You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Australian's worst mass murderer should be allowed to die following several attempts to kill himself in his prison cell, euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke says. Martin Bryant is serving 35 life sentences for the 1996 killings of 35 people at Tasmania's historic Port Arthur penal settlement, in the world's worst mass murder by a lone gunman. Bryant has made at least five suicide attempts in Tasmania's Risdon Prison and has been treated at hospital twice this year after slashing himself with disposable razor blades. [...]
"Mr Nitschke has been in Hobart to address a University of Tasmania bio-ethics forum.
He was the guiding force behind right-to-die legislation introduced by the Northern Territory in 1996. It was overturned by federal legislation the following year. Mr Nitschke said the state had no interest in rehabilitating Bryant. "The sole goal of his (Bryant's) imprisonment is punishment and punishment without hope of release is tantamount to torture," Dr Nitschke said. "As a society we should admit we are sanctioning torture here and in those circumstances we should allow him to die or provide him with the means to obtain a peaceful death."
"He said that giving Bryant an opportunity to end his life would quickly determine if he wants to kill himself. "Some people claim his attempts at suicide are merely attention seeking gestures, which is possible, but providing him with the means of reliably ending his life would soon make this clear. As a society we go to great lengths to prevent him from being able to harm himself but in my opinion putting him in a safe stainless steel box with no hope of escape is nothing more than torture. As a society we should admit this is what we are doing."
-- NineMSN News, "Let murderer take his life: Nitschke" (Monday 11 June 2007)

The number of people who support both the death penalty and voluntary euthanasia (legally-endorsed suicide) must be vanishingly small. While there are a few who oppose both -- mainly moderately traditionalist Catholics, now that recent Popes have discovered that capital punishment has always been contrary to the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints -- most of humankind falls into either or two mutually exclusive categories:

(a)     utilitarians, who support suicide because it makes people happy, but oppose capital punishment because it makes people unhappy; and

(b)     desert-based moralists, who support capital punishment because convicted murderers deserve to die for their crimes, but oppose suicide because terminally ill people haven't committed any crime for which they deserve to die (at which point they deserve to die, for having murdered themselves...?  Must... take... aspirin...)

The upshot of all this is that, of the two causes Dr Philip Nitschke has recently espoused, probably 98% of readers will agree that one is an intrinsically wicked abomination and the other is a straightforward matter of simple justice. Furious disagreement would arise at the next stage, of course, over which one is which.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are many prisoners for whom prison is basically hell on earth because of the treatment they get from their fellow prisoners and sometimes from the authorities.

Jailed police officers, police informants ("dogs") and child sex offenders ("rock spiders") traditionally get pretty rough treatment from fellow prisoners, although the use of special "protection" sections in prisons has mitigated this somewhat.

It is rumored that some prisoners have it much worse. A man who raped and then killed an 11 year old girl is reputed to be beaten up every single day, while prison officers look the other way. A man who was convicted of the torture of his young step son is said to have been "accidentally" left in mainstream population long enough to get beaten up, then moved into the protection wing.

Given Bryant's horrific crimes, it is reasonable to suppose he would be a target for other prisoners.

For such Prisoners, death must appear attractive. However, most of them, even those sentenced to life imprisonment, can hang on to the hope of eventual release on parole.

Bryant has no realistic hope of ever being released on parole.

Perhaps allowing him and some other prisoners like him to elect to die would be merciful.