Are Londoners who commit suicide on the tube being inconsiderate?

There was an interesting debate on reddit recently, with regards to the manners of people who commit suicide on London’s transport system. This came about after a commuter, who had been hit by a train near Streatham Common, had triggered a series of events, which had led to overcrowding at London Bridge, and great fear and anger amongst the commuters who had been made to congregate outside the ticket barriers.

Chris commented that it was essentially inconsiderate and selfish for a person to commit suicide on London’s travel network:

When a person kills them-self quietly at home, it’s pretty sad. When a person goes out in public to kill them-self in a way that will disrupt hundreds or thousands of other lives, it’s fucking selfish and I have no sympathy. When a person jumps in front of a train it can cause huge delays. People could be late for or miss all sorts of important things like medical appointments, job interviews, etc. Then there’s the trauma suffered by the fucking train driver who has to helplessly watch another human being die horrifically and anyone involved in the resulting clean-up. The person committing the act either doesn’t consider these consequences or doesn’t care. Either way, it’s selfish.

What is interesting about Chris’ comment is that he is making the point in relation to an argument as to whether he, Chris, should show any sympathy towards the passenger. But the passenger is dead. Can you show sympathy towards a dead person?

ValentiaIsland, added that Chris was being unreasonable and perhaps inconsiderate, in expecting a person who wanted to kill himself to be reasonable in how killing himself affected other people.

Come on. You’re approaching it as someone who can be rational. If you’re committed to ending your life you’ve lost a lot of your critical facilities and aren’t in a place where you can think straight.

Wildeaboutoscar, reinforced Valentiaisland’s point:

Not a fact actually. If the agent isn’t fully aware that what they are doing impacts on other people then the intent isn’t there to warrant the action as selfish.

If someone with autism lashes out, we don’t call it selfish as the intent was not there. Similarly, if you are affected by an illness that impedes your ability to think about things rationally then one could argue that the intention isn’t there in that case either.

Bermondsey, has also suggested that suicidal impulses can be quite spontaneous, i.e. they are done in the heat of the moment, and little consideration is given to the impact that it may have on other peoples’ lives.

But this isn’t what people do. As at least one other commenter has said what they do is carry on with their lives, including commuting on the tube or by train, and then, when standing on the platform they just think ‘fuck it, this isn’t worth it’ and jump. It’s the suicide equivalent of an impulse purchase. What it is not is a planned attempt to commit suicide in a disruptive way.

Chris may have a point though. Like the person who has been alleged to have crashed a plane in the Alps, a person who commits suicide knows at some level, even if he is not consciously thinking it through that by jumping on the train line, he or she is going to cause a good deal of trauma to all those who witness it, not least the drive, who one could be forgiven for feeling some degree of guilt, though they should not feel any at all. Committing suicide in this very public way, is not just a wanting to end the pain, it is, arguably, a sadistic attempt at trying to maximize that pain, so that one does not feel so alone.

Where Chris may need to re-evaluate his thinking is around the lack of empathy for the person who killed himself, less he becomes like the deceased person himself. Wildeaboutoscar commented:

I’ve lived in London nearly 5 years and I’ve yet to get annoyed by somebody ending their life. Nothing is more important than empathy, regardless of how many meetings you’re late for.

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