Sunday, May 29, 2005

Reducing so-called 'Internet suicides'

ERGO (Euthanasia Research & Guidance Org) is not primarily concerned with people with mental health problems or bizarre behavior. Our special field of concern is end-stage terminal illness or hopeless illness, and how competent adults may choose to deal with it by rational suicide. But some of our critics have been using the recent spate of group suicides in Japan, and the information
they received over certain Internet sites, to try to pass the blame to the euthanasia movement. Some Roman Catholic priests in Ireland have publicly joined in the disapproval. The most serious effect of this currently is the likely passage of new laws in Australia banning right-to-die societies there from communicating with their members -- a tragic step backwards. Below is an editorial from today's 'Japan Times' which tackles this problem fairly calmly
and positively (Derek Humphry) .

Japan Times article:
Halting Internet-assisted suicide

The number of cases in which people solicit others on the Internet to commit group suicide is on the rise. To deal with this, a panel of learned people set up by the National Police Agency has called on Internet providers to disclose the names, addresses and birth dates of people sending such messages.
This information is necessary because people who give notice of suicide on the Internet cannot be protected unless they are identified. However, the police will be required to tighten procedures to prevent abuse, and the provider business as a whole, in order to protect human life, will have to be thoroughly prepared to disclose customer information as much as possible despite the obvious conflict with the principle of guarding the confidentiality of communications.

According to the NPA, the number of people committing suicide in Japan reached more than 34,000 the year before last, surpassing 30,000 for the six consecutive year. Last year there were 55 Internet suicides involving 19 cases. Although this number is very small compared with the total suicide toll, the phenomenon is peculiar in that complete strangers with different motivations are getting together over the Internet to plan their deaths together.

For this reason, it may be difficult even for the people closest to a troubled person to detect any signs of a suicide wish. T


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