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Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide Paperback – October 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse Univ Pr (Sd) (October 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815607555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815607557
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,953,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Fatal Freedom deepens Szasz's commitment and our understanding of what might be called the libertarian tradition. In considering the theme of suicide as part of the larger question of the place of State power in individual decision-making he has made a genuine contribution in advancing the current discourse on matters of profound moment to us all."-Irving Louis Horowitz Professor of Sociology & Political Science Rutgers University --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

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: the right to suicide, physician-assisted suicide, psychiatric intervention for suicidal patients, and euthanasia.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Popper on October 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In his new book, FATAL FREEDOM, Dr. Thomas Szasz has taken the first step in destigmatizing suicide. In so doing he reminds us that not so long ago in England the failed suicide was punished by execution and his family deprived of his property. To "insanitize" him, that is, render him non compos mentis, seemed the only just solution.
Dr. Szasz does not admit the existence of mental illness unlike Dr. Kay Jamison who, in her book NIGHT FALLS FAST, assumes in the suicide its "almost ubiquitous presence." She discounts the will as a vital force in determining behavior; he emphasizes it as follows: Suicide is not a disease but a deed and as such, poses a moral, not a medical, problem. To allow medical experts to pathologize it is indicative of our willingness not to think, but to be thought for. More, these agents of our ever-expanding "therapeutic state" seem unable to call things by their right names. For example: Why say suicide is an unnatural act when they mean it is a wrongful one? Or misname medical intervention for the dying as medical treatment? Szasz deplores imprecise language because it rigor-mortises thought and begs significant questions. How can we, for example, without empirical evidence, accept the idea that mental illness is like any other illness?
Dr. Jamison reminds us that suicide among the young has tripled in the last forty-five years; Dr. Szasz asks whether suicide prevention in its present form does not increase its likelihood. Her study echoes the latest orthodox belief in biologically-based mood disorders. He, on the other hand, takes issue with our tendency to pathologize socially unacceptable behavior: Only yesterday we believed masturbation and homosexuality cause insanity. Today insanity causes suicide.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nicolas S. Martin on December 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thomas Szasz is one of century's brilliant social thinkers. He's best known for his criticism of psychiatric pseudo-science and coercive practices, but his intellectual reach is vast. In this remarkable book about suicide he defends the right of individuals to control their bodies and lives -- including the ways they choose to die. He takes issue with physicians having the power to determine our fate and places the choice and responsibility for suicide into the hands of the individual. He would end drug prohibition (including limits on access to prescription drugs), and permit adults (not children) to obtain the drugs necessary to commit suicide. He presents a convincing argument that physician-assisted suicide takes us farther from personal autonomy, making us more dependent and vulnerable. He notes that about a quarter of physicians in Holland, where physician-induced euthanasia is common, admit to having killed a patient without asking for the person's permission. As I write this review the American Medical Association is enlarging its interest in suicide prevention, but Szasz points out that doctors and psychiatrists commit suicide at much higher ratest than the general population. Szasz asks readers to look to the historical record of physician participation in euthanasia (Nazi germany, for instance) to see what moral depravity and mortal mayham have resulted. Szasz flatly supports the right of an individual to commit suicide without interference from physicians, psychiatrists or government. As is always true with Szasz writings, this book is tightly reasoned and beautifully written. It is a work of great compassion and honesty.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Celis on November 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you are bewildered by the debates over physician-assisted suicide, suicide prevention, and the legal right to suicide, then this book should answer your questions. Szasz demonstrates clearly and logically what a mess we have made of dying and how we can choose ethical, compassionate options that give power to the dying rather than to government and physicians. Why should individuals be deprived of the right to the means of dependable, dignified suicide? What are the dangers of giving doctors the power and tools to kill people? Why are physicians --who are themselves three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population-- the appropriate persons to engage in "suicide prevention"? How is the "war on drugs" stripping us of the power to control pain and death? Szasz tackles these and many other questions. He points out that in Holland, where physician-assisted suicide in common, 23 percent of physicians say they have participated in the killing of a patient WHO DID NOT AGREE TO BE KILLED. Is this compassionate medicine or nazi-style euthanasia? Szasz provides convincing answers to the complete array of questions surrounding suicide.
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