One major problem with a materialistic society is that it fails to address our spiritual needs. The table of values that dominates our lives is economical and measured in terms of quantity. On the contrary, spiritual goods seek quality. They correspond to our natural desires for the good, true and beautiful. Our spiritual appetites will only truly be satisfied by God and heaven.
Our materialistic society denies the value of these spiritual values because they cannot be quantified. At best, we relegate them to purely personal consideration outside the real world of business and money.
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This clash of values often leads to frustration. It triggers a crisis in which we lose meaning and purpose in life. Our society is full of stress and depression because life often presents itself as futile and insignificant.
Thus, many troubled young people are tempted to look at suicide as an option. Family, friends, community and church are extremely helpful contacts to avoid this tragedy. They serve as the first line of defense for young people at a particularly vulnerable period of their lives.
A Web Site With a Message
Thus, we need to do everything possible to avoid suicide. Our postmodern world, however, makes it difficult by presenting suicide as a free choice like any other. This attitude is consistent with our general “culture of death.” People say we can kill children before birth and eliminate older people near death. Why not allow people of all ages to choose death when they feel physically or mentally unable to endure life’s sufferings?
Thus, those who hold this philosophy try to facilitate the process of suicide by providing information about it and letting the person make that choice. One major site providing such information is called “Sanctioned Suicide.” The New York Times says that “tens of thousands around the world” have been “pulled in” by the site.
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Mindful of legal penalties, its founders claim that their site does not promote suicide.
“Please understand that the information offered on this site is for educational purposes only, and provided only by other users like you. We do not encourage, promote, advise, suggest, or aid suicide in any way or form; we only provide a space to talk about it. Be responsible, know the laws of your country, follow the forum rules, and know that the way you use any information posted on the forum is fully and solely your responsibility.”
Many people disagree with the site’s assessment of its responsibility. Ideas do have consequences. Putting the wrong information in the hands of vulnerable individuals can lead to disaster. In addition, the word “sanction” means “to give effective or authoritative approval.” The New York Times article briefly relates several occasions when people joined the site and committed suicide soon thereafter. It quotes Emma Davis, a one-time member.
“It felt like you were wrapping yourself up in this blanket of all this misery and darkness. You sort of felt safe, but you weren’t safe.”
An Agonizing Story
Michael and Janice are eager to tell their son’s story and how he made use of the information, he found on the site. They requested that their names be changed to protect the privacy of their other children. They lost their 23-year-old son to suicide in January 2022. These are Janice’s words.
“Charles is dead. We cannot get him back. He was pushed. We are miserable without him. Every day we struggle. We were never ever given an opportunity to help our son because Sanctioned Suicide groomed him, normalized suicide and told him it was his right to die and that his parents were not to be trusted.
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“We had no idea what was happening until he died. It [the chemical] was delivered to my front door and I handed him the package from Lab Alley. He told me it was school supplies. He lied for an entire month of Christmas break to convince us that his life was going great and that we had no worries. I repeat my son was instructed and pushed to die.”
Pondering the Unthinkable
The Sanctioned Suicide site’s design is almost sterile in its oddly business-like nature. As of this writing, on the site’s “Suicide Discussion” page, the first post was titled “Some Thoughts on Suicide.” The third offered “Important advice: Defending yourself against involuntary hospitalization.”
The threads have a chilling quality. The writers know they are discussing a means of death that could possibly be their own. The tone of the conversations is both casual and direct. Issues of morality seldom enter the deliberations, almost as if common agreement forbids them. These people could be discussing the amount of sugar to put into a gallon of iced tea.
Is Such a Site Legal?
Despite its denials, the site has caused controversy. Cases like that of Michael and Janice are appearing everywhere. The New York Times points out that Australia, Germany and Italy have been able to restrict access within their borders. It also posits that assisting suicide is illegal in many states.
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Most assisted suicide laws forbid actions that help someone to end their life. They were inspired by the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan pathologist who claimed to have actively participated in over a hundred suicides.
The site does not explicitly take or actively promote such action. However, many contest that claim and are trying to take action against the site and prevent the sharing of suicide-oriented information.
A Congressional Inquiry
The uproar over the site’s impact on vulnerable individuals is growing. After The New York Times published its article, seven members of Congress sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland to determine the possible legal options. They stipulated that “there is no federal law criminalizing assisting or encouraging suicide.” At the same time, they asked the Attorney General six questions:
- Does the DOJ [Department of Justice] have the authority and discretion to investigate the Sanctioned Suicide website?
- Does the DOJ have the statutory authority to pursue a criminal case against Diego Joaquín Galante and Lamarcus Small, for their alleged role in operating or as members on the website? If not, why not?
- Does the DOJ have the technical expertise and human resources to identify these kinds of popular websites that promote suicide?
- Does the DOJ share information about websites that promote suicide with state and local law enforcement?
- Does the DOJ share information about websites that promote suicide with community-based organizations involved in suicide prevention and mental health care?
- What actions can Congress take to give the DOJ the authority necessary to prosecute the Sanctioned Suicide website owners and delist the site in the United States?
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These questions indicate that the problem is serious. Evidence is mounting that people are acting on the information found on this and other sites. By “sanctioning” suicide, these sites send the message that suicide can be validated. America needs to join the other countries that have dared to take down these sites that lurk in the shadowy regions of the Internet.
There are measures parents can take to mitigate the influence of all such sites on their children.
The first thing is to be aware of the existence of such dangers. In our disordered world, it is yet another worry among many. We find it hard to believe that such things exist. However, the influence of the culture of death spares no one.
Since the matter deals with such a deadly issue, parents must address it by ensuring that such sites are forever banned on their home networks through software filters. Parents must act upon any suspicious indications that children are visiting these sites or toying with the idea of suicide.
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A second measure is nourishing those spiritual values contrary to the frustrations that youth often face. Parents should encourage religious devotions and practices—and be an example for their children. They can endorse wholesome cultural and artistic pastimes that feed spiritual appetites. They should also protect children from harmful cultural influences (like Hollywood and pornography). They can diminish material expectations that can lead to stress and depression. Parents and children can be engaged in the culture war and thus learn from an early age to fight the culture of death.
Prayer is perhaps the most important step to confronting this danger, especially once perceived. The devil’s influence is especially evident in these cases since he endeavors to tempt us to do the greatest harm to ourselves. Prayer and sacrifice can do wonders. We must engage in a supernatural battle against the devil who directs our culture and targets the most vulnerable.
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