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:Soc M138: The 51% rule of suicide

by: Freddie816

:Soc M138: The 51% rule of suicide Sociology M138

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About this Document

Lecture on the difficulty in classifying a death a suicide
Death, suicide and trauma
Class Notes
soc m138, timmermans
25 ?




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Freddie816 on Wednesday April 13, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Sociology M138 at University of California - Los Angeles taught by Timmermans in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 33 views. For similar materials see Death, suicide and trauma in Sociology at University of California - Los Angeles.

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Date Created: 04/13/16
    4/13/16    ● Suicide from Durkheim's perspective    ○ Every society has differing views about suicide   ● How is a suicide classified by death investigators?  ○ The main takeaway from today’s lecture on the classification of suicide, is that it is  very controversial. Classifying a death as a suicide is controversial because  suicide connotes a certain negative stigma that at most times than not, the  deceased person’s family attempts to “hide,” such as by getting rid of suicide  notes.   ■ Ex­ sherman (son) accidentally shoots himself and his death becomes  classified as a suicide. Sherman’s family does not want to accept this  verdict and they fight for years to have their sons mode of death changed   ● Stigma of suicide implies a disconnection of the deceased and his  family   ○ It is difficult to accurately validate suicide statistics because:  ■ A lot of suicides are not reported   ■ Suicidal intents disappear after someone dies (evidence of a suicide  disappears)   ■ Family members try to hide a suicide   ○ What are the requirements to classify a death as a suicide?  ■ It must be demonstrated that death was self­inflicted and intentional (intent  is hard to ignore if a death is caused by hanging oneself)   ○ What is the evidence for suicide, when the one who committed the act is dead?  ■ Witness reports  ■ Suicide notes  ■ Suicide guidelines (how to books)  ■ Previous suicidal attempts  ■ Testimonials from relatives  ■ Life crises  ■ Mode of dying (violent such as hanging­difficult to classify this as an  accident)   But, no single piece of evidence is classified as the “only thing” that is required to  classify a death as a suicide/No specific skill set is “all­revealing”. A classification  of a death as a suicide is not an ideal match for the pathologist because suicide  poses a lot of confusion      ○ How do Coroners classify a death as a suicide?  ■ Usually, coroners have no expertise in the health field, for instance, the  professor notes that in order to become a coroner, one simply registers for  the position and the community decides if he is hired for the position or not  ● Therefore, it is up to the coroner to decide what evidence becomes  a sign of suicide. He usually does this by focusing on friend and  family testimonials of the deceased  ○ How does a Medical examiner gain his position?      4/13/16    ■ Board certified  ■ Very specialized in school  ■ Less political visibility­brings more science to deaths not politics (focus on  biological factors/pathology to find underlying disease  ○ So how do these different positions alter the way a suicide is classified?  ■ Coroners tend to focus more on relative testimonials in order to determine if  death is caused by suicide  ■ Examiners tend to focus more on pathology in order to find underlying  diseases  ● Argue that they need to be 51% sure that death was caused by  suicide in order to classify death as a suicide   ○ To declare a death as a suicide poses a lot of confusion and  thus is not an idealized by the examiner   ● Ex­ diabetic man is found dead from a potential insulin overdose.  Suicide notes are found and further evidence that gears towards  death as a suicide is ignored and verdict becomes “death from a  natural cause”   ○ In this case, suicide notes are unconvincing to the examiner  because a suicide note is not enough evidence to classify a  death as a suicide, a suicide note does not corroborate with  other evidence   ○ This neglect of classifying the mode of death as a suicide  may be due to the fact that medical examiners focus on  medical procedures and thus most likely find medical issues  within the patient and use this as evidence as the most  likely cause of death  ■ A suicide note just poses confusion   ○ Furthermore, most of the evidence used by examiners  comes from physicians and the police, not from outside  sources such as the family. Thus, the main argument is that  these reasons, pose problems for why death is not  classified as a suicide   ■ Rule of proximity   ● The closer one is to the deceased the less that he want the  deceased’s mode of death to be classified as a suicide   ● Public health workers only see epidemiological evidence in modes  of death (not psychological factors   ○ Main argument:  There is no gold standard to classify a death a suicide  ■ Suicide is classified by who is doing the classifying (depending on who is  determining the mode of death, favor certain evidence)  ● Social meaning of suicide­Douglas   ○ Douglas came to the conclusion, by focusing on psychological conversations, that  suicide is an act of communication that intends to change the way an individual is      4/13/16    perceived. By attempting to commit suicide, individuals are attempting to send the  message that “this is who I am” and everything that one previously thought, is  wrong (a radical definition of oneself)   ■ One is a romantic etd  ■ Medical conclusions obscures communication   ○ Suicides as a call for sympathy   ■ Ie­ more suicidal attempts than actual acts are committed   ■ Attempts are seen as cries for help/a way to manipulate others to do what  you want them to do (expressions of ambivalent intentions)  ○ Suicide as a call for aggression   ■ Intent is for loved ones to mourn for a long amount of time  ■ Intent is to hurt others financially  ■ Intent is to leave a negative stigma  ■ Intent is to blame others for the cause of one’s death   ○ Suicide and the common escape theme  ■ Suicide is a way to escape from life  ■ Suicide leads to a continuous mode of life (a better afterlife)   ● Suicide is committed in order to “live” ie­martyr  ○ conclusions/assumptions  ■ Suicide is a meaningful communicative act   (social act), performed with  the intent to die in order to redefine who one is. Suicide thus becomes a  dramatic means of communication that makes a firm statement: this is who I  am   ■ My interpretation, the main takeaway from this lecture is very simple:  classifying a death as a suicide is very controversial and involves a lot of  methods of evaluation to reach this verdict. Suicide itself has a negative  stigma and therefore friends and family will hide all evidence that gears  towards a suicide from the scene, in order to not live with this negative  stigma. Furthermore, medical examiners tend to focus on pathological  evidence in order to determine death. This can be seen as a win­win  situation for both examiners and the family because medical examiners do  not intentionally avoid classifying a death as a suicide, rather, they focus on  factual medical evidence such as clogged arteries. In addition, medical  examiners believe that other signs of the mode of death obscures their  verdict and therefore classifying death as a suicide, pose a problem. Thus,  medical examiners tend to not classify death as a suicide (not intentionally)  ■ Furthermore, an act of suicide is a form of communication that sends the  message: this is who I am. These messages can be either negative or  positive­they can be seen as heroic acts or an act of a romantic.  Furthermore, suicidal acts can be cries for sympathy or acts of aggression  that continue to affect family and surrounding members once the deceased  has died.    


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