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Lonelyheart807's avatar

Is it suicide if you do it to save other people?

Asked by Lonelyheart807 (1714points) 2 weeks ago

Okay…no alarm bells here, Fluther. This question came up after a random discussion on a Chernobyl fan group, where we were discussing Legasov’s hanging himself, and someone said he would have gone to he’ll because suicide is a mortal sin.

It made me start thinking about how suicide is defined. Let’s say someone is being shot at and you dive in front of them to take the bullet instead, fully knowing you’ll be killed…is that considered suicide?

Valery Legasov hung himself, probably somewhat out of despair from being isolated from his friends and knowing he was slowly dying from cancer/radiation. But he also did it to get the word out about the inherent danger of RBMK reactors such as they were at the time, and, as a result of his death, changes were finally made that potentially saved countless lives.

So…what do you think?

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32 Answers

LadyMarissa's avatar

I don’t see making the ultimate sacrifice to save someone else to be the same thing as suicide. Although you may know that you are putting your life in danger, there is NO way to know for sure that you will be going to die!!! You can’t be positive that you’ll be in the exact right place at the exact right time in order to be hit by the bullet in the exact deadly spot…a fraction of an inch is all that it might take for both of you to live.

Nobody knows the real reasons Valery Legasov died the way he did. Having grown up during the era of the Cold War, my first inclination is that he didn’t choose to die by hanging; but, was hung by someone who didn’t want him to release his findings. God gets the final say on who does or does not make it into Heaven; so, those who have condemned him to Hell could be mistaken!!!

Yellowdog's avatar

This is one of the best questions I’ve ever read on Fluther, Thanks for the detail as well.

No, its not suicide to save others, or be any kind of a martyr for a cause for good.

Even a “suicide mission” is an act of expending one’s self knowing one will not come out alive but will save one’s cause or divert the enemy.

Suicide is giving up, or giving in, because of circumstances against YOU. It is ignoble to do it to hurt others, especially considering it will only hurt people who actually DO care about you.

gorillapaws's avatar

Yes, it’s suicide.

rebbel's avatar

“Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death.”
Which would be the case if you jump in the path of a bullet that’s heading for a loved one.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Is it suicide if you don’t fight to survive?

kritiper's avatar

It’s suicide. There doesn’t seem to be any parameters pertaining to other people being involved in any way.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Motive is irrelevant. Self sacrifice or altruism, you’ve still done away with yourself.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rebbel Jumping in front of a bullet that’s heading for a loved one isn’t intentionally causing one’s own death. It is intentionally doing something to save someone’s life that happens to cause one’s own death as a secondary effect.

For that same reason, I think that Legasov did commit suicide since that was a case of intentionally killing himself with saving others being the secondary effect. That he did it to save others, however, should probably lead those who consider suicide to be wrong/sinful to question whether it is always wrong/sinful.

It is probably worth noting that the Catholic doctrine of mortal sins does actually leave room for judging Legasov’s actions as morally forgivable. Whether or not any particular act counts as a mortal sin is not a simple yes/no but rather depends on various conditions surrounding the act.

Zaku's avatar

The word would be “sacrificial” or “self-sacrificial” not “suicidal”.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

Thanks all! A lot to think about in your answers.

kritiper's avatar

“Sacrificial” or “self-sacrificial” describes the motive behind the act of suicide. But it’s still suicide.

Yellowdog's avatar

That is true, but the distinction probably does need to be made that it was Sacrificial or Self Sacrificial,

Zaku's avatar

@kritiper It seems to me it depends on what the person actually does. Going into a deadly situation to take action that will save others but kill you I’d say is a sacrifice and not a suicide. I’d say the same thing about jumping in front of an attack, because the action being taken is not to die, but to save others. The one about hanging oneself to send a message and bring awareness I would say is both a sacrifice and suicide.

kritiper's avatar

Sacrifice, suicide…you got yourself killed.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@kritiper But the point is that killing yourself and getting yourself killed are not the same thing.

kritiper's avatar

@SavoirFaire Either way, you are doing it “voluntarily and intentionally.”

LadyMarissa's avatar

^ There is NO way for the person willing to “risk” their life to specifically know that they will definitely die!!! Few of us would have the time to make a rational decision by factoring in the trajectory of the bullet & exactly where we would be at that specific nanosecond. They are willing to go voluntarily into harms way. A Mother would instinctively dive in front of her child to save them without even thinking that she might leave them motherless!!!

kritiper's avatar

^Yet you put yourself at extreme risk, willingly and knowingly, anyway…

kritiper's avatar

I read some time back that some who commit suicide decide to do it and do it within 10 minutes.

kritiper's avatar

Depending on how they are used, both terms are correct.
“Sacrifice” can be both a noun and a verb whereas “suicide” is strictly a noun.
So call it whatever you wish but the OP asked if it was suicide, and I still say, yes, it is.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Of course it’s suicide. However there is no such thing as a mortal sin. The same thing happens after death for a person who commits suicide as for one who dies of natural causes… nuttin honey.
It’s the survivors who suffer OR benefit. It’s the survivors who make the judgment calls.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@kritiper “Either way, you are doing it ‘voluntarily and intentionally.’”

Which tells us what? Nothing, as far as I can tell. As already discussed above, suicide isn’t solely about whether your voluntary and intentional actions cause your death.

kritiper's avatar

@SavoirFaire That’s how my Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says it. And what you just said doesn’t answer the OP’s question.

Zaku's avatar

If I throw myself in front of an attack to save someone else, I am not intending to die – it’s just a likely outcome that I’m accepting. My intention is to save the life of the other person.

kritiper's avatar

So I guess if it’s suicide is up to whoever is considering what it is exactly, @Lonelyheart807. Very moot…

Here’s a bit on the word “suicide” from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th. ed. :
2nd listing “Of or relating to suicide; esp. being or performing a deliberate act resulting in the voluntary death of the person who does it. <a ~ mission> <a ~ bomber>”

And from The New Century Dictionary, 1944 ed. :
”...II…; cause (any person) to die by or as by suicide.”

Key words under “suicide” in both dictionaries are “voluntarily” and “intentionally.”

Perhaps when you check back in, @Lonelyheart807, you can let us know what you think.

kritiper's avatar

@Zaku Your conscious mind knows that you don’t intend to die but your subconscious mind knows that you might. But that wasn’t a point of the OP’s question.
You died to protect other people. (Was it suicide?)
You knew you would die.
I don’t think the OP implied that there may be a way of not dying.

Zaku's avatar

@kritiper I already answered the OP’s question above. It depends on the situation, but I’d tend to use the word sacrifice. Only in some such situations does the person actually think they know they are surely going to die, and in even fewer is the actual intention to die.

Nonetheless, people often do refer to other people’s risk-taking as “suicidal”, but that’s a (n often unfair or inaccurate) judgement by someone else, and if they don’t actually die, it certainly wasn’t suicide (though some others might judge it attempted suicide).

Lonelyheart807's avatar

I still don’t know completely what to think, and there are many good points made above. Maybe, if only with selfish intent it’s suicide. If other people are taken into consideration, it’s sacrifice.

kritiper's avatar

@Zaku If the person doesn’t die it isn’t suicide.
Use the word “sacrifice” as a noun if you like but if someone asks how the person sacrificed (a verb) him/her self, then the answer would be “by a suicidal act.” Voluntarily, knowingly, intentionally, purposefully, freely, and of sound mind and mature thought processes.
(You may have answered the OP’s question above but since when is there a limit as to how many people can leave answers, thoughts, opinions??)

Zaku's avatar

@kritiper
“If the person doesn’t die it isn’t suicide.”
– Agreed.

“Use the word “sacrifice” as a noun if you like but if someone asks how the person sacrificed (a verb) him/her self, then the answer would be “by a suicidal act.” Voluntarily, knowingly, intentionally, purposefully, freely, and of sound mind and mature thought processes.”
– I don’t think that answer would be accurate in all cases. A bodyguard throwing himself between an attacker and the person he’s protecting was not being suicidal if he dies – he’s putting himself in the line of fire because that’s his job, and he may die from it, but it would not be suicidal. It is self-sacrificing. All war casualties would be deemed suicides if that were true.

”(You may have answered the OP’s question above but since when is there a limit as to how many people can leave answers, thoughts, opinions??)”
– There isn’t. I was reading your comments to me about the OP as you thinking I was replying to the OP directly in my later post, when the later post was in the context of later comments. So I was trying to clarify that.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Over the weekend there was a house fire in SC. The uncle saw his sister’s children standing at an upstairs window screaming for help. He ran over & instructed them to jump to him. The 2 boys jumped, he caught them & they were safe. The youngest was a little girl too scared to jump & she retreated back into the smoke & flames. He ran into the house to find his little niece to save her life. He runs back out carrying that little girl to safety. In the process, he’s covered in 30% burns. By all reasonable thought process, both he & his niece should have died in the fire but they didn’t.

Today he’s a hero. Had he failed, he would have still been called a hero who sacrificed his life to save his niece. I repeat what I was saying before…I don’t believe that those who are willing to take a risk to save others are thinking about whether or not that they might die…there’s a job that needs to be done & they just do it!!! Those who commit suicide have an overwhelming need to die. Those who PREVENT death at ALL cost have an overwhelming need to PRESERVE life. They’re NOT thinking I want to die but I’ll save somebody else first. They are in a position to SAVE a life & they react first to get the job done!!!

Zaku's avatar

^ Great example!

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