Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Oberlin Community Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Katherine Thomson-Jones
Amy Berg

Committee Member(s)

Katherine Thomson-Jones
Amy Berg


Ethics, Death, Suicide, Utilitarianism


In 2020, suicide was the twelfth leading cause of death in the US across all age groups, ranking as the second leading cause of death for 10-14 and 25-34 year olds ("Facts About Suicide"). An estimated 1.7 million people attempted suicide, and millions more seriously considered it ("Facts About Suicide"). Despite these numbers, suicide has had a long and complicated history in the legal system. While it is currently legal in the US in its most direct (i.e. unassisted) form, many countries still have laws banning its attempt (Chang, 153). Assisted suicide, or suicide in which someone else helps a person to take their own life, is still illegal in most US states. Of course, the legality of an action does not determine its morality. However, this points to a broader picture of Western society's views towards suicide. While suicide is now better understood most frequently as a symptom of mental illness, many people still believe it to be morally wrong, and see it has having some bearing on the subsequent morality of a person (Quinnett, 4). In this paper, I will analyze suicide using a utilitarian framework– an ethical theory which proposes that the right action is the one which maximizes overall pleasure. With this in mind, I will begin with the concept that suicide is not inherently morally wrong. I will argue that although utilitarianism means suicide may not be inherently wrong, in most situations attempting to commit suicide will not lead to the best consequences. Therefore, suicide will not be the best moral choice for an individual to make.