R. G. Frey
The most common view of suicide today is that it is intentional self‐ killing. 1 Because of the self-killing component, suicide is often described as self-inflicted death or as dying by one's own hand, and the victim is in turn often described as having done himself to death or as having taken his own life. But must one's death be self-inflicted in order to be suicide? The answer, I want to suggest, is arguably no.
In many cases of suicide, death is obviously self-inflicted; I refer, of course, to cases where the individual shoots himself or cuts his wrists or commits hara-kiri. It is equally obvious, however, that there are dozens of cases of what we take to be suicide where death is not self-inflicted in this narrow sense. If Jones wants to die and throws himself under a train, I take it that all of us want to regard him as a suicide, even though it is the train which actually kills him. How, then, do we do this? The answer, of course, is that we distinguish this narrow sense of "self‐ inflicted" from a broad sense, according to which one's death is self-inflicted if one wants to die, knowingly and willingly places oneself in perilous circumstances, and dies as a result. 2 Thus, Jones, who wants to die, knowingly and willingly places himself in circumstances where his death, if not actually inevitable, at least is exceedingly likely, and he dies as a result; he commits suicide, therefore, even though his death is not self-inflicted in the narrow sense.
I shall not bother with the secondary issue of how perilous the circumstances____________________