A comparative moral approach to suicide--a Jewish perspective

Isr J Med Sci. 1987 Jul;23(7):850-2.


Suicide is a statistically significant cause of death, constituting an alarming public health problem. Many countries, therefore, have acknowledged the necessity to create special centers for the prevention of suicide. There is a moral conflict between the principle of autonomy and the value of life in the case of suicide. This can be resolved in several ways: 1) autonomy should be considered as a categorical imperative and as an absolute principle, hence overriding even the value of life; 2) suicide should be regarded, prima facie, as a noncompetent decision, thus being in no conflict with the principle of autonomy; 3) the value of life nullifies the principle of autonomy; thus, when free will is used for the destruction of life, it should be entirely relinquished. Judaism endorses the last interpretation of the relationship between free will and destruction of life. It strictly forbids suicide, based on theological considerations, regarding such an act as one of the gravest of sins. The educational impact of such a philosophy may favorably contribute to the efforts devoted to the prevention of suicide. By contrast, those attributing absolute importance to the principle of autonomy may have contributed to the increasing rate of suicide in the Western world. It was already stated by a contemporary philosopher that the degree of rationality of the suicide act depends on the degree of the philosophy guiding the person's deliberations.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Humans
  • Jews*
  • Morals*
  • Suicide*