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Case: Why Suicide?


Question: Should Netflix broadcast the show “Thirteen reasons why?”

Write 700 words (2.5 double-spaced pages) on the question associated with the case you choose:

You must use at least one moral theory we have studied in your answer. Explain the moral principle you are using and explain how it applies to the case.

This assignment requires both in-text citations and a work’s cited page.

You may use any of the sources cited in the case analyses themselves as well as any other source for factual claims. You may only use your text or other assigned readings from the course for your explanations of moral theory.

Moral theory options are:

Act Utilitarianism (Ch. 6)

Rule Utilitarianism (Ch. 7)

W.D. Ross’s Prima Facie moral duties (Ch. 8)

Kant’s Principle of Ends or his Principle of Universal Law (Ch. 8)

Social Contract Hobbes, Locke, or Rawls. Includes Rawls’s equality principle and/or difference principle (Ch. 10).

Virtue Ethics (Ch. 11).

Your response should include:

A. A brief summary of the main problem and relevant background facts and a clear statement of your position on the case. (see item number 1 in Guidelines for a Case Study Analysis in Burnor & Raley, pp. xxiii)

B. An argument in support of your position on the case, which includes a moral principle. (see items 3 & 4 in Guidelines for a Case Study Analysis in Burnor & Raley, pp. xxiii-xxiv)

C. Describe and respond to at least one possible objection to your position. (see item 5 in Guidelines for a Case Study Analysis in Burnor & Raley, pp. xxiv)

Case 2: Why Suicide?
In March 2017 Netflix released an episodic web series based on a novel by Jay Asher
called Thirteen Reasons Why. The series follows the lives of high school students living
in the wake of a classmate’s suicide. The narrative concept is that before Hannah
Baker’s suicide, she recorded a series of thirteen audiotapes outlining the reasons why
she kills herself. Hannah leaves these tapes in the custody of a friend, Tony, who
delivers them to a cast of characters—each of whom Hannah believes contributed to
her ending her own life. Soon after the show was released, critics began to publicly
One criticism common to many parents, mental health professionals, and teachers is
that the show glamorizes suicide. The National Association of School Psychologists
cautions that the show’s “powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to
romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies.”5
This concern has been echoed by some parents who claim that the suicides of their
teenage children were triggered by the show.6
The series now begins each episode with a trigger warning, but originally the show
contained trigger warnings for only three episodes—the 9th, which graphically depicts
Hannah’s rape, and the 12th and 13th, which feature suicide scenes. Hannah Baker’s
suicide at the end of the first season is graphic and violent. Nic Sheff, a writer on the
series, describes the portrayal as “an instant reminder that suicide is never peaceful
and painless, but instead an excruciating, violent end to all hopes and dreams and
possibilities for the future.”7
“13 Reasons Why Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators,” National Association of School
Psychologists, August 9, 2017, https://www.nasponline.org/resources-andpublications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/preventing-youth-suicide/13-reasons-why-netflix-seriesconsiderations-for-educators.
Katie Kindelan and Sabina Ghebremedhin, “2 California Families Claim ’13 Reasons Why’ Triggered
Teens’ Suicides” ABCNews, June 28, 2017, http://abcnews.go.com/US/california-families-claim-13reasons-triggered-teens-suicides/story?id=48323640.
Nic Sheff, “13 Reasons Why Writer: Why We Didn’t Shy Away from Hannah’s Suicide,” Vanity Fair, April
19, 2017,
The show’s production team anticipated a controversial discussion about the show,
given the prevalence of suicide, suicide attempts, and suicide ideation among teens.
As producer Selena Gomez puts it, “this is happening every day…Whether or not you
wanted to see it, that’s what’s happening. The content is complicated.” According to
the CDC “17.0% of students (grades 9-12) seriously considered attempting suicide in
the previous 12 months (22.4% of females and 11.6% of males).”8 Though this data
precedes the release of the show, the correlative evidence in a recent study has shown
that “13 Reasons Why, in its present form, has both increased suicide awareness while
unintentionally increasing suicidal ideation.”9
“Suicide Facts at a Glance 2015,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 9, 2017,
John W. Ayers, “Internet Searches for Suicide Following the Release of 13 Reasons Why,” Journal of
the American Medical Academy, July 31, 2017,

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