In Western countries the general rule is that caregivers do everything possible to prevent suicide. The aim of this essay is to critically reflect on that position along three questions: is there an unconditional obligation to live, how far does the duty reach to safeguard life, and how does one deal with the tension between suicide prevention and euthanasia? The study material consists of Christian theological and ethical literature and relevant legislation, while the method is a religious ethical reflection, clarified by means of a case study. We consider suicide as an expression of an existential search for meaning and interwoven with psychiatric problems. After discussing the three ethical arguments against suicide, we conclude that the inviolability of life is a generally recognized and fundamental value, but that there is no unconditional obligation to live. Nevertheless, there is a legal duty to safeguard life. In practice however, restriction of freedom and coercion are counterproductive in the search for meaning and require a proportional assessment between inviolability of life and autonomy. Finally, the legal possibility of euthanasia in mental suffering or medically assisted suicide brings caregivers in a confusing situation. Good companionship of the euthanasia request may help finding a new life perspective and hence may contribute to suicide prevention.
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