I was going to post this in Druskin's thread below but I think it deserves a separate thread because it is frustrating to read replies that label the act of suicide as 'selfish' or immoral in the year 2011.
First, while some might argue it is selfish of the person committing suicide to do so, can't one likewise say that it is 'selfish' of the others who insist that a person must continue living when he is suffering beyond what he is willing to bear ? That person is just trying to shame the other into staying alive until it's more convenient to them for you to die. And aren't we all born without prior consultation anyway ? Additionally, I've always wondered why most people believe that suicide is acceptable if it is self-enacted euthanasia, a response to physical pain, but not as a response to emotional pain. Why do many assume psychological pain to have little importance? This attitude/ideal leads logically to the conclusion that rape should be punished according only to the physical injuries sustained.
There are a number of reasons why someone might commit suicide:
1) Social standing (shame or dishonor).
2) Physical pain or terminal illness.
3) Some instrumental reason -- to draw attention to a cause, or to free another person from their obligations.
4) Emotional pain or loneliness.
5) Mental illness (i.e. severe depression or body dysmorphic disorder).
Concerning emotional pain: to dismiss it as trivial or transient is a mistake; the person in best place to judge considers it overwhelming, and who ever chooses such a final solution to a temporary problem ? Those who commit suicide do not consider their problems transitory. If it can be the right decision for one in physical pain, maybe it is sometimes (often) the right decision for those in psychological pain. The determination of whether it is best to suffer through a miserable present in the hope of getting to a possibly better future is a value judgment. A person could legitimately decide a hopefully better future does not justify choosing to experience an unbearable present. No one should claim the right override, by force, a person's value judgments and decisions about something as personal as this.
Could it be that suicide reminds society that life is ephemeral and that there are some people who regard it as a crock of sh*t ?... THIS is taboo. We are supposed to think that life is great & we should cherish every minute of it, & when we die, we don't really die, we live on, etc, etc. So suicide is considered an act of betrayal of social conventions. People who are suicidal aren't killing themselves out of a desire to hurt those around them -- it's unreasonable to expect them to continue suffering because of that consequence, I think.
We don't know that life is a great gift. More likely it is an insubstantial little thing in the greater scheme of things; but as far as we know, it is all we have. Essentially life constricts us; gives us boundaries. If a person's life is going very badly and they can't deal with it, they should be able to liberate themselves from it. The reason we should in general let people take their own lives if they want to is simply that most people are experts in their own happiness and know better than anyone else what will, or will not, make them happy. So it isn't that we've got a basic right to destroy ourselves.... Rather, we have a unique perspective on our own lives and thus we are (normally) better-placed than others to make judgments about whether our lives are worth continuing. As for those who don't consider a person's life their own property, to do with as they wish, I challenge them to justify this perspective without falling back on religious dogma or a functionalist societal view that disregards the well-being of human beings.