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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Friday, May 05, 2006

What would they do? What would they say?

What would the anti-death-penalty, pro-euthanasia people say if this hypothetical chain of events actually happened?

First, suppose some state in the 9th Circus changes its laws to allow assisted suicide. With legal toleration of euthanasia comes involuntary euthanasia, where the doctor kills the patient without the patient’s explicit consent, and frequently, without the patient knowing.

A 1991 study by the Dutch government found that 70 percent of the patients killed by doctors had not given their consent; 10 percent of those killed by doctors weren’t informed of the mercy coming their way. This was 20 years before the Dutch government changed the law to officially allow doctors to kill the patients who did request it. We can probably assume that people who went into an irreversible coma without leaving instructions fell in the 10 percent that did not know or consent to their deaths.

Next, suppose the federal courts continue preventing executions of prisoners by lethal injection on the grounds that such a death is cruel and unusual (well, at least it would still be cruel, even if it becomes routine health care).

Now suppose that a convicted murderer suffers a massive stroke while awaiting the pleasure of the court, and is not expected to ever come out of the coma that resulted from the stroke. Recognizing the prisoner is now unable to comprehend his surroundings or any punishment the state might inflict, the governor of the state commutes the sentence of the comatose murderer to time served, and the patient is released from prison to whatever hospital will take him. The hospital staff recognizes that the once vital and dangerous man could not enjoy life in a persistent vegetative state, and kills their patient in compliance with what they think he would have requested, if he were as enlightened as those making the decision.

The murderer would be dead by lethal injection, but not at the order of a court, and not as the result of any judicial proceedings. Can an injection withheld because of its cruelty be given as an act of mercy? What would it say about those who protest giving such a death to a man guilty of murder, but want doctors to give such a death to the aged and infirm, regardless of their guilt or innocence?