Ever since humans discovered that one could kill not just others but also oneself, suicide has become a part of the human condition. For reasons which have confounded thoughtful men and women, a small though significant number of people in all ages and all human societies has managed to escape from the oppression of living and by their own volition have deliberately embraced death.

Through the ages, philosophers and theologians have written extensively about the motivation and the nature of the act. For most of human history, however, its meaning was largely defined by religion, and it was regarded as a moral problem. This is reflected in religious prohibitions about suicide. Suicide is explicitly condemned in the commandment not to commit murder (Exodus 20:13). Jewish ...

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