Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Jumping off roofs

When is a suicide a suicide? The discussion in the lunchroom turned to this appetizing subject. I asked the officemates: If for instance I wanted to die, and willfully intended to commit suicide, and proceeded to climb up to the roof of a building, wrote a suicide note, walked over to the edge and jumped, then before I hit the pavement, thought to myself, "I changed my mind. I dont want to die," did I in fact commit suicide?

"Yes you did. You jumped of your own free will and you died. Therefore you committed suicide. Any investigating authority would reach the same conclusion."

"Yes they would. But did I in fact commit suicide? Im of the opinion that I did not. It is just like deciding to commit suicide, then on my way to the building's edge, while still on the roof, I change my mind and walk back down."

"But in your example, you died. You intended to kill yourself and you succeeded."

"I intended to kill myself, I jumped, then I changed my mind. The fact that there wasnt anything I can do at that point is irrelevant. Before I hit the pavement, I decided that I didnt want to die anymore. It was therefore not a suicide. For it to become a suicide, there had to be intent to die, an action to bring about the dying, and the resulting death. All three are of equal importance. In the example, I didnt intend to die anymore and therefore I didnt commit suicide.

"Let me give you another example: Suppose I intended to commit suicide. I walk up to the roof of a tall building to jump, but before I could jump, I slipped and I fell unconscious on the roof and rolled over the edge and fell to my death on the pavement below. Did I commit suicide?"

"Yes you did."

"But I didnt jump."

"Doesnt matter. You intended to jump."

"I did intend to jump, but that's not how I fell. I had an accident and I fell and died. Therefore it wasnt a suicide. It was an accident. For it to have been a suicide, it shouldve been a willful action on my part. That clearly was absent in this case."

The discussion was much livelier than I indicated in this Reader's Digest version. I dont remember how we went from the Catholic Church declaring that limbo is no longer true to jumping off roofs, but that's how it is in conversations.


Jawaharlal Al-Zawahiri said...

A priest I know would most probably say you didn't commit suicide if only because you managed to change your mind nanoseconds before you die. It's like dying right after you plan to confess your sins but still haven't reached the confessinal yet. technically, he said, you are alredy forgiven because of sheer remorse and the intention to confess your sin.

Jego said...

That reminds me of how we got from limbo to suicide. We were talking about beliefs of the Church that are no longer 'true', one of which is the refusal of a Christian burial for a suicide. Since you cannot know for certain about what the suicide was thinking before he died, you have to at least give him the benefit of the doubt that he felt remorse.

"But what about shooting yourself in the head?," one asked.

"If you could prove that a bullet is faster than a thought, then you can be sure he didnt have time to change his mind. If you can't..."

(By the way, we had trouble with original sin as well. The Church can't just rule that it no longer holds original sin to be true since one of the Church's dogmas is that Mary, the mother of Jesus was conceived without original sin. The 'abolition' of original sin would trivialize this dogma even if it would not falsify it.)

Jawaharlal Al-Zawahiri said...

"If you could prove that a bullet is faster than a thought, then you can be sure he didnt have time to change his mind."


Yeah, that would trivialize the Marian dogma.