's right to his own life. It is a way of making one's life the property of others (on earth or "above" it).

In short, I see no objective basis for claiming that as soon as someone wants to die, his life no longer belongs to him, but belongs to others. What would they do with him anyway, if they manage to keep him alive against his will?

The original question, of course, wasn't about suicide, in particular, but about the age at which a child acquires full freedom and independence from his parents. Age 18 (or maybe 21) seems reasonable. I don't think the exact age is a philosophical issue, as long as it is reasonable in the context of human growth and development, and that would be an issue for more specialized sciences to study and judge, within the broad philosophical context of individual rights deriving from man's nature.

answered May 17 '12 at 23:18

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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I'm spinning off the suicide question to here.

(May 18 '12 at 04:45) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

So an adult should legally be able to harm themselves, but a child should not? So a child's life doesn't really belong to the child, but to their parents?

(May 18 '12 at 04:56) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

The penalty issue is a red herring. You obviously can't prosecute people who successfully kill themselves, but a law would provide a vehicle through which the police could investigate to be sure that those deaths really were suicide. The 'penalty' for attempting to commit suicide (analogous to attempted murder) should be compulsory psychiatric care, or something along those lines.

(May 18 '12 at 05:04) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

There is currently no law against dying from natural causes at home yet police can and do investigate death at home to ensure that it was from natural causes.

(May 18 '12 at 11:45) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

"The 'penalty' for attempting to commit suicide (analogous to attempted murder) should be compulsory psychiatric care, or something along those lines."

What if the person doesn't have any psychiatric problems?

(May 19 '12 at 07:35) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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If a 18 year old man decides to jump off a bridge, should his parents be allowed to forcibly prevent him from doing so?

Yes.

What if it's a 16 year old?

Yes.

What if it's an 8 year old?

Yes.

At what point should people be allowed to take complete responsibility for their own actions?

When they can clearly demonstrate that they are capable of acting responsibly. Which means, taking the actions required to support their lives in the long term, with all the depth that implies--which includes not jumping off of bridges.

A person who shows a clear intent to harm themselves (or others) can and should be legally restrained from doing so, except perhaps in certain very limited cases such as an imminently fatal illness or extreme intractable pain.

answered May 16 '12 at 08:21

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦
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Wouldn't interfering in someone's (otherwise peaceful) "clear intent to harm themselves" be a blatant violation of individual rights?

(May 16 '12 at 09:13) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

What are individual rights? "The freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life." Killing yourself does not support your own life; it ends it. Rights (like other aspects of morality) are contextual, not absolute.

(May 16 '12 at 19:56) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

Does this mean that you do not think the war on drugs should be stopped?

(May 17 '12 at 01:46) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

I do think the war on drugs should be stopped. I also think there's a difference between an immediate, life-threatening action--such as jumping off of a bridge--and things like drugs (or food or alcohol or smoking) that may kill you if you abuse them. The latter can be successfully managed with judgement (appropriate choices). Jumping off of a bridge can't be managed. Having said that, I do think it should still be illegal to knowingly take a lethal dose of drugs, but something like that is not related to the use/sale/distribution focus of the war on drugs.

(May 17 '12 at 03:20) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

I think Objectivists are all over the board on this one.

(May 17 '12 at 13:38) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

It seems like a plain initiation of physical force to interfere in someone's (otherwise peaceful) attempt to kill themselves. Morally, Objectivism identifies the initiation of physical force as evil; politically, Objectivism identifies the initiation of physical force as a rights violation. A proper government exists to secure individual rights, not to violate them -- i.e., it exists to create the conditions necessary for the pursuit of human life and happiness. Whether someone then chooses to pursue life is their own business, not the government's or their neighbors'.

(May 17 '12 at 15:54) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

"I also think there's a difference between an immediate, life-threatening action--such as jumping off of a bridge--and things like drugs (or food or alcohol or smoking) that may kill you if you abuse them."

What type of bridge are we talking about?

"I do think it should still be illegal to knowingly take a lethal dose of drugs"

Again with an exception for "imminently fatal illness or extreme intractable pain"? If so, what is the basis for this exception? Especially, what is the basis for the "extreme intractable pain" exception?

(May 19 '12 at 07:43) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Asked: May 02 '12 at 23:52

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Last updated: May 19 '12 at 07:46