Essay topic: Do you believe that a man has a right to die as and when he chooses?
To take one's own life is called suicide. Suicide has always been discouraged. Judaism, Christianity and Islam consider it a sin. In some societies suicide is accepted or even expected in the face of disgrace. Hara-kiri is an ancient act of ceremonial suicide in which a short sword was used to slash the abdomen from left to right, then upwards. This was resorted to by warriors to escape capture by the enemy as well as to avoid dishonourable execution. The Japanese favoured hara-kiri to avoid capture even during the Second World War. Like the Japanese the ancient Romans and Egyptians also killed themselves to avoid disgrace or capture by the enemy. We have the examples of Brutus, Cassius, Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
There are many countries in the world which have made attempts to consider suicide a cognisable offence. (Incidentally, this is the only criminal offence that attracts punishment for just the attempt, and not for the commission of the offence.) Until 1961 the U.K. sought to discourage suicide by making it a crime; it still is in India and in some U.S. states.
There is by and large no social sanction for suicide. An attempt to commit suicide is often thought to be an implicit 'plea' for help, and may result from extreme depression and helplessness. There are also the cases of some notable literary figures who have committed suicide; Ernest Hemingway, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath are examples. Hamlet contemplates suicide in a mood of depression:
To be or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.
In the U.S., suicide is the cause of 1.4% of all deaths each year...