Year: 2013 Source: Omega.(2012).65(4):317-34.DOI: 10.2190/OM.65.4.e SIEC No: 20130203

Health professionals, researchers, and philosophers have debated extensively about suicide. Some believe suicides result from mental pathology, whereas others argue that individuals are capable of rational suicide. This debate is particularly poignant within illness communities, where individuals may be suffering from chronic and incurable conditions. This article engages with these issues by presenting the accounts of 20 individuals with Huntington disease (HD), a fatal degenerative condition, and 10 informal caregivers (e.g., spouses). Suicide is a leading cause of death amongst people with HD, with an incidence rate many times higher than the general population. In contrast to the majority of the academic literature on HD suicidality, study participants did not connect suicide with mental pathology. Instead, they perceived suicide as a response to the realities of living with HD, such as prolonged physiological degeneration and the need for long-term intensive health care. These findings are subsequently discussed in relation to the rational-pathological suicide binary.