By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

A former football player named Dave Duerson committed suicide and asked that his brain be donated to research an affliction that may be caused by receiving too many blows to the head. From the story:

For 11 years, Dave Duerson made his living as a hard-hitting safety in the NFL and was known for his brains as well as his brawn as an outspoken advocate of player rights. But last week, at age 50, Duerson sent perhaps his most powerful message to the game, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports. Duerson committed suicide with a gun shot to the chest, which left his brain undamaged. His pro football career was filled with accomplishments: two time Super Bowl champion and four trips to the Pro Bowl. But after football, his life and his health began to fall apart.

Just hours before the shooting, Duerson had texted family members requesting his brain be donated to science and examined for a disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, caused by repeated blows to the head. “There’s no question that NFL players are at higher risk for CTE than normal people,” said Christopher Nowinski, co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University.

I don’t know whether the desire to have his brain studied as a way of benefiting society and fellow football players entered into Duerson’s consideration in deciding to kill himself. And I certainly don’t want to comment specifically about his tragic death. But surely, with Belgium doctors now harvesting organs from people with disabilities who were killed in euthanasia, this tragic story is a warning of what could happen if despairing people ever came to think that their deaths would have greater value to others than their lives.

And it seems to me that from this point forward, society should make it very clear that as a matter of ethics (and perhaps, law), we will refuse to benefit in a utilitarian way from anyone’s suicide. Let’s do what we can to prevent the desire to help others from ever becoming a motive for self destruction.