'The Falling Man' of 9/11 captured the horror of enforced suicide.
In their brilliant biography of Chairman Mao, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday present another, earlier and perhaps more shocking form of death decision.
In the early 1950s, according to Jung and Halliday, between two and three hundred thousand Chinese committed suicide during two totalitarian, anti-corruption purges, known as the 'Three Antis' and the 'Five Antis'.
In Shanghai so many people jumped from buildings that they acquired the nickname 'parachutes'.
One eyewitness wondered why people jumped in to the street rather than into the river. The reason, he discovered, was that they wanted to safeguard their families:
If you jumped into the Huangpu River and were swept away so the Communists didn't have a corpse, they would accuse you of having escaped to Hong Kong and your family would suffer. So the best way was to leap down the street.
Until I had read this, I'd always thought that suicide and social conscience were mutually exclusive.