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To be or not to be

In the most difficult decision, to be or not to be, very little genuine assistance is available. One can turn to family, friends, books, or mental health professionals, however, these will only help to explore the possibility of life. In itself this is a valuable perspective, but it does not directly address the question at hand of making a choice.

Making a choice between several options requires that each of the possibilities be evaluated. It is difficult to expect our family to help us evaluate the possibility of suicide. Regardless of your situation, chances are that any advice you seek will try to influence you to choose life, not necessarily because life is the better option, but because society refuses to seriously evaluate the option of death. Even sources which present themselves as trying to provide genuine help for making the decision between life and death, wind up being pro-life scams in disguise, such as "if you are thinking about suicide... read this first", which lures people to read it in an attempt to stop people on the brink of suicide (a response is available on the main ash web site), or Paul G. Quinnett's book: "Suicide: The Forever Decision" , which masquerades as pro-choice.

What we need is a serious resource to assist in the deliberation process which is required for such a decision. However, we have to take care not to make the same mistake society has made. We cannot limit ourself to evaluate just one of the options. By "making a choice" we do not mean that this choice must be suicide. Life also must be an option. In short, in order to make a choice, both options, life and death must be considered.

But what could be said in order to help make such a decision? A naive approach would be to look at the numerous situations that people might be in and make a recommendation of whether they should or should not commit suicide.

This paternalistic solution cannot work. Different people value different things in their life and subjectively assess their situation. A quadriplegic may be happy just to be alive, and a rich man who seems to have it all may decide to commit suicide. What matters is how they feel about their situation. Who are we to say that their decisions are wrong?

A different approach is to use models of rational choice in order to simplify and analyze the problem. Although such models do not provide an easy answer to the question : "to be or not to be", it is hoped that some insight might be gained as to how to go about making a decision yourself, and how to avoid the thought pitfalls which the engulfing pro-life society surrounds us with.

The first step we take in finding how to make the decision would be to look at various definitions and approaches to what is a rational decision in general, followed by a more specific attempt of defining what is a rational decision with regard to suicide. In light of these definitions common questionable arguments both for life and for death are analyzed.

The next step is common in the social sciences. Two different approaches to decision making are contrasted. The normative view refers to the way ideal decision making should be made, according to some formal (usually mathematical) model. The descriptive view simply describes how people make decisions in practice.

In addition, two special topics are addressed. Fear makes suicide much more difficult. Should we consider fear as a factor in making our choice, or should we view fear as what prevents some people from following their otherwise rational decision? Another problematic issue is how to take survivors (i.e., friends and family) into consideration.

Finally, we answer to some possible objections to using models of rational choice.

Note that there is a different problem of people who have chosen to commit suicide but for some reason are unable to. This is not directly dealt with here. Such people have made a decision to exit but have practical problems of carrying out their decision. Here we are concerned with making the decision to begin with.

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