Rational Suicide Considered: "Fire in the Belly" and Whose Quality of Life?
I watched last night the PBS “Point of View” presentation of the film produced by the daughter of Bob Stern. As you may recall from my July 25th posting, Mr. Stern videotaped his explanation to his family of his intended suicide. His son and wife were present to listen and argue. The suicide was completed by the next morning. The film was very interesting and enlightening since most people who commit suicide never openly discuss their rationale, in detail, to their family in advance of their act. The film provided a extensive look into the life a man who tried to be in control of his life throughout the years and insisted to be in control up to the end when he found he was losing control because of the medical problems of an earlier stroke and then cancer of the prostate and finally scheduled surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurism.
The question is whether his death represented a “rational suicide”, one based on a thought out decision considering the gains and losses, as he had always done in his business life, but without an underlying mental depression to sway that decision. After reviewing the film, I find it difficult to define Bob Stern’s act as fully thought out and free of depression. First, I truly doubt some clinical depression was not present despite his fairly upbeat appearance that he had made a clear thinking analytical decision. He talked about losing the “fire in [his] belly” which had provided the drive for many of his previous business and personal accomplishments. Couldn’t this comment suggest underlying depression?
Further, and this is a consideration I would like my visitors to discuss, should a “rational” decision for suicide be made only with regard to the individuals own “best interest” as he described it and not include the best interest of the caring family? It seems Mr. Stern had developed through his presence, attention, interaction and love over the years a concerned, loving and in a sense dependent family. Yet, their need for him seems to have been disregarded in his analytical balancing of his life account as he worked out his decision. Should his considerations of quality of life, as he called it, have been limited only to his own or should he have considered the quality of life of his family with him gone? It is because of these points that if there is such an act as rational suicide, I don’t believe that Bob Stern’s death qualifies. What do you think? ..Maurice.