Altruistic suicide is suicide committed for the benefit of others. Falling on a grenade is one such example. Émile Durkheim notes that tribal people sometimes see it as their duty to commit suicide, as when a wife kills herself after her husband dies, or a man kills himself in old age; but Durkheim also observes that altruistic suicide is unlikely to occur much in modern western society where “individual personality is increasingly freed from the collective personality.” Altruistic suicide has been described as an evolutionarily stable strategy. Altruistic suicide has a long history in India, even being noted in the Dharmashastras. Some perceive self-immolation as an altruistic or "worthy" suicide.
In popular culture
- In the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the character Spock commits an altruistic suicide when he takes a lethal dose of radiation poisoning in order to make repairs so that the starship USS Enterprise can escape destruction. He is noted for justifying his sacrifice with the line "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one."
- In the Power Rangers series, Power Rangers in Space, in their season finale, Countdown to Destruction, Part 2, long-standing franchise character Zordon instructs Andros to destroy his energy tube, which would destroy all the evil in the universe at the time, but take him with them.
- In Alien 3, Ellen Ripley, the main heroine of the Alien franchise, learns that she has an unborn alien queen inside of her, which the Weyland-Yutani company plan to exploit as a bioweapon. She subsequently jumps into a vat of molten lead so the new alien queen cannot be born and reproduce.
- The film The Ledge centres on a character who commits suicide in order to save the life of another.
- The film Seven Pounds portrays a man who commits suicide and donates seven of his organs.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), after defeating the T-1000, asks Sarah Conner to lower him into the vat of molten steel (as he cannot "self-terminate") so as to ensure that all traces of Skynet - including himself - are destroyed and prevented from being reverse-engineered so that Skynet cannot destroy the world.
- Blake, JA (Spring 1978). "Death by hand grenade: altruistic suicide in combat". Suicide & life-threatening behavior 1 (8): 46–59. PMID 675772.
- Deniz Yükseker, Lecture on Emile Durkheim
- Mascaro, Steven; Kevin B. Korb; Ann E. Nicholson (2001). "Suicide as an evolutionarily stable strategy" (PDF). Lecture Notes in Computer Science 2159: 120–132. doi:10.1007/3-540-44811-X_12.
- Vijayakumar, Lakshmi (January 2004). "Altruistic suicide in India" (PDF). Archives of Suicide Research 1 (8): 73–80. doi:10.1080/13811110490243804.
- Coleman, Loren (2004). The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines. New York: Paraview Pocket-Simon and Schuster. p. 48. ISBN 0-7434-8223-9.
- "'Wrath of Khan' Plot summary". StarTrek.com. Viacom. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2011.