Suicide is a very emotionally and morally charged subject to many people. The reason for the discord and divergence of opinions comes from the different perspectives and directions. Some of these motives and viewpoints are based on morality beliefs, religion or a combination of the two. Others are based more on humanity, empathy and the belief that suicide can be a solution to end misery and chronic pain. Some hold that taking one's own life is selfish, immoral and damaging to family and friends. Others hold that such a decision should reside with the individual in question alone. While there is no single answer that will placate all pundits, scholars and ethicists, the right to die should be allowed under the care of a physician and provided that the necessary conditions are met.
Perhaps one of the more strident views about suicide emanates from the Christian church, with the Catholic sects usually being some of the more aggressive on the subject. Indeed, Catholics often hold that suicide is a mortal sin and that it results in a person going straight to Hell. Not all Christian sects believe that, however. Suicide is generally held to be a sin in the Christian faith because it is a form of murder to many and ending one's life is also often seen as an affront to God who, per Christian belief and the Bible, created man in his own image. Obviously, this strain of beliefs is geared towards the Christian definition and construct of morality. This is the same moral code that discourages premarital sex, having children out of wedlock, divorce and other perceived transgressions that are immoral or unacceptable under the Christian belief but are not illegal under the law in American or other societies. That being said, this has not always been the case as there were indeed laws against such acts but that has been relaxed or ignored more over the years. Suicide has even been criminalized in many parts of Western society including the United States. However, many of those laws have been stricken or are not enforced.
However, suicide as a moral failing and cop-out is not limited to Christian or other religious ideology to put it lightly. Indeed, some people take some rather rigid and hardline stances when it comes to the subject. Many of these sort of people refer to suicide as "selfish" and harmful to others. Indeed, a person speaking of or actually committing suicide can leave a huge void and cause major distress to coworkers, friends and family members. To be sure, many people considering suicide are doing so for reasons that can or do override and usurp those and other concerns. For example, the terminally ill or those that feel they have no escape from the misery and degradation they feel they face view suicide as the one and only sure-fire solution to escape their pain. This would be a common theme with people that, other than the terminally ill, would include people that are bullied, those that are in extreme distress to a relationship turning sour with a partner and so forth. Suicide is obviously not the only potential solution in situations like this but it seems that way, or it is at least the best option, for people that try or succeed in killing themselves.
However, there is another major perspective relating to suicide and that would be people that feel that everyone's life is their own to live or take and thus they should be allowed to end their life if they see fit to do so. There are some people that espouse this in the United States but it is not allowed under the law in the United States. However, Europe and other more liberal or progressive parts of the world are another story. Even so, there is certainly no part of the world that is monolithically for or against the right to die but majorities one way or another are the norm. Other places still have a fairly even divide on the subject in the court of public opinion. One major complicating factor to all of this, and indeed something that is true of the law in general, would be the role of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as it relates to suicide. Many people within the bioethics and medical realms cite the credo "do no harm" but others take a more moderate to liberal view and assert that while enabling and helping a person commit suicide is wrong, the act itself is up to the person engaging in it. Regardless, medical professionals and personnel delving into the moral and religious decisions and feelings of patients is a very slippery slope and is something that should be avoided at all costs. This does not mean that doctors and nurses should oblige the right to die for someone that wants it but foisting religious and moral views on patients and families of the same is also less than wise (Beauchamp & Childress, 2013). Even private corporations like Hobby Lobby have caught hell (pardon the pun) for doing so and the stakes (and consequences) are even higher when speaking of educational and medical institutions. The Jesuit university that denied any form of birth control to all students including popular figure Sandra Fluke stands out as an example.
Scholarly literature is rife with material relating to suicide and its related subjects. These corollary subjects including assisted suicide, euthanasia, who should have a right to die, who should not and so forth. There is also material about desired or actual changes to the law in the United State and other parts of the world. First up will be a bit of a shift back to the medical/suicide dichotomy because this would be one of more contentious arenas where suicide is discussed due to the seemingly contrarian viewpoints between those that desire the right to die and the medical professionals whose usually goal is the opposite, or at least to minimize pain and suffering. To that end, there are directors and living wills where people state in advance and up front that they do not wish to be resuscitated. However, there are other forms of suicide that are not nearly as overt yet involved medical care or lack thereof. Some cancer patients who feel the fight is no longer worth it will stop treatment and/or go to hospice. Similarly, people that should be hospitalized will try to leave the hospital or refuse treatment or medications. However, the major line that has to be danced around is that people that want to die and how the medical professionals react and strategize based on that fact. Medical technology has gotten to the point where a body can technically be alive due to the wonders of medicine even if the brain function of the patient is dead and gone. While some hold that doing any and all medical treatment is a moral and professional imperative, the idea of being kept alive only by a machine along with a loss of privacy and/or dignity is a bridge too far for a lot of people. If brain function is gone, then the decision could generally be made to end care but if there is any chance of a patient recovering and they are stable, the likelihood of this is extremely rare as it would generally be viewed to be illegal and/or unethical to do so. Even when terminating future care is an option, if not an obvious one, making such a decision for people that are incapacitated and for which no advanced directive exists can be extreme troubling and caustic if immediate family members differ about how to proceed. A real-world example of this maelstrom in full swing was the Terry Schiavo case. Schiavo was technical conscious but was in a persisted vegetative state and it was deemed that she had no chance of recovering or getting back even her basis motor functions and speech. However, there is another major example in the past of the United States that can be spoken of and that would be Karen Ann Quinlan back in 1983. That situation was a little different but not by much. In the Quinlan case, the matter was more of a legal matter as the family wanted to discontinue care but the doctors refused to do so out of concern of legal and criminal liability (Ball, 2006).
The legal fray started to swing towards the right to die movement more than a decade before the Schiavo situation when Oregon introduced right-to-die legislation in 1994. It was passed via ballot initiative but was not fully enacted into law until 1997. However, while the Supreme Court upheld the law since there was no contradictory federal law usurping the state's rights to enact such a law, future Attorney General John Ashcroft made it clear to doctors in Oregon and elsewhere that any doctor prescribing level II medications for the purpose of suicide…