Going Early, Going Late: The Rationality of Decisions About Suicide in AIDS
Battin, Margaret P.
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 1994 Dec; 19(6): 571-594.
Where assistance in suicide is readily available to those dying of AIDS, as in the west coast gay communities of the United States and in the Netherlands, we must examine the different roles of physicians and friends (including lovers, spouses, family members, religious advisors, members of support groups, and intimate others) in helping a person with AIDS decide about and carry out suicide. This paper makes a central assumption: that where assistance in suicide is available, it is the moral obligation of others to protect and enhance as much as possible the rationality of that choice. Four components are identified in a rational choice about suicide in AIDS -- whether it is a choice for or against suicide. Phrased as questions a person with AIDS might ask him- or herself, they are: (1) "Is suicide an option I want to consider?" (2) "Shall I hold out for the chance of a cure?" (3) "How shall I time my suicide?" (4) "What weight shall I give to the welfare and interests of others?" Although physicians often make assertions relevant to (1), they are appropriately involved only in (3); and although friends or intimate partners often provide the patient with anecdotal information relevant to (3), they should be involved primarily in (1). In short, both physicians and friends often intervene in the wrong parts of choices made by a person with AIDS about suicide.
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