Monday, April 28, 2008

Victims of the Suicide Prohibition

A 2007 single-patient study in the Annals of Neurology focused on a 48-year-old woman who has been kept alive for over two years in a state of akinetic mutism - she cannot move or speak. She experienced severe brain damage from a suicide attempt and has been kept alive ever since, apparently against her expressed wishes, while scientists perform experiments on her. From Medscape:

March 13, 2007 — A new study reports that the insomnia drug zolpidem (Ambien, Sanofi Aventis) temporarily improved brain function in an adult patient with akinetic mutism caused by anoxia.

The 48-year-old woman suffered akinetic mutism related to a postanoxic encephalopathy a few days after a suicide attempt by hanging.

Two years later, she was prescribed zolpidem to treat a bout of insomnia. Within 20 minutes of receiving a 10-mg dose of the drug, the subject, who had been unable to speak or walk and was fed by a gastrostomy, was able to communicate, walk, and eat without assistance. These effects lasted for up to 3 hours.

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    1. But these people are only a subset of the people who suffer negative utility. If you make suicide easier, the fraction of people who continue to be alive even though they suffer is smaller than it otherwise would be. The expectation ratio between happy and unhappy people changes. This makes the creation of future people statistically less harmful.

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