In contrast, altruistic suicides historically are those understood to be required by custom, particularly among the elderly (when they can no longer constructively contribute to societal life), among women upon the death of their husbands, or among followers upon the death of their chiefs.
If I am right, those who consider altruistic suicide to avoid being a burden need to take account not only of their desire to benefit those they love, but also of whether their willingness to commit suicide undermines the caring relationship that motivates them in the first place.
Durkheim, on the other hand, described the army as a case of chronic altruistic suicide. He believed that the likelihood of suicide increases with the amount of time spent in the service; officers and others with prolonged exposure to military discipline and spirit are the most vulnerable: "The profession of soldier develops a moral constitution powerfully predisposing man to make away with himself" (239).
The rate is high when the degree of social integration, i.e., the extent to which members of the society are bound together in social relationships is very low (leading to egoistic suicide) or very high (leading to altruistic suicide).
Altruistic suicide, on the other hand, reflected socially sanctioned self-sacrifice and, as such, provided the base rate of suicide against which Durkheim could contrast the increase of suicide brought on by the breakdown of social integration (which he attributed to anomic and egoistic behavior).