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When should we try to prevent suicide? Should it be facilitated for some people, in some circumstances? For the last forty years, law and policy on suicide have followed two separate and distinct tracks: laws aimed at preventing suicide and, increasingly, laws aimed at facilitating it.
In Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws legal scholar Susan Stefan argues that these laws co-exist because they are based on two radically disparate conceptions of the would-be suicide.
This is the first book that unifies policies and laws, including constitutional law, criminal law, malpractice law, and civil commitment law, toward people who want to end their lives. Based on the author's expert understanding of mental health and legal systems, analysis of related national and international laws and policy, and surveys and interviews with more than 300 suicide-attempt survivors, doctors, lawyers, and mental health professionals, Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws exposes the counterproductive nature of current policies and laws about suicide.
Stefan proposes and defends specific reforms, including increased protection of mental health professionals from liability, increased protection of suicidal people from coercive interventions, reframing medical involvement in assisted suicide, and focusing on approaches to suicidal people that help them rather than assuming suicidality is always a symptom of mental illness.
Stefan compares policies and laws in different states in the U.S. and examines the policies and laws of other countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, including the 2015 legalization of assisted suicide in Canada. The book includes model statutes, seven in-depth studies of people whose cases presented profound ethical, legal, and policy dilemmas, and over a thousand cases interpreting rights and responsibilities relating to suicide, especially in the area of psychiatric malpractice.
Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws is a landmark book written about thorny issues pertaining to suicide, mental health care, and mental health-related laws and policies within contemporary culture. Susan Stefan has an uncanny ability to point out when the 'emperor has no clothes' as she poignantly explores suicidal human suffering in the face of existing conventional mental health care that too often 'treats' suicidal people through control, coercion, and shame that is fostered and supported by existing policies and laws.
This important book makes one think deeply about the topic of suicide, human suffering, truly compassionate care, personal liberty, and mental health-related policy and laws in novel and important ways. David A. Jobes PhD, Professor of Psychology, The Catholic University of America
Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws is a nuanced, subtle, and thoroughgoing look at suicide and assisted suicide. ...Stefan debunks the idea that all suicide is a symptom of mental illness enacted by incompetent people. Stefan also proposes recommendations as to how we should respond to a suicidal person and the phenomenon of suicide generally.
An important theme running through this book is that there is so much more we could be doing to help the patient want to live. All in all, a must-read for anyone interested in the phenomenon of suicide and assisted suicide--a masterful account. Elyn Saks JD, PhD, Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences, USC Gould School of Law