April 14, 2011

"Oh, my God, I made a mistake, I made a mistake."

Last words that must be the last words of many people who die without leaving someone, as in this case, who can report them.

ADDED: This story had me remembering this article from 2003 in The New Yorker about people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge:
Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before. Ken Baldwin [said]...
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped."

Kevin Hines... recalls, "My first thought was What the hell did I just do? I don’t want to die."

117 comments:

EDH said...

Isn't that what they say about bridge jumpers?

...they change their minds about halfway down.

The Drill SGT said...

As a point of reference, it is the conventional wisdom that in analyzing plane crashes, the phrase, "Ah Shit", "Merde", or "Scheisse" is a strong indication of pilot error.

Gabriel Hanna said...

This woman is not a suicide. She is a murderer of three children.

junyo said...

No, you didn't make a mistake. You murdered your kids. You want to off yourself, fine. You don't take innocent people with you.

Here's hoping there's a fiery hell, and she's roasting in it.

Scott M said...

This is truly one of those things you read about and afterward wish you had never heard about it.

To be a completely cynical dickhead, though, I'm guessing "Prime", aka Jean Pierre, is the type of "father" that isn't weeping too heavily about it and probably has had fleeting regrets that the ten-year-old made it out.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
As a point of reference, it is the conventional wisdom that in analyzing plane crashes, the phrase, "Ah Shit", "Merde", or "Scheisse" is a strong indication of pilot error.



It IS, reportedly, the last words usually heard in by cockpit recorder or by the controllers on the ground, indicating that the pilot has ejected…..

PETER V. BELLA said...

Once again we see evidence- and tragedy- that we do not know the human condition or working of the human mind as well as we think we do.

Unfortunately, we will have to listen to talking bobble headed so called experts telling us otherwise.

Ann Althouse said...

Realizing you've made a mistake isn't inconsistent with being a murderer. No one is saying she didn't murder the children. But she did live to regret it. And then she died, regretting killing herself as well.

What I think is wrong to say is: she's not a suicide, she's a murderer because she killed the children. *Every* suicide is a murderer. Let's get that straight at long last.

You can feel sorry for murderers to the extent that you want to, and you can say at least this murderer's only victim is herself (when there are no additional victims). But let's stop kidding ourselves: Suicide is murder!

Freeman Hunt said...

I remember reading the short account of a bridge jumper who survived. He said that he had been certain he wanted to die but then changed his mind the moment he jumped.

Ann Althouse said...

@Freeman I think there was a movie a while back about people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. They had some people who had survived. Every single person who jumped and survived said that as soon as they'd jumped, they realized it was a mistake. Presumably, everyone who died also had that realization. It's something everyone should know, because you don't want to learn in the hard way.

AllenS said...

Suicide is murder!

Tell me, Professor, how do you feel about abortion?

Scott M said...

But let's stop kidding ourselves: Suicide is murder!

I thought meat was. At least, that's what The Smiths taught me.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I still think the distinction between making mistakes and doing evil is worth hanging on to. At least she didn't say "Mistakes were made."

Smilin' Jack said...

But let's stop kidding ourselves: Suicide is murder!

Huh? Suicide is not murder. Just like touching yourself is not assault and battery. And apples are not oranges.

edutcher said...

The article uses the word, unhinged, to describe the mother. I would volunteer, selfish.

Gabriel Hanna said...

This woman is not a suicide. She is a murderer of three children.

On that, we agree.

traditionalguy said...

That is the same reaction that is coming from the Obama voters who listened to his seductive offer of hope and change. Now let's see if whether they help themselves from repeating their suicide in 2012. It will take a straight talking Trump or a Palin to do an intervention rescue of us from the Obama/Media cult we are now living through.

Scott M said...

Now let's see if whether they help themselves from repeating their suicide in 2012.

Are we sure he's running for re-election? I know he has said he was going to, but he also said he would close Gitmo, reduce the debt by half, transparency promises, end the wars, etc, etc, etc. All his statements seem to come with expiration dates.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

To be a completely cynical dickhead, though, I'm guessing "Prime", aka Jean Pierre, is the type of "father" that isn't weeping too heavily about it and probably has had fleeting regrets that the ten-year-old made it out.

Here, let me top you for cynical. He is probably regretting the loss of 3 of his 4 welfare child subsidy checks.

Peano said...

But let's stop kidding ourselves: Suicide is murder!

Well, yes, but let's also recognize that suicide is a morally unique kind of murder. It is not morally equivalent to the murder of other people.

By analogy: Feeding the hungry is often an act of charity. But when the hungry person you feed is yourself, it is not an act of charity.

PJ said...

Professor, it seems plausible to me that once you've jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, changing your mind about wanting to die is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for survival. So I would hesitate to draw the inference that all the non-survivors must have changed their minds, too.

wv is a Terre Roche fan: inging

Mary Beth said...

When I first heard the news story with the report of what she said, I wasn't sure if she meant the mistake was driving into the water or if she meant it as a general life statement.

Scott M said...

@Smilin' Jack Huh? Suicide is not murder. Just like touching yourself is not assault and battery.

@Peano By analogy: Feeding the hungry is often an act of charity. But when the hungry person you feed is yourself, it is not an act of charity.

Elegantly contrasted, both of you.

DADvocate said...

I remember the article in the New Yorker. It was the topic of discussion on a local radio talk show. Interesting stuff.

Down South where I grew up the most common last words are "hold my beer and watch this."

MayBee said...

What it says in the linked article:
But as he wriggled out of the window, his mother snatched his pants leg. "I made a mistake," she said before finally releasing the boy, the child told authorities.

...
Shivering and barely able to speak, little Lashaun told firefighters how his mother had launched the van into the river with his siblings inside and how, just moments before, she dialed her dad for help, the kids screaming in the background.

"I'm sorry, I'm going to do something crazy," Armstrong said, according to the boy's story.



Hmmm....Althouse portrays this as "living to regret it". But....she was gripping the boys pant leg as he tried to get out of the van.

Living to regret it is doing everything you can to save your own children as they scream for help from you, their mother and their killer.
Living to regret it is NOT making it more difficult for your 10 year old to get out of the water.

traditionalguy said...

The "suicide is murder" concept is a Judeo-Christian view that sees each person as God's person. An independent individual who sees no God to answer to and has no faith in God to restrain him. Also false gods affect people's lives, and especially the lives of their weak and helpless children. The pagan religions that the Hebrews displaced in Palestine 2800 years ago liked to roast their babies as offerings to demon gods.

DADvocate said...

a movie a while back about people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.

A scene from th t movie where a guy saves a girl from jumping. Other scenes in the sidebar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KJTs6xO3ls

Paddy O said...

"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped."

This is a huge realization if you can have it before you "jump". The experience of coming to the end of your road, feeling everything is broken or lost or unfixable, saying I should kill myself because I have no hope is tragic. But, if instead of killing yourself, you say, I shall live as though I did, that nothing matters anymore, there is no shame or embarrassment or trying to live up to any one else's expectations, is amazingly freeing.

Everything is immediately fixable. Everything becomes new and possible because there's no barriers anymore. You live as though you're a ghost, free to be and do and make, come what may.

Before too long everything is fixed and what you thought was unbearable has become the foundation of a new reality and new participation in this world.

Instead of jumping off the bridge you decide to live with the courage of constantly jumping off of bridges, taking chances and risks, because there's nothing else to lose, that's when life can start.

But so, so sadly, people get so caught up in the expectations and disappointments they would rather cave into this false assumptions rather than choose to live in a new way. They get trapped by the lies, and death claims them.

Very, very sad. I hope this ten year old boy is getting a whole lot of help and assistance, someone who would be his benefactor. The visions of those moments in the van aren't going to ever leave him, and he needs a lot of help to make it out of this experience with his head on straight, lest he become a later victim of his self-blinded mother, and make other victims in his rage and chaos.

Mary Beth said...

My thoughts were similar to MayBee's. Saying that she made a mistake instead of telling him to get help for his siblings, or to try and help them out, seems self-centered. It was still about her.

Scott M said...

The visions of those moments in the van aren't going to ever leave him

This was my thought when reading the age of the child that made it out. Ten years old is old enough to recall an event like this with the utmost clarity. It will unfortunately haunt him for a long, long time.

Is he one of "Prime"'s kids? The boyfriend was father of only three of the four. Could be this one, the oldest, won't have to suffer the additional inequity of having "Prime" raise him.

YoungHegelian said...

Think of the trauma for the poor kid who survived!

That's going to be survivor's guilt to the n-th power.

And, who's going to take care of him now? His grade A, USDA certified prime, asshole of a biological father?

MayBee said...

I do find it fascinating to think of how your emotions must change when you go from the theoretical to the actual.
Whether it's murder, suicide, leaving a spouse...thinking about how you'll feel from inside the comfy confines of not actually having done it is often very different than how you feel once you act. People who don't realize that can make huge mistakes.

PatHMV said...

The Golden Gate survivor stories should be exhibit #1 in why it's appropriate for society to criminalize assisted suicide.

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...

I have always thought that people that have jumped off of anything to commit suicide change their mind on the way down.
Except for the blindly insane of course.

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...

This is why for the reason stated above, what went through the minds of the people that jumped out of the World Trade Center as the only, last resort, haunts me....

ironrailsironweights said...

A couple years ago there was a strangely similar incident not far away. After a fight with her husband, a woman drove her minivan with her two children inside off a cliff at a parking area in Bear Mountain State Park. Different ending, however: the children survived, Mom did not.

Peter

Jack said...

For it is appointed once unto man to die then comes judgment.

Gabriel Hanna said...

I don't think suicide is murder at all. If suicide is murder, selfishness is love, masturbation is sex, drug abuse is poisoning, and masochism is sadism.

Seriously, words have meanings.

The Grand Inquisitor said...

"the minds of the people that jumped out of the World Trade Center"

Awful as that was, at least they didn't have themselves to blame. They simply opted not to burn alive, probably many after seeing others burn alive.

The only thing worse than their death is to know, as you die, that it's your own fault.

Good to remember these people.

CachorroQuente said...

Oh, bullshit. Suicide is not murder any more than meat is murder.

You're a law professor, for christ's sake, how can you not know that it's stupid to call suicide murder.

The most important distinction between suicide and murder is that suicide has no moral aspect that society has an interest in. It's completely and totally personal.

Michael said...

Professor: The New Yorker article on jumpers from Golden Gate was an extraordinary piece of reporting and writing. I lived for a decade in the area and jumpers were fairly common. In the instant case the woman forced her children to accept a long term solution to a short term problem. My heart aches for the surviving son to have witnessed, and loved, such insanity.

CachorroQuente said...

Every single person who jumped and survived said that as soon as they'd jumped, they realized it was a mistake. Presumably, everyone who died also had that realization. It's something everyone should know, because you don't want to learn in the hard way.

That's a poor presumption to make. Firstly, most survivors of suicide attempts don't really want to commit suicide in the first place. Else, you wouldn't be talking to them as they'd probably be dead. Second, suicide failures have a strong incentive to avoid telling the truth. To admit that you're suicidal is dangerous to your freedom -- think ECT, which is still practiced. Third, you're on statistical thin ice.

Michael said...

"http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2003/10/13/031013fa_fact"

The link above is to the New Yorker article "Letter from California: Jumpers"

traditionalguy said...

These survivors of a self murder attempt are similar to the murderers in prisons who tell interviewers that they don't know why they did it, but that something told them to do it. When they come back to their right minds, it is too late.

Michael said...

CachorroQuente: You will never know about those who never came up, but for those who did survive they all indicate that the moment they jumped they wished they hadn't. Your logic would suggest that they would climb up and try again, which they didn't. Leaping from the Golden Gate is not made by people looking for sympathy: one extra sleeping pill would get you that or a bungled razor on the wrist. The jump cannot be fudged.

Oh, and suicide is murder.

Freeman Hunt said...

The most important distinction between suicide and murder is that suicide has no moral aspect that society has an interest in. It's completely and totally personal.

This is false. What about parents who kill themselves? We go after deadbeat parents who don't pay child support because society has an interest in parents taking care of their children. How much more important is it then that the parents stay alive?

I would also argue that society has an interest in firmly opposing the view that life is disposable.

bandmeeting said...

I have a recollection from my skydiving days that jumping out of airplanes was considered therapeutic for suicidal people because of the feeling of overcoming death.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think there was a movie a while back about people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. They had some people who had survived. Every single person who jumped and survived said that as soon as they'd jumped, they realized it was a mistake. Presumably, everyone who died also had that realization. It's something everyone should know, because you don't want to learn in the hard way.

I'll have to look up that movie. I agree, people should hear about that sort of thing.

Most all things in life that look like the end of everything instantly stop looking like that when compared with the actual end of everything.

I knew of a woman who killed herself several years ago with pills. She died in the hospital wanting desperately to be saved and saying the same thing as this woman in the minivan.

Sofa King said...

Most all things in life that look like the end of everything instantly stop looking like that when compared with the actual end of everything.

On the other hand, facing a terrifying event often provokes instinctual emotions that the same situation, considered with cool dispassion would fail to find persuasive. Who is to say that the instinctual, panicked response is the "correct" one?

Peano said...

*Every* suicide is a murderer. Let's get that straight at long last.

As far as I know, suicide isn't a crime in any state. So, presumably, you're using murder as a moral concept. And if that is your claim, then you'll have to build a rather challenging argument before you "get that straight." Mere assertion won't do.

CachorroQuente said...

There is a lot more involved in choosing the GGB as a suicide vehicle than just choosing a method that has a high success rate. Read the New Yorker article about that goofy Iraqi, for example. So, people who jump off the GGB are no more representative of suicide attempters, in general, than convicted felons are representative of religious believers (for some reason, atheists don't end up getting convicted of felonies very often). Why not just slash your wrists in the wrong direction? Well, surviving a wrist slashing doesn't get you prominently in a New Yorker article or mentioned by name on the Althouse blog.

As pointed out above, those who are serious about committing suicide who are not killed by the impact likely die in the water. Or, they don't jump.

Why don't they climb up and try again? Surviving a serious suicide attempt is a very unpleasant experience -- not something you want to go through frequently. That's one thing. Another is that these people probably weren't serious in the first place.

Suicide is murder? How is suicide murder? The idea of murder has both legal and moral significance and suicide is not treated in the same manner either legally or morally. If suicide is murder, how come the jails aren't full of people who attempted suicide and failed?

PatHMV said...

From the Louisiana statutory definition of first degree murder:

"First degree murder is the killing of a human being" [when a variety of aggravating circumstances are present]. La. R.S. 14:30.

There is no statutory requirement that the offender and the person killed be two separate individuals. Here's the statutory definition of homicide in Louisiana, which also does not require that the offender and the victim be separate people:

"§29. Homicide

Homicide is the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable omission of another. Criminal homicide is of five grades:

(1) First degree murder.

(2) Second degree murder.

(3) Manslaughter.

(4) Negligent homicide.

(5) Vehicular homicide."

If you prefer the plain old dictionary definition of "murder," it also fails to require such separateness. From the Merrian-Weber on-line dictionary: "Murder: : the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought."

Suicide is thus but a particular species of murder.

Windbag said...

Anyone ever read "A Long Way Down" by Nick Hornby? Great read. Death by jumping isn't high on my list of ways I want to go. I want to go peacefully, in my sleep...like my grandfather. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers on his bus.

DADvocate said...

If suicide is murder, selfishness is love, masturbation is sex, drug abuse is poisoning, and masochism is sadism.

Suicide - murdering yourself

Selfishness - excessive self love

drug abuse - poisoning your body with foreign substances

masochism - getting sadistic pleasure hurting yourself

Masochist - "Hurt me, hurt me!!"

Sadist - "No! No!"

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Ann

"But let's stop kidding ourselves: Suicide is murder!"

Yes, self-murder.

"Oh, my God, I made a mistake, I made a mistake."

Statement issued by the head of the reticent voter group O.V.E.R., Obama Voters Expressing Regret

CachorroQuente said...

This is false. What about parents who kill themselves? If they leave an estate large enough to take care of the children, what's the problem? It's not the suicide that's the problem, it's the irresponsibility that's the moral question for society, not the suicide. Otherwise, all moral issues involved with suicide are personal moral issues not unlike marital fidelity and religious faith. We have moral obligations, I believe, to other people for a lot of reasons, but in the vast majority of cases, including issues of suicide, these are moral issues of the individuals, families, etc, not for society.


I would also argue that society has an interest in firmly opposing the view that life is disposable.


Seems to me equating the idea that suicide is, per se, a personal moral question and not a moral question for society with the idea that life is disposable is a non sequitur.

Freeman Hunt said...

From the New Yorker article:

Dr. Seiden’s study, “Where Are They Now?,” published in 1978, followed up on five hundred and fifteen people who were prevented from attempting suicide at the bridge between 1937 and 1971. After, on average, more than twenty-six years, ninety-four per cent of the would-be suicides were either still alive or had died of natural causes. “The findings confirm previous observations that suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented and acute in nature,” Seiden concluded; if you can get a suicidal person through his crisis—Seiden put the high-risk period at ninety days—chances are extremely good that he won’t kill himself later.

As for this:

On the other hand, facing a terrifying event often provokes instinctual emotions that the same situation, considered with cool dispassion would fail to find persuasive. Who is to say that the instinctual, panicked response is the "correct" one?

We are. We can look at the situations surrounding successful suicides with cool dispassion. A guy kills himself because the stock market crashes, and he's suddenly not rich (for the time being.) A woman kills herself because she's in a crummy relationship (like the original story here.) A boy kills himself because his girlfriend dumps him and starts going out with another guy. A girl kills herself because her best friend starts hanging out with different people and acting mean to her.

When you look at the common reasons that people attempt suicide, they seem ridiculous. They are all things that people can get past if they go on living. They are only persuasive to the people who attempt suicide because they're feeling anything but cool and dispassionate. They're so caught up in their situations that they lose all perspective and do something rash.

Facing real death snaps that perspective back into place.

"My boyfriend sucks, but having a sucky boyfriend is better than dying! I could have just dumped him! Shit!"

But then you're hanging or underwater or falling or whatever, and it's too late to take it back.

Freeman Hunt said...

If they leave an estate large enough to take care of the children, what's the problem?

Is that a joke? You cannot be serious.

CachorroQuente said...

Homicide is the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable omission of another. Criminal homicide is of five grades:

See that word there "another?" Even in Louisiana suicide is not criminal homicide.

From the Merrian-Weber on-line dictionary: "Murder: : the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought."

So, to be "muder", it has to be both a crime and unlawful. Suicide in Louisiana (for example), appears to be neither.

Michael said...

CachorroQuente: Until the middle 60s suicide was illegal in Britain and adultery was equally illegal in many jurisdictions. All of that ended, of course, when the smart guys like you determined that what you wanted to do was a lot more important than what society wanted you to do. And thus we find ourselves here. The people who held these beliefs down the centuries were, in Hemingway's perfect phrase, a way you will never be.

CachorroQuente said...


Is that a joke? You cannot be serious.


Of course I am serious, in context.
You claimed that suicide was something to be concerned about because of the financial burden placed on society. In that context, if the financial burden is removed, the societal concern is obviated.

To be clear: I believe that suicide, in many cases, is a terrible thing and causes a lot of harm, but ultimately, it's a matter of personal choice. Sort of like voting for Democrats -- it should be discouraged, but it's not a crime.

CachorroQuente said...

The people who held these beliefs down the centuries were, in Hemingway's perfect phrase, a way you will never be.

And thank God for that. Had God made me a petty moralistic pismire I'd kill myself.

Just because one thinks himself to be God does not make it so.

Peano said...

PatHMV said... From the Louisiana statutory definition of first degree murder:

"First degree murder is the killing of a human being" [when a variety of aggravating circumstances are present]. La. R.S. 14:30.
[snip]
Suicide is thus but a particular species of murder.


---

Many have been criminally charged in Louisiana with attempted murder. Can you cite a case in which someone was criminally charged with attempted suicide?

William said...

Suicide is a hereditary disease. The legacy that you leave your children is that suicide is an option. Hemingway, his father, his granddaughter are all examples of this phenomenon.....This is a terrible story. If the mother wished to advance the argument that life has no moral, no meaning, no point, then she has made a convincing argument. If I were her son, I would believe her.

CachorroQuente said...

One final comment on this disgusting topic: Don't you find it ironic to quote Hemingway, who left his lips-- the only identifiable part of his face remaining--around the barrel of a shotgun, in this discussion?

Michael said...

CachorroQuente; "And thank God for that. Had God made me a petty moralistic pismire I'd kill myself."

He did and you wouldn't.

Michael said...

CachorroQuente: No, the Hemingway quote is apt whether he murdered himself or not. Hypocrisy is only the worst crime to those who have no beliefs.

Scott M said...

Don't you find it ironic to quote Hemingway,

Ironic? Or merely coincidental?

Gabriel Hanna said...

As usual, you have to be up pretty early to be up before David Hume:

A MAN who retires from life does no harm to society: He only ceases to do good; which, if it is an injury, is of the lowest kind. -- All our obligations to do good to society seem to imply something reciprocal. I receive the benefits of society, and therefore ought to promote its interests; but when I withdraw myself altogether from society, can I be bound any longer? But allowing that our obligations to do good were perpetual, they have certainly some bounds; I am not obliged to do a small good to society at the expence of a {19} great harm to myself; why then should I prolong a miserable existence, because of some frivolous advantage which the public may perhaps receive from me? If upon account of age and infirmities, I may lawfully resign any office, and employ my time altogether in fencing against these calamities, and alleviating, as much as possible, the miseries of my future life: why may I not cut short these miseries at once by an action which is no more prejudicial to society? -- But suppose that it is no longer in my power to promote the interest of society, suppose that I am a burden to it, suppose that my life hinders some person from being much more useful to society. In such cases, my resignation of life must not only be innocent, but laudable. And most people who lie under any temptation to abandon existence, are in some such situation; those who have health, or power, or authority, have commonly better reason to be in humour with the world.

Freeman Hunt said...

You claimed that suicide was something to be concerned about because of the financial burden placed on society.

No, I didn't. Either I was unclear or you misunderstood me.

I gave the example of deadbeat parents as an example of one way in which society expresses an interest in parents being there for their children. But financial support is hardly the only reason society has an interest in parents being around.

Would you think it was fine if parents who left adequate money for their material support simply abandoned their children without notice? That is also against the law.

And even if there were no laws concerning abandonment or deadbeat parents, society would still have an interest in parents not offing themselves. Look at the impact of father absence on society.

Seems to me equating the idea that suicide is, per se, a personal moral question and not a moral question for society with the idea that life is disposable is a non sequitur.

It may seem that way to you, but I disagree. I think that a healthy society must hold to the idea that life has intrinsic value. I would argue that that idea is fundamental to liberty and individual rights.

To clarify: Are you meaning society's interest generally (as I am) or are you meaning society's interest as codified into criminal law?

ricpic said...

I think suicide is a legitimate option if a person is in excruciating pain with no prospect that the pain will end.

Kurt said...

I think that this article provides some excellent evidence for the truth of the penultimate paragraph of Willa Cather's short story "Paul's Case", only in that case the lead character jumps in front of a train and not off of a bridge:
The sound of an approaching train awoke him, and he started to his feet, remembering only his resolution, and afraid lest he should be too late. He stood watching the approaching locomotive, his teeth chattering, his lips drawn away from them in a frightened smile; once or twice he glanced nervously sidewise, as though he were being watched. When the right moment came, he jumped. As he fell, the folly of his haste occurred to him with merciless clearness, the vastness of what he had left undone. There flashed through his brain, clearer than ever before, the blue of Adriatic water, the yellow of Algerian sands.

Kurt said...

To clarify, by "this article," I meant the New Yorker one about the bridge jumpers.

Scott M said...

I think suicide is a legitimate option if a person is in excruciating pain with no prospect that the pain will end.

Having had to sit through a Peter, Paul, And Mary concert, I completely agree.

Oligonicella said...

Ann Althouse said...

"*Every* suicide is a murderer. Let's get that straight at long last."

Not a fact, but an opinion. Webster's disagrees. I do too.


Michael --

"The people who held these beliefs down the centuries were, in Hemingway's perfect phrase, a way you will never be."

Wow! Gotta say, you're not skimpy with the irony.

CachorroQuente said...


To clarify: Are you meaning society's interest generally (as I am) or are you meaning society's interest as codified into criminal law?


Mostly the latter. I don't think that suicide is inherently wrong or immoral and I don't believe that recognizing that denies that life has inherent value.

PatHMV said...

From Commentaries on the Laws of England, by Sir William Blackstone:

"§ 222. (a) Suicide.— Self-murder, the pretended heroism, but real cowardice, of the Stoic philosophers, who destroyed themselves to avoid those ills which they had not the fortitude to endure, though the attempting it seems to be countenanced by the civil law, yet was punished by the Athenian law with cutting off the hand which committed the desperate deed." And also the law of England wisely and religiously considers that no man hath a power to destroy life, but by commission from God, the author of it; and, as the suicide is guilty of a double offense, one spiritual, in invading the prerogative of the Almighty, and rushing into His immediate presence uncalled for, the other temporal, against the king, who hath an interest in the preservation of all his subjects, the law has therefore ranked this among the highest crimes, making it a peculiar species of felony, a felony committed on one's self. And this admits of accessories before the fact, as well as other felonies; for if one persuades another to kill himself, and he does so, the adviser is guilty of murder.- A felo de se (suicide), therefore, is he that deliberately puts an end to his own existence, or commits any unlawful malicious act, the consequence of which is his own death..."

Blackstone is the definitive source for the common law of England, from which most of our legal principles in America ultimately derive.

Oligonicella said...

PatHMV --

"Blackstone is the definitive source for the common law of England, from which most of our legal principles in America ultimately derive."

Most, but apparently not all. Worship of ancient authority doesn't bode well for progress.

Robert Cook said...

"Here's hoping there's a fiery hell, and she's roasting in it."

There isn't, and she isn't.

Robert Cook said...

Dust Bunny Queen said:

"'To be a completely cynical dickhead, though, I'm guessing "Prime", aka Jean Pierre, is the type of "father" that isn't weeping too heavily about it and probably has had fleeting regrets that the ten-year-old made it out.'

Here, let me top you for cynical. He is probably regretting the loss of 3 of his 4 welfare child subsidy checks."


Yeah, you called "completely cynical dick-head" and raised it to "racist."

PatHMV said...

Oh, and from Webster's definition of suicide:

n. 1. (Law) The act of taking one's own life voluntary and intentionally; self-murder; specifically (Law), the felonious killing of one's self; the deliberate and intentional destruction of one's own life by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind.
2. One guilty of self-murder; a felo-de-se.

Also:

SUICIDE, crimes, med. jur. The act of malicious self-murder; felo de se. (q.v.) 3 Man. Gran. & Scott, 437, 457, 458; 1 Hale, P. C.. 441

The latter is quoted in many places, but stems from John Bouvier's Law Dictionary, published in 1856.

RuyDiaz said...

Something from the New Yorker story.... Remarkably how little compassion almost everybody involved showed for the jumpers. These are people who can actually be helped, much cheaply and with better prospects than, say, criminals, and hardly anybody cared.

Peano said...

PatHMV said... Oh, and from Webster's definition of suicide:....

As a lawyer, you might want to consult the actual laws rather than law dictionaries and 18th century British commentaries.

For example:

Historically, various states listed the act of suicide as a felony, but these policies were sparsely enforced. In the late 1960s, eighteen U.S. states lacked laws against suicide. By the late 1980s, thirty of the fifty states had no laws against suicide or suicide attempts but every state had laws declaring it to be felony to aid, advise or encourage another person to commit suicide. By the early 1990s only two states still listed suicide as a crime, and these have since removed that classification. In some U.S. states, suicide is still considered an unwritten "common law crime," as stated in Blackstone's Commentaries. (So held the Virginia Supreme Court in Wackwitz v. Roy in 1992.)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"'To be a completely cynical dickhead, though, I'm guessing "Prime", aka Jean Pierre, is the type of "father" that isn't weeping too heavily about it and probably has had fleeting regrets that the ten-year-old made it out.'

Here, let me top you for cynical. He is probably regretting the loss of 3 of his 4 welfare child subsidy checks."


"Yeah, you called "completely cynical dick-head" and raised it to "racist."

Based on real life experience: and where did I say anything about race?

I have a good friend who is an ex-Highway Patrol officer whose beat was in Los Angeles. He tells us of a time when he was at a fatal accident. A small child was dead and splattered all over the inside and what was left of the inside of the car.

The mother's who was standing outside of the car and was waiting for an ambulance. Our friend, who had seen many bad accidents, thought that he should go and comfort her and keep her from seeing the remains of her child.

Her first statement-----------> "Will I still be getting my check?"

He was stunned.

You can call that racist if you want, but that is reality. Her kid was nothing more than a meal ticket.

Peano said...

PatHMV said... SUICIDE, crimes, med. jur. The act of malicious self-murder; felo de se. (q.v.) 3 Man. Gran. & Scott, 437, 457, 458; 1 Hale, P. C.. 441

The latter is quoted in many places, but stems from John Bouvier's Law Dictionary, published in 1856.


Stretching a bit there, aren't you, barrister?

Maybe you can turn up something in the Code of Hammurabi or perhaps the Rosetta Stone to support your position.

PatHMV said...

Peano... the pro-suicide faction in this thread has yet to cite any authority at all for the proposition that Althouse's statement that "*Every* suicide is murderer" is incorrect, other than their own incensed say-so. She did not say that she was referring to the specific legal statutes; murder has both its statutory legal definitions (quite a few of them, as each state has their own) and its common meaning in everyday usage.

My citations to the various definitional authorities were not intended to settle definitively whether an (attempted) suicide today could be punished as (attempted) murder under the statutes of any particular state, but to show that, indeed, suicide is very commonly defined as "self-murder," and has been for quite a long time.

If you or the others would care to clarify exactly what you mean when you screech that suicide is not murder, then perhaps I can find some more relevant citations for you. But don't quibble with my authorities unless and until you provide some of your own to support your position.

PatHMV said...

Perhaps you'd prefer to look at the etymological derivation of the words.

The root "-cide" means killing, or murder. Thus, "patricide" is the murder of one's father, "matricide" is the murder of one's mother, "fratricide" is the murder of a sibling, "infanticide" is the murder of a baby, "regicide" is the murder of a king, "homicide" is the murder of any person, and so on.

The root "sui-" refers, of course, to the self. Thus, as with all those other fancy terms for particular types of killings or murders, sui-cide means the murder of oneself.

I presume you'll claim that "-cide" means "killing" rather than "murder," but that just doesn't hold up. For starters, the Online Etymology Dictionary gives us this: "-cide
"killer," from Fr. -cide, from L. -cida "cutter, killer, slayer," from -cidere, comb. form of caedere "to strike down, chop, beat, hew, fell, slay," from PIE *kae-id-, from base *(s)k(h)ai- "to strike" (Pokorny, not in Watkins; cf. Skt. skhidati "beats, tears," Lith. kaisti "shave.") For L. vowel change, see acquisition. The element also can represent "killing," from Fr. -cide, from L. -cidium "a cutting, a killing.""

"Cutter, killer, slayer." Those are all largely synonyms suggesting a wrongful killing, that is, murder.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@PatHMV:

the pro-suicide faction in this thread has yet to cite any authority at all for the proposition that Althouse's statement that "*Every* suicide is murderer" is incorrect, other than their own incensed say-so.


What a crock. I'm an authority, declared to be by myself, and you are full of crap.

Perhaps you'd prefer to look at the etymological derivation of the words.

Following up fallacy of authority with fallacy of etymology...

I presume you'll claim that "-cide" means "killing" rather than "murder," but that just doesn't hold up.

Pat, has anyone been convicted of herbicide or pesticide?

You really had to study to be this stupid.

MadisonMan said...

Her kid was nothing more than a meal ticket.

I think it's pretty foolish to judge anyone based on what they say just after witnessing or learning of their kid's death. God only knows what would come out of my mouth.

But hey, if it jibes with your preconceived notions, go for it.

Gabriel Hanna said...

herbicide
pesticide
insecticide


All murder, according to PatHMV.

Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I think it's pretty foolish to judge anyone based on what they say just after witnessing or learning of their kid's death. God only knows what would come out of my mouth.

I doubt my first thought (or yours) would be about whether I was still going to be getting my (welfare) check.

Just relaying what my friend said and his shocked reaction about her callous self centered remark.

Sorry about derailing the thread.

dbp said...

I think this overly-legalistic argument about whether suicide is murder or not misses some of the point.

Suicide and attempted suicide were hardly ever prosecuted since the successful suicide has placed himself beyond the law. As for attempted suicide, it just seems mean-spirited to someone who is already so thoroughly screwed-up. So these laws have been dropped from the books.

That assisting a suicide is still almost universally illegal shows our abhorrence toward suicide. It is most decidedly not purely personal.

Peano said...

PatHMV said... Peano... the pro-suicide faction in this thread has yet to cite any authority at all for the proposition that Althouse's statement that "*Every* suicide is murderer" is incorrect, other than their own incensed say-so.

Pat: I am not pro-suicide. I am pro-argument. Professor Althouse has asserted that suicide is murder. But she offered no argument and no definitions. It is a bare assertion or, as you put it, her own say-so.

As a lawyer, you surely understand that she who makes the assertion bears the burden of proof.

Michael said...

dbp: I don't think it is a legalistic argument but a moral one, at least for those who believe that there are absolutes and that there is such a thing as morality. Many commenters believe it is a matter of opinion and others believe that progress is made only by the disregard of tradition. The dead woman's decision to take her life and murder her children belies the fact that society is not implicated in a suicide as will be seen in who pays for the poor boy who survived.

Peano said...

PatHMV said: If you or the others would care to clarify exactly what you mean when you screech that suicide is not murder, then perhaps I can find some more relevant citations for you. But don't quibble with my authorities unless and until you provide some of your own to support your position.

Pat, just to be sure you understand. I have not said (let alone screeched) that suicide is not murder.

My only "position" is that if you say that suicide is murder, you bear the burden of supporting that claim with credible evidence or argument.

I am hardly quibbling when I point out that you cite sources from the 18th century while ignoring the actual letter of statutory law in all 50 states.

Neither you nor the the trolling hippie law professor have offered anything remotely resembling a sound argument for your claims.

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Oligonicella said...

PatHMV --

Perhaps you'd prefer to look at the etymological derivation of the words.

The root "-cide" means killing, or murder.


And then you screw up the first sentence upon which the post depends.

If you're telling me killing is murder, then it's murder to kill someone trying to kill you. Um... Bullshit.

Conservatives 4 Better Dental Hygiene said...

Sorry to barge in to this interesting and enlightening thread but I just wanted to say the following:

Obama is an asshole.

We now return you to your irregularly scheduled concern for the human condition.

Oligonicella said...

patHMV -

Just so you know my source: Webster's Unabridged.


-cide,
a learned borrowing from Latin meaning “killer,” “act of killing,” used in the formation of compound words: pesticide, homicide.


Note the example word pesticide. Your tortured pedanticalness notwithstanding, it is not murder to kill a mouse, regardless of PETA's views.

John Lynch said...

This is why I heap scorn on suicides. I got a lot of crap about it in a thread a few months ago, but it's still the right thing to do.

People talk themselves into death. It's not natural, and it takes a kind of socialization to pull it off. In a society with no suicides, it's unlikely to happen. Societies with a lot of suicides produce a cultural acceptance of the behavior, like medieval Japan. Our society shouldn't give potential suicides their talking points.

So yeah, make fun of suicides. Don't give sympathy, don't feed the impulse in other people. That's not good for anyone. Sympathy for the dead is meaningless to them and might convince someone else that the only way anyone will care about them is if they are dead. No, we shouldn't.

Murder-suicides, of course, deserve even more revulsion.

It's selfish, it's stupid, and we shouldn't condone it. There's nothing noble in it.

Paddy O said...

The key distinction between the other -cides is that in every situation the killing of a human requires legal justification. Having a bad relationship is not legal justification to kill another, so it isn't for one's own self. Indeed in most places, there is no legal justification to assist anyone in killing themselves, thus suggesting that assisted suicide is, legally, assisted murder.

Also, culturally, we have a very ingrained cultural revulsion against suicides. Why is this? Because, Christianity shaped our culture into understanding that we do not exist as isolated beings but our life exists in responsibility to others, first to God and then to our family/community. Suicide is a mortal sin, precisely because it is the taking of a life one does not have the right to take, and then does not allow for repentance. That's why suicides were not, historically allowed burial in church graveyards.

That's also why in the Christian influenced West we don't have a tradition of honor suicides or suicide bombings or kamikaze pilots. Because we honor a human so much, we do not even give a person the moral right to take their own life. That's ingrained in our culture and resonates in a whole lot of different expressions.

Freeman Hunt said...

It's selfish, it's stupid, and we shouldn't condone it. There's nothing noble in it.

This. For the reasons Lynch provides.

And I also agree with RuyDiaz. What a strange article in that way. Having a barrier seems obvious. Now they've agreed to a net, but it is going to cost far more than a barrier, so it isn't built yet.

I must say, I think that anyone opposing the installation of some kind of barrier there on the basis of aesthetics should be ashamed. You'd think San Francisco would be more concerned about people's welfare. But then, perhaps this is one of those New Age things Crack is always writing about.

EnigmatiCore said...

*Every* suicide is a murderer.

Even when committed by the terminally ill, who just want the misery to end?

And what about those who end the life of another, who can no longer express anything due to circumstances, because it was the 'will' of the unfortunate one, as far as can be gathered according to whatever evidence (perhaps just testimony) exists?

I would be much more comfortable with the declaration that 'with very few exceptions, suicide *is* murder.'

EnigmatiCore said...

@Scott M

How Soon Is Now might be my favorite song of that genre. Just fantastic stuff.

EnigmatiCore said...

@Smilin' Jack Huh? Suicide is not murder. Just like touching yourself is not assault and battery.

@Peano By analogy: Feeding the hungry is often an act of charity. But when the hungry person you feed is yourself, it is not an act of charity.

Elegantly contrasted, both of you.


At the risk of slipping into Titus mode, I am compelled to say that when I touch myself, I am very charitable.

EnigmatiCore said...

Living to regret it is NOT making it more difficult for your 10 year old to get out of the water.

Yes. For all we know, the mistake she had in mind wan not engaging the power window locks.

EnigmatiCore said...

As far as I know, suicide isn't a crime in any state.

The conviction rate would be terrible.

A few times in history, attempting suicide has been a criminal offense, including in some places at some times being a crime punishable by death.

EnigmatiCore said...

See that word there "another?"

You mean, the one that refers to "the act"?

That is a phrasing that is adored by the authors of the SATs and ACTs. They would have nailed your ass with it.

EnigmatiCore said...

Perhaps you'd prefer to look at the etymological derivation of the words.

Um. Yeah, I would. Let me go grab a beer or six first.

EnigmatiCore said...

Posting five thousand comments in a row like Titus is strangely amusing at times.

I assume it is annoying as hell to others, as it is to me when he does it, so I'll try to rein it in.

CachorroQuente said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EnigmatiCore said...

Obviously not as good at taking them as you believe.

Homicide is the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable omission of another.

To what does the word procurement refer, in the above? It is the same thing that the phrase "culpable omission of another" refers.

Namely, the act.

Homicide is killing a person by the act.

Or by procurement of the act.

Or by culpable omission of another act.

The word another in that sentence was not referring to another person, in any way, shape, or form.

CachorroQuente said...

Homicide is killing a person by the act of another.

Or by procurement of the act by another.

Or by culpable omission of another.

The word another in that sentence was referring to another person, in every way, shape, and form.

sorry for deleting the post you replied to, I did it before I realized you had replied to it.

EnigmatiCore said...

Homicide is killing a person by the act of another.

Or by procurement of the act by another.


Oh, so you are interpreting the comma delimited list as being distributable of the 'killing a person by' clause over the individual elements.

Or by culpable omission of another.

So that last one would then become "Homicide is killing a person by culpable omission of another."

By the culpable omission of, what? Another person? No. By the culpable omission of another act.

vw: bladhsh. A propos.

CachorroQuente said...

"another" can be either a pronoun or an adjective. I'll let it go at that.

EnigmatiCore said...

"another" can be either a pronoun or an adjective. I'll let it go at that.

In general, the word another can be either part of speech.

In the sentence that was used, it is not being used as a pronoun.

Kurt said...

John Lynch: Your response reminds me a bit of a scene in the film The Big Chill where Richard, the husband of Karen, talks about how Alex (the suicide) didn't have his priorities in order and why he thought what Alex did was such a waste. Although the narrative of that film tries to convince the audience that Richard is an insensitive bore, it seemed to me when I watched the film (coincidentally after a friend's suicide) that he was the only character with his priorities most sensibly in order.

Matt Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Wilson said...

"*Every* suicide is a murderer. Let's get that straight at long last."

In reply to Ann Althouse: although I understand its common effect of transferring pain to others, this is an ignorant, over-simplistic, erroneous notion of suicide. The causes of suicide are complex and vast, and indeed many suicides are the result of hopes to lessen a burden for others; in many cases the goal is akin to selflessness. But the reasons for suicide are as individual as the unique person for whom the pain became too much. Suicide is recourse for dealing with overwhelming suffering--not just commentary on life. It far outweighs and surpasses any of our casual attempts at categorization or judgement. For anyone who thinks suicide is "cowardly" or holds equally ignorant notions, I'd ask whether you'd be able to jump 200 feet off the Golden Gate Bridge. Assigning moral or ethical connotations to suicide is exactly what prevents us from better understanding and preventing it.

(Sorry, edited this for spelling).