Oh dear

September 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The anti-smacking law is to blame for youth suicide, youth prostitution and even sexually-transmitted infections, a leading Conservative party candidate claims.

Maybe it is to blame for global warming also?

Edward Saafi, who is fifth on the Conservative list and would be elected if they break the 5 per cent threshold, has delivered the striking message during recent speeches at Tongan churches, Fairfax has learned.

“We are starting to recognise the incidence of suicide going up in Pacific communities, especially the Tongan community and people are starting to understand the lead-on from this legislation.

“Once you pass it, children, rather than doing what mum and dad says, they go and commit suicide. It opens up another thing they could do,” Saafi, who holds a doctorate in biomedicine, said.

Yeah those kids go off and commit suicide because they didn’t get disciplined! Inredible.

I’m not a fan of the anti-smacking law, and would amend it to allow light correctional smacking. But this argument is rather nuts.

Asked if he thought there was a direct link between the anti-smacking bill and youth suicide, Saafi said: “It’s just common sense, really. It’s our way of thinking parents have a role to look after their kids, including disciplining them. If the law tells the child that mum and dad can’t discipline you any more, they will do whatever they want, including these other alternatives like suicide. It’s quite appalling.”

Stephen Bell of Youthline, a youth mental health counselling service, said there was nothing to support Saafi’s views, and there had been a downward trend in youth suicide statistics since the law change in 2007.

“There is no evidence that links the two and I am quite horrified that someone will use the death of young people to try and rationalise or justify their particular view of the planet,” he said.

The overall suicide rate in 2011 was 10.6 per 100,000. That is the lowest it has been since 1985.

The youth suicide rate bounces around more. It was 19.3 in 2011 and was 15.2 in 2007.  But that was an unusually low year. For the last decade it has averaged in the 18s over every three year cycle.

Saafi said the legalisation of prostitution had led to children “sneaking off at night to get extra pocket money” and returning home with sexual infections, the treatment of which stretched their parents’ budgets as they paid medical bills.

First of all prostitution was not legalised. It has been legal for decades. It was solicitation that was legalised. And it is illegal for someone under 18 to be a prostitute.

A seven year low for suicides

August 21st, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

New Zealand’s suicide stats are still “stubbornly high” despite being at a seven-year low, the chief coroner says.

Provisional annual suicide figures released this morning show the total deaths for the year ending June 30 was 529 – the lowest number by two since the figures were first produced in 2007.

Youth suicide was down to 110 from 144 last year – 46 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 died, making it the lowest figure for that age group in seven years.

“This year’s numbers have moved in the right direction, but not by much,” says chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean.

“The drop in teen suicide is good news. These are the some of the toughest and most tragic cases coroners deal with.”

The drop in teen suicides is especially good news.

Govt agrees to suicide reporting changes

May 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government will move to open up aspects of suicide reporting, in an effort to bring numbers of self-inflicted deaths down.

The bill comes after the Law Commission recommended changes to the way suicides were reported in the media.

The Government asked the commission to review the issue, including the role of social media in discussing suicide.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced today that the Government had agreed to all the recommendations in the Law Commission’s report.

Among those recommendations was that the media could report a suicide or a suspected suicide had occurred, but talking about the method or the place in which it occurred, if they suggested a certain method, were still off limits.

As I previously blogged, I think these changes are sensible, and am glad the Government has agreed to them.

Law Commission proposed relaxing suicide reporting ban

April 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Law Commission has released a paper on the current restrictions for suicide reporting. Their release says:

The Law Commission is recommending revising the restrictions in the Coroners Act 2006 regarding reporting suicide.  The new restrictions would be limited to public comment by any person of the method of the suicide death, the place of the suicide where it is suggestive of the method and the fact that the death is a suicide. However, a death would be able to be described as “suspected suicide” where that is supported by the facts. 

That seems a sensible way forward. It is farcical that very obvious suicides have euphemisms such as “no suspicious circumstances” attached to them as a code. Plus of course social media means that there is usually considerable discussion on such suicides (for better or worse) such as Charlotte Dawson’s. Of course as hers was in Australia it could be openly reported here.

The important thing is not giving details, which it is proposed remain prohibited unless released by a Coroner. A key finding is:

We are satisfied that there is widespread agreement amongst experts in this field and world authorities, such as the World Health Organisation, that media reporting can lead to copycat suicidal behaviour by vulnerable people.

Reporting the details of a suicide is protected by the right to freedom of expression in section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We have concluded that despite extensive evidence of a link between suicide reporting and copycat behaviour, it is only the evidence linking the reporting of the method of suicide to subsequent suicidal behaviour that is strong enough to justify a statutory restriction.

Again I agree.

Hopefully the Government will take up the recommendations at some stage.

Suicide reporting

July 15th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chester Borrows announced:

The Law Commission will review the rules governing the media’s reporting of suicide, Courts Minister Chester Borrows said today.

The Coroners Act 2006 currently restricts the information that can be made public about a self-inflicted death without the authorisation of the coroner.  Concern that some aspects of the restrictions are unclear was raised during the recent review of the Coroners Act.

The law says you can not publish the particulars of any suicide without the permission of the Coroner. But it is unclear if just publishing the fact a death was a suicide is a particular. The media generally hold that it is not, while health groups say it is.  I’ve certainly on a couple of occasions have reported a suicide was a suicide when it was widely known that it was, and there was no doubt.

The Law Commission is a good body to review the law, and I look forward to engaging on this issue. It is sensible that the law should be clear. For my 2c I think you should be able to call a suicide a suicide when there is no doubt about it – but I agree details of the suicide should generally not be revealed.

He should have stood trial

March 12th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

One of the men accused of raping a 23-year-old woman on a Delhi bus found dead in jail. …

The alleged ringleader in a gang rape and murder case that sparked outrage across India, Singh was found dead in his prison cell on Monday, once again putting the New Delhi slum he used to call home in an unwanted spotlight.

This is a pity. I think more good would have been done by having him stand trial, and the country and the world hearing what happened.

Authorities in New Delhi’s Tihar jail said Singh hanged himself before dawn. His father rejected that explanation, saying he believed his son was murdered.

“He confessed about his mistake, then why would he commit suicide? He was prepared for any punishment the government would have given him,” Mange Lal Singh told reporters in his home in the slum.

His mistake???

I think we are starting to see how attitudes can be passed on from one generation to the next.

Legal experts said Singh’s death does not undermine the prosecution’s case against the other accused, which was largely based on DNA evidence and the testimony of the rape victim before she died and her friend.


King cleared

February 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

High-profile lawyer Greg King, who died last year, has been cleared by the Ministry of Justice of wrong-doing after a prisoner accused him of over-billing for legal aid.

King, who defended Scott Guy-murder accused Ewen Macdonald in the most high-profile trial of 2012, died in November. His death was reported to the coroner.

A Rimutaka prisoner convicted of sexual offences had complained King had over-charged for his services by inaccurately putting in for hours worked by his wife, fellow lawyer Catherine Milnes-King.

But the ministry’s deputy secretary of legal and operational services, Nigel Fyfe, told the Herald on Sunday an investigation found nothing untoward on King’s part.

The allegations were the subject of newspaper inquiries by Fairfax staff to King just prior to his death. It is good he has been officially cleared.

Experts on suicide always stress there is never any one cause. But it will be interesting to read what the Coroner determines to have been the factors that contributed to the tragic decision King made to end his life.

A callous post

February 2nd, 2013 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

John Stringer at CoNZervative blogs:

In a report on the Select Committee hearing the Redefinition of Marriage Bill -that the media continue to misrepresent as the “Marriage Equality Bill” (a partisan epithet – latest distortion The Press, p. 2 Jan 31)- we are expected to believe that teenage gay people are committing suicide because they cannot marry each other.  That really stretches credulity.  Even a lawyer maintains this, citing a study.

“The denial of equal rights lies in the background here, as parents are encouraged to see non-heterosexual as properly excluded from the normal institutions of society.”  What utter manipulative rubbish.  

This tired old untruth is trotted out all the time, as a justification for giving gay people everything they want, hero parades, special support groups. Basically it says, “if we don’t get what we want, we’ll kill ourselves,”  or “gays are so persecuted, they are considering suicide.”  That is disingenuous, distortionary and demeaning to the gay community.

The only thing disingenuous and distortionary is John’s blog post. It’s appalling. Absolutely no one has has said gays will go out and kill themselves if they don’t get gay marriage passed.

What people have said is that gay teenagers have a high suicide and attempted suicide rate, and any move which makes them not feel that they are “wrong” could help reduce that rate.

If people are so insecure about being different, or about their sexuality, to the point of ending their lives, they have a mental health issue, and need support and care, not “marriage” being redefined.  If the claim were true, then bisexuals and people in multiple partner relationships would also be dropping like flies.  New Zealanders also have a high suicide rate; should we all get Australian citizenship?

The lack of empathy in this paragraph is truly appalling, and worse from someone I normally have a lot of time and respect for.

To just state that it is just a mental health issue, if you are a suicidal gay youth suggests no idea at all of what it must be like to be young and gay. Most of us can only imagine what it is like, but only a small amount of empathy is needed to understand how agonising it must be to be say 15 or 16 and realising you are different from your mates. You like guys instead of girls. How do you tell your parents? How do you tell your mates? Should you tell them? Will they dump you as a mate because they’ll think you fancy them? Will you get called a faggot? Will you be beaten up? Will you have a happy life? Will you ever have kids? Will your parents disown you? Of course you’re going to be fucking insecure if you are a gay youth.

I recall from when I was at school, the terrible teasing effeminate kids got about possibly being gay. Rumours (almost certainly untrue) that x and y had been caught doing something weant around the school. They were called names. They were asked outright if they liked cock. I think back and wonder how fortunate it was there were not some suicides. Now thankfully many kids today are more enlightened (mainly due to legal and societal changes of the last 20 years) and are more accepting. But hell, anyone who thinks because you are insecure over being a gay teenager you are suffering from a mental health issue – well words fail me.

And yes I for one absolutely think that a law which allow gay couples to marry, will have a beneficial effect on young gays. It is a powerful sign of acceptance, and of saying that even though you are different, you may be able to one day also marry the person you fall in love with.

Of course no one commits suicide solely because they can  not marry. But no one has suggested that. All the suicide experts know that suicide decisions have many factors. But acceptance is a factor.

Treat us, the public, with respect and don’t insult our intelligence with representations like this. What utter nonsense.  Young Christians are hassled, mocked, derided and picked on constantly in schools, the media, on TV, for their faith.  Only this week Green MP Keith Hague said teenage Christian Grace Carroll was “outrageous” and “offensive” because she mentioned “virtue.”  Black really has become White.  Christian teenagers don’t commit suicide.  They soldier bravely on, shouldering the mockery and having the courage of their convictions, often to death in overseas countries. I’m sure many teenage gay people do too.

First of all people choose to follow a faith. Does John think, as Colin Craig does, that people choose to be gay? And is he really saying that is it harder being a teenage Christian than a teenage gay?

And finally John not content with saying that any insecure depressed gay youth just has mental health issues, also claims:

There’s no doubt that many gay teens are harassed and bullied (a study published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health suggested gay and lesbian teens get bullied two to three times more than their heterosexual peers), and some of them may take their lives because of it. But there’s little evidence that gay teens have a dramatically higher rate of suicide than heterosexual teens.

Really? There is no definitive prevalence rate for gays and lesbians so no definitive suicide rate, but over a hundred studies have found higher rates of suicide attempts. Look at this or this or this list of 100 or so studies.

The prank call tragedy

December 9th, 2012 at 7:19 am by David Farrar

news.com.au reports:

THE boss of the radio network at the centre of the hoax call suicide tragedy has defended radio pranks as the government watchdog begins to investigate the incident.

A visibly shaken Rhys Holleran, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo that owns the radio station, has expressed the network’s “deep sorrow” at the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, 46, on Friday just days after she answered Sydney radio station 2DayFM’s hoax call.

I think there is a place for prank calls, but I don’t regard what that radio station did as a prank call. I think it was a nasty little lie. There is nothing clever or funny in ringing up a nurse and pretending to be someone else to access the private health records of a patient – no matter how famous.

If they had even an ounce of empathy, they should have realised in advance their call, if successful  would result in the employees concerned being massively distraught at their mistake in trusting them not to be lying. Also I don’t see what is funny about a young women having her first baby being in hospital due to complications.

No the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha was not predictable in advance, and I am sure they are genuinely upset by what has happened. However it was predictable that that nature of the call and the hoax they were enacting was going to cause great distress to the hospital staff they conned. The only thing unknown was the extent.

Now two children do not have a mother, and Kate and William’s first child will always be associated with the death of an innocent. Prince William already hated the press for what he saw as their role in the death of his mother. No doubt this addition to the media death toll will only harden that hatred.

Using science for good

April 5th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The PM announced a significant funding and policy package yesterday around teenage mental health. An extract from his speech:

Even a mild mental illness can have a big impact on a young person’s life and on those around them.

In my time as Prime Minister I’ve seen the impact of youth mental illness all too often.

I’ve met teenagers suffering from depression who can’t see a path forward.

I’ve met gay and lesbian kids who are struggling with their sexuality and suffering from anxiety issues.

And I’ve met parents who have lost a child to suicide. These are good, everyday Kiwi parents.

When the worst happens and a teenager takes their own life, those left behind have a heavy burden to bear.

Our youth suicide rate is alarmingly high.

They say the worse thing in the world is outliving a child. Even worse than that must be, when the death is from suicide. The trauma it leaves behind with family and close friends is massive, and scars for life. It is one reason why suicide is generally such as extremely selfish act. But sadly, sometimes seems a logical option to a desperately unhappy person.

Anyway what I found interesting and encouraging was the words from Sir Peter Gluckman on the package:

The announcement today of a very significant package of initiatives aimed to improve the quality, and the effectiveness of the delivery, of mental health services to young people throughout New Zealand is both important in its own right and also a demonstration of how evidence and expert advice can be used effectively to improve policy formation. …

The origin of these initiatives is an exemplar of how policy formation in complex areas can be based on informed scientific advice. In 2009, the Prime Minister asked me to consider the problems associated with the transition through adolescence. Rather than undertake a superficial review, I embarked on a 18-month project that eventually involved more than 30 New Zealand experts and several international contributors. Intentionally we produced a report, entitled Improving the transition, that stayed focused on the scientifically robust evidence and avoided opinion and anecdote. Among its findings were significant concerns about the provision of mental health services to many young people. Following this report, the Prime Minister initiated an officials group to consider what could be done, taking into account the advice from our report, and their work was subject to iterative review by an expert group chaired by myself. It is primarily from that process that the initiatives announced today emerged.

This is an excellent way to do policy, with a robust science based approach.

I’ve seen policy formulation done many ways. I’ve been in rooms when we have brainstormed election policy. I’ve seen policy changed unilaterally to fit an advertisement (rather than vice-versa). One won’t always be able to do policy as described above, but it is an ideal to aim for in many portfolios.

Suicide and the Media

April 2nd, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Spent most of Thursday at a forum on suicide and the media co-chaired by Sir Peter Gluckman (PM’s Chief Science Advisor) and the Chief Coroner. A dozen or so to researchers were there, along with various media people, and also various government people. 37 people in total.

The background to the forum was last year a set of new guidelines for the media in reporting of suicides was formulated. Some of the health professionals felt that they didn’t cover the science adequately, so hence the forum was to allow an exchange of views.

There was at times some fairly heated exchanges, but most of the time it was just interesting presentations and discussions. Some stats on suicide:

  • Largest class of death by external causes in NZ – 540 annually
  • Male suicide rates three times female rate (however more females attempt suicide)
  • Youth suicide peaked in 1995, however the female youth rate is at the  highest since 1999
  • In a natural disaster, suicide rates stay fairly constant or decline – the increased stress compensated for by the increased sense of belonging and community. However in the long-term they then increase 3 – 5 years afterwards

Globally there are at least 100,000 suicides a year.

There was a discussion on S71 of the Coroners Act:

No person may, without a coroner’s authority, make public any particular relating to the manner in which a death occurred if the death occurred in New Zealand after the commencement of this section; and there is reasonable cause to believe the death was self-inflicted; and no inquiry into the death has been completed.

It is quite clear that this means one can not report details around a suicide. For example you can not say “xxx killed himself by taking a drug overdose” or  even worse “xxx killed himself by tying a rope around the beam in his bedroom, stepping up on a chair, and kicking the chair away to hang himself”.

There is strong evidence that the reporting of such details can sometimes lead to copycat deaths.

However what is not clear is whether S71 means the media can’t report the fact a death appeared to be suicide, without any details of the suicide. Can you say “xxx killed himself”? Some in the media say you can, some health professionals say even that can be harmful, and the Coroner prefers media indicate suicide by using phrases such as “There are no suspicious circumstances” or “No one is being sought in connection with the death”.

On a couple of occassions I have reported the suicide of a friend, and called it suicide. I think in an interactive medium, being coy is likely to lead to speculation, which can be unhelpful. I also made the point to the forum than now when most young people die, they have a Facebook page and their friends all go there to talk about what happened, how they are feeling etc – and 14 years olds are not too worried about S71 of the Coroners Act.

Having said that, there is some risk around the quite natural tendency to mourn someone who has killed themselves. If their Facebook page becomes a shrine to them, that can encourage other vulnerable youth to think that suicide is a good thing, as it will get people talking about how much they will miss you and what a good guy or girl you were.  So one of the challenges is that when someone kills themselves, to try and encourage comments on their social media sites to not unduly glorify them.

People may be interested in some of the don’ts in the media guidelines. They include:

  • Don’t simplify the cause of death. They are normally complex.
  • Don’t specify in detail the method or location
  • Don’t just focus on the person’s positive characteristics
  • Don’t encourage over simplification of the death by contributing it to a single cause
  • Don’t blame suicide on texting or Facebook etc.
  • Don’t use phrases such as “X successfully killed himself”
Talking of Facebook, one of the participants had a really good novel idea. He said that rather than see social media as a liability, see it as an opportunity. He proposed that agreement be sought from social media companies that if a list of their users who had killed themselves were given to them, they provide the deceased’s full  data history to researchers.
Imagine the power of that data. At present data is collected from indirect sources such as family and friends.  Imagine being able to look at if there are any significant common patterns amongst those who kill themselves, such as what times they were writing, how often a day they updated, how many friends they had, what sort of words or phrases in common etc etc. This could be very important data in identifying people at a high risk of suicide.


September 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Matthew Backhouse in the Herald reported:

Families of suicide victims have urged Prime Minister John Key to consider a review of the “abusive” coronial inquest system.

The meeting comes after a spate of youth suicides have rocked communities in Masterton and the small Bay of Plenty logging town of Kawerau in recent months.

Suicide prevention group Casper, and victims’ families and supporters from Kawerau, yesterday presented Mr Key with its latest strategy on tackling suicide. It calls for shifting suicide prevention efforts from mental health clinics to families and communities.

Casper spokeswoman Maria Bradshaw said the group asked Mr Key to conduct a review of the coroner’s court, which is tasked with identifying lessons to be learned from individual suicides and making recommendations to prevent further deaths. …

The group called on Mr Key to consider a Royal Commission of Inquiry into suicide, which he said he would consider.

Mr Key has already indicated his commitment to tackling the issue, having instructed his department to launch a review of the youth suicide rate, which is the highest per-capita in the developed world for girls and the third highest for boys.

I recall the first time a teenage friend of mine killed themselves. I still think of her quite often, and think about what could have been done to prevent her suicide.

But there is no one view on how best to change things, even amongst families of those who killed themselves. A different view to that of Ms Bradshaw and Casper can be found at the Vendetta on Suicide blog, specifically this post:

According to Radio New Zealand, co-founder of community suicide prevention group CASPER and bereaved mother Maria Bradshaw is to meet with Prime Minister John Key this week to discuss “a complete re-think on how to prevent suicides.”

This, frankly, scares the living bejesus out of me.

It will not be a popular view with many. Bradshaw is a grieving mother who clearly loved her son with an intensity I doubt I will be capable of comprehending until I have my own children. Grief is clearly etched on her face whenever she appears on the news. Her drive and passion to enact change are at once awe-inspiring and intimidating.

But what if the changes Maria Bradshaw and CASPER desire will cause harm to the very people they claim to represent? What they are proposing flies in the face of all current evidence. They make a number of concerning claims: according to the CASPER website’s ‘About’ page, the group believe “Suicide is a social, not medical, issue” and are lobbying for “An end to the psychotropic drugging of New Zealanders”.

There is, in my mind, a lot wrong with a group who are neither doctors, researchers, psychiatrists or psychologists encouraging the Prime Minister to ban anti-depressants, which is what I interpret their stated aims to mean. Arguments about SSRI effectiveness aside, being a suicide survivor does not automatically make you a leading authority on mental health medicine any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Vendetta continues:

What really concerns me, though, is CASPER’s repeatedly-stated aim of seeing media restrictions on suicide reporting lifted. The reasoning behind this desire, according to a Radio New Zealand Insight interview with Maria Bradshaw, is so that suicide survivors can ‘tell their stories’ of their loved ones to the country. With both the chief coroner and Associate Minister for Health Peter Dunne making positive noises around, as he puts it, “opening the door” for the media, CASPER may just get their wish.

Sounds reasonable? Well, maybe, except for two not-so-slight problems. Firstly, the huge and inconvenient body of evidence that reporting on suicide in a sensational manner, or printing stories that speculate on reasons for suicides and/or describe the method used are likely to result in an increase in actual suicides.  Which has to count as an own goal no matter who’s reffing.

I’ve been involved as a blogger in updating the media guidelines on suicide reporting. The guidelines are very sensible and in fact useful. Related to the guidelines is the restriction on reporting the particulars of a suicide. There is a difference of view on whether that means one can report a suicide as a suicide until the Coroner gives permission. I tend to think in the age of social media, with Facebook tribute pages and the like, an attempt to restrict reporting that a death was a suicide is unlikely to be successful. However that does not mean that any reporting should depart from the best practice guidelines on reporting where you don’t glamorise it, talk about people “successfully” killing themselves, making suicide seem like a logical solution to problems they were facing etc.

Suicide Reporting

January 18th, 2011 at 8:09 am by David Farrar

Rebecca Todd in The Press reports:

Families of suicide victims are angry their voices were not included in a ministerial review of media reporting on suicide, a spokeswoman says. …

Maria Bradshaw, co-founder of family support group CASPER, said the committee’s review was missing the voices of the victims of suicide and families were “tired of Government inaction on the issue”. Families were restricted by the Coroners Act as they could not say publicly how their loved one died, for instance in funeral notices, until the coroner had made a ruling.

Bradshaw had a court order imposed to stop her discussing her son’s suicide publicly before the coroner had ruled on his death.

“That’s no way to treat a victim group. It just increases the isolation and stigma,” she said.

And is ineffective.

Newspaper Publishers’ Association chief executive Tim Pankhurst said the explosion in social networking made the Coroners Act largely irrelevant.

“If a teenager is killed, then hundreds of people are going to be Facebooking or tweeting about that within a couple of hours. Those kids aren’t reading newspapers or looking at news websites,” he said.

Exactly. Often it is the deceased’s own Facebook page where the news is broken, and people console.

Suicide reporting

August 25th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An internet safety group has backed the Prime Minister’s view that the public reporting of suicide is now virtually beyond control, because young people routinely discuss cases on websites.

John Key said yesterday that Parliament could “explore” the rules on suicide reporting because they were “somewhat defunct these days”.

“The reality is that, particularly with youth suicide, very quickly social networking sites like Facebook and blog sites report that. There’s huge engagement with young people around that information and so I don’t think blocking the media from reporting is achieving an awful lot.”

He said it would make sense to review the rules, but it was important to tread carefully because of the risk of copycat suicides.

The director of NetSafe, Martin Cocker, said Mr Key’s assessment was “bang on”.

I think we underestimate the capacity of kids to cope with information. The Internet has opened up the world to kids, and most of them cope fine with it.

On Twitter the other day I saw someone tweet how they had asked their two year old what she was doing on the computer, and her response was “checking facebook”!.

Mr Key was responding to chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean’s suggestion that reporting restrictions be eased.

He wants to encourage more openness, public debate and responsible media coverage of suicide, in the hope that this might reduce the suicide rate.

Which it hasn’t greatly.

Poll on Morality

September 14th, 2009 at 7:53 pm by David Farrar

I’ve just blogged at curiablog, on a morality poll by UMR. Respondents were asked how morally acceptable (or unacceptable certain activities were. Below is the morally acceptable score for each activity and the net acceptable score (acceptable less unacceptable)

From most to least acceptable, they were:

  1. Divorce 81%, +68%
  2. Sex outside marriage 77%, +59%
  3. Having baby outside marriage 71%, +48%
  4. Stem cell research 63%, +38%
  5. Homosexual relations 61%, +29%
  6. Euthanasia 55%, +18%
  7. Abortion 55%, +21%
  8. Gambling 52%, +10%
  9. Animal medical testing 52%, +12%
  10. Wearing or buying fur 48%, +4%
  11. Death Penalty 43%, -7%
  12. Animal Cloning 27%, -40%
  13. Suicide 20%, -48%
  14. Married people having affairs 13%, -70%
  15. Polygamy 11%, -74%
  16. Human cloning 7%, -81%

Now this was asking about moral acceptability, not legality. So while only 55% think abortion is morally acceptable, that doesn’t mean only 55% think it should be legal.

Now what would my answers have been. None of the first ten I would regard as morally unacceptable. I do regard the death penalty as unacceptable – not keen on states being able to kill it citizens. Tend to regard suicide as morally unacceptable in most circumstances but not all (ie terminally ill). While generally I think it is not a good idea for married people to have affairs (and if married I would not), I’m wouldn’t label it as morally unacceptable as it is between those two people. I don’t think polygamy should be legal but nor do I regard it as morally unacceptable. And finally I don’t believe human cloning is automatically morally unacceptable.  I favour very very tight restrictions on it, but think there are potential benefits.

So bottom line is there is very little I believe is always morally unacceptable. Mainly just the death penalty really.

I’m sure very few here will agree with me!