The effect of a death, particularly a suicide, on society in general is, in large part, measurable. Rather than simply assume that by continuing to live, we can have a net positive effects on others, we must pose this as a question: to best help others, is it most effective to live or to die?
What is the value of a death? In order for our answer to this to have any informative content (and not to be mere bullshit), we must at the outset not make assumptions, but recognize that the answer may turn out to be positive or negative - including not just monetary measures, but non-monetary effects as well.
There is some evidence that contrary to popular belief, the net effect of a suicide on the general population is positive, at least in monetary and material terms. There is another way in which suicide could have a strong positive effect on the rest of society, but which effect is artificially prevented by the current de facto suicide prohibition in effect in most countries. Committing suicide could not only leave one's compatriots better off in monetary terms, but better off in terms of health and life. This is because a suicide is in a position to give a number of suffering, life-preferring people all of his healthy, functioning organs.
What is the value of a kidney? A cornea? A heart? A monetary value could be calculated from market data where markets exist for these "commodities," but the value is essentially this: they save human lives, and most humans desperately want to stay alive.
Currently, over 100,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in the United States. Over 6,000 of them die every year waiting for a transplant that never comes. Meanwhile, over 34,000 people die from suicide every year (and many more, no doubt, want to die, but cannot).
Why not let us die peacefully in a hospital and donate our organs to people who want to live?
An objection might be raised that this would reduce the costs of suicide, thereby resulting in more suicides overall. First, this objection relies on the conclusion that suicide is bad. One raising this objection must explain why suicide is bad, even when it is voluntary, informed, and saves many lives. Second, this intervention would only raise the number of "good suicides" - people trapped in miserable lives by the high "costs" of suicide. It would not increase "bad suicides," impulsive suicides or insincere attempts. It may even decrease these "bad suicides."
The costs of suicide, as outlined by Becker and Posner in their unpublished paper "Suicide: An Economic Approach," include the evolutionarily adaptive fear of death (which might prevent one from putting a gun to one's head and pulling the trigger even if one rationally wished to end one's life), the pain or unpleasantness of the actual killing, and the risk of failing and being left crippled. Organ donation in a hospital setting eliminates these costs, in addition to possibly (and rightly) decreasing social disapprobation for suicide.
To get here, we must be willing to admit that the subjective value of life is heterogeneous for individuals. Rather than denying and suppressing this truth, we should utilize it to genuinely achieve higher levels of well-being for everyone in our society. The simple act of suicide could increase expected well-being for the suicide (to 0 utility from an original state of negative expected utility) and the man, woman, or child dying of organ failure as well, without necessarily decreasing well-being for anyone.
A single organ donor can save up to eight lives, and provide tissue transplants to help dozens more. Who among us can say with any kind of certainty that by continuing to live, we will save eight lives and help dozens more people in a concrete, measurable way?