June 2, 2011

Man succeeds in suicide attempt over an hour, as police and fire rescue watch

Filed under: Bureaucracy, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:59

A hard-to-believe story from Alameda, California:

Fire crews and police could only watch after a man waded into San Francisco Bay, stood up to his neck and waited. They wanted to do something, but a policy tied to earlier budget cuts strictly forbade them from trying to save the 50-year-old, officials said.

A witness finally pulled the apparently suicidal man’s lifeless body from the 54-degree water.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the man, later identified as Raymond Zack, spent nearly an hour in the water before he drowned.

Perhaps they assumed that the suicidal man would get too cold and come back to shore, but it’s hard to understand how they could stand around for an hour and not do anything.


  1. I am curious about a libertarian response to the event. Surely the man had a right to end his own life? Or, failing that, his fellow citizens had no obligation to pay police or fire fighters to save him?

    I understand why a libertarian might oppose regulations preventing police or fire fighters from intervening but I fail to see why a libertarian should believe police or fire fighters should be seen as anything but private citizens for the purposes of this encounter.

    I ask as someone who is not a libertarian.

    Comment by Flea — June 5, 2011 @ 10:53

  2. I am curious about a libertarian response to the event

    I’m not a true doctrinaire Libertarian, I’m a minarchist small-“L” libertarian. I’m for something more close to the “nightwatchman state” rather than the full quill anarchists and their free-for-all nirvana.

    I think you should have the right to decide when to end your own life, but by any normal reading of the situation, this man had chosen a way that had to involve others in his fate. It was, in the hackneyed phrase, a ‘cry for help’ that normally would have resulted in his being put into protective custody for psychological assessment. Whether that was his “real” plan or not, it certainly wasn’t the result any onlooker expected.

    Comment by Nicholas — June 5, 2011 @ 12:03

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