A friend asks via text:
“What you do if you knew a friend was trying to commit suicide?”
You text back,
“Talk them out of it”
Then he texts you…
“The thing is i wanna help kill them. it be awesome. seriously im going to help her. Its like getting away with murder! Im so fucked up. I’m seriously not joking. Its going down in about a week or two.”
This was the actual scenario preceding the suicide of a 16 year old girl (above. left) in Utah.
Hunters found the girl’s body hanging from a tree. A can of industrial strength air duster and a cellphone were nearby, and the latter contained a video of the girl’s death.
It showed the girl with a noose around her neck, standing on on a rock. She inhaled the contents of the air duster can, lost consciousness, and fell off the rock, causing the noose to tighten and slowly strangle her. The video captures the ten minutes it took the girl to die.
Tyerell Przybycien, 18, arrived at the scene to claim credit for the video, telling officers that he knew the girl and was with her when she died. He told detectives that he had a fascination with death and wanted to see what it was like to watch somebody perish.
Yes, it was Przybycien who wrote the text message to a friend.
There are other disturbing aspects to the story, but my professional interest is in the conduct of Przybycien’s friend. Let us eschew, for now, the question of why anyone would have a friend like this sicko in the first place.
We know the friend has at least rudimentary ethics alarms, since his first response, “Talk her out of it,” was the right one. After that, however, his ethics alarms died. Przybycien told him that he was planning on helping a girl kill herself because it would be a turn-on, and the friend did nothing to stop him…or at least did nothing that did stop him.
We can speculate endlessly about what would work and what would not, but this tragic scenario lands squarely in the realm of the Ethics Alarms principle, “If you are in a position to stop unethical conduct, stop it.” Here a life was involved, activating the coda, “Whatever it takes.”
What might some measures be that could fulfill this ethical imperative?