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Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide / Edition 1

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Overview

Fatal Freedom is an eloquent defense of every individual's right to choose a voluntary death. The author, a renowned psychiatrist, believes that we can speak about suicide calmly and rationally, as he does in this book, and that we can ultimately accept suicide as part of the human condition. By maintaining statutes that determine that voluntary death is not legal, our society is forfeiting one of its basic freedoms and causing the psychiatric/medical establishment to treat individuals in a manner that is disturbingly inhumane according to Dr. Szasz. His important work asks and points to clear, intelligent answers to some of the most significant ethical questions of our time:

  • Is suicide a voluntary act?
  • Should physicians be permitted to prevent it?
  • Should they be authorized to abet it? The author's thoughtful analysis of these questions consistently holds forth patient autonomy as paramount; therefore, he argues, patients should not be prevented from exercising their free will, nor should physicians be permitted to enter the process by prescribing or providing the means for voluntary death. Dr. Szasz predicts that we will look back at our present prohibitory policies toward suicide with the same amazed disapproval with which we regard past policies toward homosexuality, masturbation, and birth control. This comparison with other practices that started as sins, became crimes, then were regarded as mental illnesses, and are now becoming more widely accepted, opens up the discussion and understanding of suicide in a historical context. The book explores attitudes toward suicide held by the ancient Greeks and Romans, through early Christianity and the Reformation, tothe advent of modern psychiatry and contemporary society as a whole. Our tendency to define disapproved behaviors as diseases has created a psychiatric establishment that exerts far too much influence over how and when we choose to die. Just as we have come to accept the individual's right to birth control, so too must we accept his right to death control before we can call our society humane or free.

The book contains no figures.

This eloquent defense of every individual's right to choose a voluntary death will contribute greatly to the debates of some of the most significant ethical issues facing our society: physician-assisted suicide, psychiatric intervention for suicidal patients, and euthanasia.

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Editorial Reviews

Ozlem Uyar
This is a book about different aspects of suicide. Reflecting the author's extraordinary approach to suicide, this book is written to make the audience think about suicide in a different way. Searching for the position of the physician's role in voluntary death, the author is attempting to analyze ethical and political aspects. The targeted audience includes not only physicians, but also politicians, philosophers, and lawmakers. The subject that the author covers is so hot and current, anybody who likes reading and thinking about daily life issues would be very interested in this book. By describing killing another person as ""heterohomicide,"" the author calls suicide ""autohomicide."" Defining suicide as part of a mental illness is discussed in great detail. The legal and religious aspects of suicide are also discussed. The role of the physician and preventability of self-killing -- as well as physician assisted suicide -- build some of the chapters. Defending the idea that patients should not be prevented from exercising their free will, the author stresses that religion, psychiatry, and the state insist that we die involuntarily and ""that is what makes dying voluntarily the ultimate freedom."" The appendix includes excerpts about some authorities and their ideas. References accumulated at the end of the book are numerous. This is a fascinating book with a very interesting approach to the current issue. The author talks bravely about the acceptability of suicide, and seeks to be forward-looking. This is a book which can stretch readers' perceptions and provide a broader view. I highly recommended it.
From The Critics
Reviewer: Ozlem Dubauskas, MD(Rush University Medical Center)
Description: This is a book about different aspects of suicide.
Purpose: Reflecting the author's extraordinary approach to suicide, this book is written to make the audience think about suicide in a different way. Searching for the position of the physician's role in voluntary death, the author is attempting to analyze ethical and political aspects.
Audience: The targeted audience includes not only physicians, but also politicians, philosophers, and lawmakers. The subject that the author covers is so hot and current, anybody who likes reading and thinking about daily life issues would be very interested in this book.
Features: By describing killing another person as "heterohomicide," the author calls suicide "autohomicide." Defining suicide as part of a mental illness is discussed in great detail. The legal and religious aspects of suicide are also discussed. The role of the physician and preventability of self-killing — as well as physician assisted suicide — build some of the chapters. Defending the idea that patients should not be prevented from exercising their free will, the author stresses that religion, psychiatry, and the state insist that we die involuntarily and "that is what makes dying voluntarily the ultimate freedom." The appendix includes excerpts about some authorities and their ideas. References accumulated at the end of the book are numerous.
Assessment: This is a fascinating book with a very interesting approach to the current issue. The author talks bravely about theacceptability of suicide, and seeks to be forward-looking. This is a book which can stretch readers' perceptions and provide a broader view. I highly recommended it.
Booknews
This is a reprint of the 1999 publication in which Szasz (psychiatry, the State U. of New York Health Science Center, Syracuse) seeks to demedicalize and destigmatize voluntary death, to enable readers to distinguish between describing and condemning (or recommending) suicide, and to recognize it as a behavior that has been and always will be part of the human condition. He compares suicides to other human behaviors which historically were seen as sins, then as crimes, and more recently as mental illnesses. A brief, new preface has been added to this edition. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

4 Stars! from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815607557
  • Publisher: Syracuse University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 177
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

THOMAS SZASZ is Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus at State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Speaking of Suicide: Our Self-Mutilated Vocabulary 1
2 Constructing Suicide: What Counts as Killing Oneself? 9
3 Excusing Suicide: The Fateful Evasion 29
4 "Preventing" Suicide: "Saving" Lives 45
5 Prescribing Suicide: Death as Treatment 63
6 Perverting Suicide: Killing as Treatment 89
7 Rethinking Suicide: Death Control, the Final Responsibility 107
Appendix 133
Notes 139
Selected Bibliography 157
Author Index 169
Subject Index 173
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