Human Agency. Letter in The Daily Telegraph (3 May 2004)

Human agency

Anthony Stadlen

Copyright © Anthony Stadlen, 2004, 2020
(Letter in the Daily Telegraph, 3 May 2004)

SIR: Richard Hornsby (Letters, Apr 28) writes that depression is a life-threatening illness with as high a mortality rate as other life-threatening illnesses such as cancerThis tries to obscure the fact that suicide is a personal action. Instead, Mr Hornsby tries to present depression as a life-threatening illness, like cancer, which has a mortality rate. Depression cannot threaten life in the way that, for example, cancer can. Depression does not have a mortality rate, although many depressed people take their own lives.

Suicide is a personal, intentional action, not the natural-scientifically determined result of an illness with a mortality rate. To present it in such mechanistic terms as Mr Hornsby does is to corrupt the discussion of depression and suicide, by seeking to place it outside the realm of human agency and responsibility.

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