Why Does Suicide Have a Bad Reputation?rnby Ernest van den HaagrnWhether and when we enter this world is decided not by,rnbut for us. Nor is it up to us to decide when to leave it.rnMost of us would like to stay longer than we are allowed —butrnour lifespan is ordained by forces beyond our control. We arernquite resigned to this; however, when we become greatly impairedrnand life no longer holds much promise, some of us thinkrnof shortening it and of asking others to help if necessarv’. Is thatrnlegitimate? Are there serious moral objections?rnhi the past, the usual lifespan was brief and illness often endedrnit abruptly. The old were honored largely because they werernso few. We live longer now, and death is likely to approachrngradually, depriving us of our abilities one by one, until we sinkrninto incompetence and finally unconsciousness. This hasrnmade shortening life more temphng. Yet most people feel thatrnthey ought to be no more responsible for their death than theyrnwere for their birth. Religion and tradition also tell us that wernought to wait patiently for our end and always try to postpone,rnnever to advance it. The medical profession sees this as its mainrntask, and most non-physicians as well think it presumptuous tornengineer death ourselves. It might be premature in any case:rnunforeseen good things may still be in store. No animal commitsrnsuicide, and our animal instincts oppose it. Thus we arernresigned to a natural death, the date not chosen by us, or knownrnin advance.rnBut instinct, religion, and tradition do not always prevail.rnThere would be no problem if they did. Suicides do occur,rneven tiiough most people look upon them with horror, as anrnErnest van den Haag writes from New York City.rnaberration explainable only by madness. Indeed, there frequentlyrnis a mental disorder; but not always. And the assumptionrnthat mental disorder ipso facto must be the cause of suicidernconvenienti}’ avoids moral problems that ought to be addressed.rnThe pre-Christian ancients, perhaps with the exception ofrnthe Stoics, did not favor suicide. But they opposed it only mildly,rnthinking it reasonable at least in some situation.s and obligatoryrnin others. However, the Judeo-Christian religion ferventlyrnopposes suicide, although there is no scriptural warrant for thisrnopposition: the Bible nowhere condemns suicide. Yet the traditionalrnopposition seldom is questioned e’en by those alienatedrnfrom tradition. It rests on the belief that God created us inrnHis image and endowed us with many abilities, including freernwill. We are the Creator’s creatures. He gave us life—and Hernalone has the right to take it. We do not. “Thy will be done.”rnUnder certain circumstances, others may lawfully and withrndivine sanction kill us, but we never are allowed to do sornourselves. Life is a gift from Cod, and it would be irreverentrnand impious to throw it away. Above all, our life is not ours torndispose of We are but stewards entrusted with God’s property.rnIn some ways this view makes life appear as though a prison.rnGod holds the key, and we are morally bound to stay until released.rnIn due time He will let us out, to go to heaven or to hell.rnMeanwhile, attempts to escape by climbing over the walls arernillegitimate and sinful and will be punished accordingly. Yetrnwe did not volunteer for life. Whether we can legitimately volunteerrnfor death is the problem —at least for the non-religious.rnPhilosophical arguments against suicide are neither cheerfulrnnor persuasive. Aristotie thought that in many ways we are crea-rn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn