Accepted Paper:

Ethical implications of an anthropological approach of suicide  


Michela Canevascini

Paper short abstract:

Does the disciplinary approach adopted to study suicide (anthropology or psychology), determinate the ethical position regarding suicide? What’s the relation between pointing out the social and cultural dimensions (anthropological approach) or the mental diseases (psychopathological approach) and the ethical discourses about individual freedom and social responsibility in suicide?

Paper long abstract:

Which ethical position should a researcher assume in studying suicide in Switzerland? It doesn't concern the freedom to kill oneself (which is rather a moral issue), although it's about bringing into question the neutrality often defended in researchers about suicide (in a psychological or anthropological approach). Does the point of view chosen to study suicide, determinate the ethical position regarding suicide? Adopting a critical approach which point out the social (related to the economical and political conditions) and cultural dimensions (related to the individualistic values lauding the individual responsibility and autonomy) characterizing suicides, does it imply to call into question the individual freedom and the social responsibility? Finally, how to justify an implicated approach encouraging the suicide prevention, if this prevention is most of the time psychological oriented and if the researchers in social sciences have no or not so much consideration in public health programs?

In the ambit of an ethnological research studying the taking into care of persons who did suicide attempts, I interrogate health professionals about their work and their ethical position in suicide. My interest in applied anthropology makes me consider, in a reflexive aim, the ethical implications of my own approach.

Panel W037
Medical anthropological fieldwork: ethical and methodological issues