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Walking Spanish down the hall: Euthanasia and the death penalty

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  • Walking Spanish down the hall: Euthanasia and the death penalty

    Couldn't resist a little Tom Waits reference in the title - I've been listening to that song a lot lately, it is awesome. It's a kind of dead man walking scenario.

    So, anyway, to the discussion in hand. What do you think about the related issues of the death penalty and euthanasia - two examples of goverments deciding when it's permissable to end someone's life (in the former case, actively doing it, in the latter, potentially allowing doctors to do it, or in some cases, allowing the patients to do it themselves, with a doctor's help... I'm not sure of how euthanasia is carried out as it's not legal in the UK).

    So, what are your thoughts on these issues? Should anyone have the right to kill people? What about the right to kill yourself? What crimes deserve a death penalty (if any)?

    The two issues are obviously very different in terms of the reasons that a person is being killed, but touch on a lot of the same issues.

    So, thoughts?


    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

  • #2
    I for one think both should be permissable.

    As for the death penalty, I support it in the US because I think there are just some criminals that are so heinous that they should be eliminated. It's that simple.

    As far as euthenasia (yeah don't know how to spell that one) I think if the patient is suffering tremendously and is of sound enough mind to decide for themselves, they should be allowed to do so. I think you get into tricky ground with the doctors, though, legally, and so I can see why it is in the US for a doctor (kevorkian-types) to be prosecuted for "killing" their patients. I don't agree that the doctors should be prosecuted per se, but I can see instances where it would be too much of a quagmire to permit in a legal sense.

    Legal sense aside, morally I think an individual has a right to end their own life if they see fit. I'm not talking crazy suicidal head-cases, but truly ill (say aids or cancer patients for example) that are going to die anyway being able to put an end to their suffering. We put pets down when they suffer and it's considered the humane thing to do. Why can't we have the same right (again morally, legally is a different matter) to end our own suffering?

    I don't see much of a distinction between a living will and euthanasia, personally, in the moral category. I think that has more to do with the legal and where authorities have drawn the line to, frankly IMO, cover doctor's asses.
    Last edited by LRae12; 29-09-08, 05:06 PM.
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    • #3
      I am opposed to euthanasia morally. I think it creates certain policy problems, too, such as the integrity of estate planning and fraud and bias in making decisions. That said, whatever else, the state should *absolutely* never have a say in deciding when to pull the plug.

      I am also opposed to capital punishment. Even one mistakenly executed innocent person is catastrophic moral failure. Life imprisonment is cheaper, accomplishes the public safety goal, and gives an opportunity for personal, spiritual redemption.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
        Life imprisonment is cheaper
        Is it? Because one argument I keep seeing from pro-death penalty parties is the financial cost of life imprisonment, even though I haven't actually looked into the specifics myself.

        I agree with you on both euthanasia and the death penalty, by the way.

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        • #5
          In the US, it's cheaper, I should say -- because of the lengthy mandatory and continuing appeals involved, all of which are essential to guard against executing an innocent person. I couldn't say for other countries.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by LRae12 View Post
            I for one think both should be permissable.

            As for the death penalty, I support it in the US because I think there are just some criminals that are so heinous that they should be eliminated. It's that simple.
            I don't believe in the death penalty for a number of reasons.

            Firstly, on a practical level, there are always possibilities for a miscarriage of justice - at least on a systemic level, if not in invididual cases where someone stabbed someone to death in front of a lot of people.

            The chance that someone might not have done the crime they're being killed for (eg they might be guilty of some kind of killing, but not one that would get them the death penalty) isn't one I'm happy with, given that you can't take back the death penalty. Obviously you can't give back years spent in prison either, but at least you can set someone free. I'd rather have a guilty person "get away with it" rather than an innocent person be killed.

            However, issues of guilt and innocence aren't my main objection to the death penalty. It comes down to what I think the point of punishment is.

            I don't believe in retributive justice of any kind, so the idea of killing someone out of retribution - the "eye for an eye" kind of justice - isn't something I believe in. It's too close to revenge. I feel that I want someone who's done something bad to suffer sometimes, but I also think that is a bad impulse.

            Punishing someone for the sake of punishing someone doesn't make sense to me - I don't see what good it does, and it seems to be something we should try to counter in ourselves rather than encourage. I think vengeful thoughts, I want people I hate to suffer or die sometimes... but I don't want those feelings written into law.

            I can see the sense in keeping someone dangerous off the streets. I can also see that social order might (though I have no proof of this obviously) require a sense that bad people get punished, or some incentive not to be one of those people. Perhaps vengeful feelings need to be taken into account to stop people from feeling things are unfair, and taking "justice" into their own hands? Lynch mobs and whatnot are not part of my ideal society. If society didn't seem fair in terms of the bad guys getting punished, then... well, I'm not sure what would happen, but it might be bad. Hard to say really, but perhaps you need certain punishments as a deterrent to crimes - that seems to make sense. Be good or you will be punished works to a degree.

            So, prison as a deterrent and as a way of making people feel like it's worth being good, and that stops anarchic "justice" seems justifiable to a degree - if you're taking away someone's freedom in order to stop someone else getting murdered, that seems a price possibly worth paying.

            But taking away someone's life is too far even for my most utilitarian moods. The bad of killing seems worse than the good of possible deterrent. I'm not sure what the stats are on the death penalty as a deterrent, but even if it were a deterrent, I'm not sure I'd support it.

            Also, the idea of state-sponsored killing is something that I find repellent on a very fundamental level that I can't quite explain, so there's that too.

            The potential for an abuse of power is scary on one level (corrupt officials being not unknown to human society), but also the idea that killing someone because they killed someone should be something written into the sanctioned fabric of society... that just seems insane.

            This is the part of my argument that's not so much an argument as a statement of how I feel about the issue, so the other points are possibly more important for argument's sake. Though I may think through this bit further later.


            As far as euthenasia (yeah don't know how to spell that one) I think if the patient is suffering tremendously and is of sound enough mind to decide for themselves, they should be allowed to do so. I think you get into tricky ground with the doctors, though, legally, and so I can see why it is in the US for a doctor (kevorkian-types) to be prosecuted for "killing" their patients.
            I agree - the theory of euthanasia is something I support, but the practice is definitely a complicated question. But I believe that as long as there are many checks and balances in place, it would allow people more dignity and prevent suffering that is pointless. It's not something I feel quite able to comment on in terms of what truly constitues a terminal illness - but, I think it should be up to the person who's suffering from that illness to decide whether the suffering is worth the one in a billion chance (or whatever) that they *might* get better.

            There are worrying questions surrounding old people, who might feel they were a burden and choose euthanasia for the wrong reasons. So, if it became legal in the UK, I'd want it to be only possible under very limited circumstances (incurable, painful diseases with no quality of life for example).

            In the countries where it is legal, do people know what the limits are? Nina I think lives in the Netherlands, perhaps she'd be able to enlighten...?

            Ok, I could clearly look this up and am just being lazy

            am also opposed to capital punishment. Even one mistakenly executed innocent person is catastrophic moral failure. Life imprisonment is cheaper, accomplishes the public safety goal, and gives an opportunity for personal, spiritual redemption.
            Dude, I think we have found common ground. That is awesome

            Sorry, overusing the word awesome is becoming an issue due to much HIMYM viewing.

            Anyway, yes, I think the possibility for an innocent execution is a chilling one, even if all else were equal. And you're right, people can change, and providing that opportunity is a good thing.
            Last edited by Wolfie Gilmore; 29-09-08, 06:30 PM.


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            • #7
              As always, a question is: for which society?

              For instance, if allowing euthanasia would result in people's rioting the government collapsing, I'd rather the government didn't allow it (unless, for some reason, I want the government to collapse ). However, if we're talking about present day UK or some other EU country, and there were a vote on it, I'd rather see euthanasia allowed. The same for the US, though it's less likely to happen.

              Not the death penalty, though.

              An argument (in the US) is that it's necessary to protect inmates from other inmates. I don't agree with that view, though, but I have no time to get into the details at the moment. Maybe later, if someone supports that view here.


              Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore
              I don't believe in retributive justice of any kind, so the idea of killing someone out of retribution - the "eye for an eye" kind of justice - isn't something I believe in. It's too close to revenge. I feel that I want someone who's done something bad to suffer sometimes, but I also think that is a bad impulse.
              Punishing someone for the sake of punishing someone doesn't make sense to me - I don't see what good it does, and it seems to be something we should try to counter in ourselves rather than encourage. I think vengeful thoughts, I want people I hate to suffer or die sometimes... but I don't want those feelings written into law.
              As a side note (i.e., a comment about people's behavior, not a judgment), I think when people protest and demand justice, what they're demanding is retribution. They're not demanding that the criminal be reformed, or put in prison to protect society - at least, that does not seem to be their main impulse.

              Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore
              I can see the sense in keeping someone dangerous off the streets. I can also see that social order might (though I have no proof of this obviously) require a sense that bad people get punished, or some incentive not to be one of those people. Perhaps vengeful feelings need to be taken into account to stop people from feeling things are unfair, and taking "justice" into their own hands?
              I think social order requires that people perceived as bad by those with sufficient power and willingness to disturb social peace if the people in question aren't punished, be punished.

              Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore
              But taking away someone's life is too far even for my most utilitarian moods. The bad of killing seems worse than the good of possible deterrent. I'm not sure what the stats are on the death penalty as a deterrent, but even if it were a deterrent, I'm not sure I'd support it.
              As I mentioned, there's also the argument of protecting other inmates.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by EvilVampire View Post
                (unless, for some reason, I want the government to collapse ).
                I don't think you need euthanasia for that. You just need Gordon Brown

                An argument (in the US) is that it's necessary to protect inmates from other inmates. I don't agree with that view, though, but I have no time to get into the details at the moment. Maybe later, if someone supports that view here.
                I've never heard that one before. Can't they use solitary confinment? Or is that too inhumane? Too expensive perhaps? Just not practical on many levels? Hmm... it's an interesting question, though someone would probably have to work quite hard to convince me that the danger to inmates couldn't be worked around and still outweighed the other bad aspects of the death penalty.

                As a side note (i.e., a comment about people's behavior, not a judgment), I think when people protest and demand justice, what they're demanding is retribution. They're not demanding that the criminal be reformed, or put in prison to protect society - at least, that does not seem to be their main impulse.
                Reform isn't usually what people want in those contexts, no. But I think it's definitely a worthy aim. And protection's certainly valid. But retribution... I'd be interested to see what arguments people would put forward in favour of it, and in distinguishing it from vengence/lynch mob mentality.

                I think social order requires that people perceived as bad by those with sufficient power and willingness to disturb social peace if the people in question aren't punished, be punished.
                Also, if you kill the puppies you can't punish them and they don't bark and that's no fun....[/suddenly channelling evil Willow]


                -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                • #9
                  In my first post when I talked about some criminals being so heinous that they need to be killed, I wasn't referring to your everyday murderer who is guilty, or has a slight chance of possibly being innocent. Who I am referring to are the absolute evil animals that have commited totally horrible disgusting acts. Examples: Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, those types. Though, Jeffrey Dahmer's inmates took care of the death penalty for the penal system. The purpose of prison is *supposedly* reform. There are some who cannot be reformed, and I don't feel that the public should have to financially support them for 60+ years in facilities that (at least in this country) have some better living conditions than the poor people living free.
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                  • #10
                    I don't agree with the Death Penalty for many of the reasons stated above, in that there could be mistakes about the guilt of an individual, that in jail someone has the chance to repent for what they've done (which is surely the most worthwhile aim of punishment - yes, punishment, deterrents and keeping dangerous individuals off the streets etc. are important, but getting someone to see the error of their ways is a very noble aim, and for those very very few who absolutely won't repent (or can't repent if mentally ill? e.g. Ed Gein type serial killers), well, redemption's out of the window but at least jail/hospital keeps the public on the street safe) and more practically, it does cost less.

                    With regards to euthanasia, I pretty much channel Wolfie here:
                    I agree - the theory of euthanasia is something I support, but the practice is definitely a complicated question. But I believe that as long as there are many checks and balances in place, it would allow people more dignity and prevent suffering that is pointless. It's not something I feel quite able to comment on in terms of what truly constitues a terminal illness - but, I think it should be up to the person who's suffering from that illness to decide whether the suffering is worth the one in a billion chance (or whatever) that they *might* get better.

                    There are worrying questions surrounding old people, who might feel they were a burden and choose euthanasia for the wrong reasons. So, if it became legal in the UK, I'd want it to be only possible under very limited circumstances (incurable, painful diseases with no quality of life for example).
                    And if euthanasia was legalised, there would also be problems with people who choose it in a fit of passion. E.g. Someone has a row with friends/parents/partner and decide to go euthanise themselves ... not good. Plus, there should be some people disqualified, as they would be unable to make that decision being non compos mentis, e.g. young children, the certifiably insane, someone who is high etc. However, if someone truly believes that their quality of life would deteroriate to the point that they'd choose to die sooner rather than later, I could sympathise strongly.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                      I am also opposed to capital punishment. Even one mistakenly executed innocent person is catastrophic moral failure. Life imprisonment is cheaper, accomplishes the public safety goal, and gives an opportunity for personal, spiritual redemption.
                      Wow......I have nothing to add. For once I agree 100% with you here! I too am morally opposed to capital punishment for the reasons you specify.

                      Okay I lie, I do have something to add in relation to the US government, and whether it should be legal here or not--I personally think that capital punishment falls under cruel and unusual punishment in the 8th amendment. Or at least certain punishments do without a doubt, IMO, like the electric chair--how states were able to get away with having it on the books and using it to execute people for so long is beyond me. How is frying/electrocuting someone to death not both unusual and cruel? (Especially for people like Julius Rosenberg who weren't killed the first time, and had to be fried all over again?). Even with lethal injection today, if it's true that the prisoners subjected to it feel immense pain, but are unable to move or express anything during the process, that strikes me as rather cruel and unusual as well.

                      I realize that capital punishment was commonplace and accepted when the Founders wrote the bill of rights, and so one could argue that it can't count as cruel and unusual punishment. But on the other hand, think about the most common methods of execution in those times--hanging and beheading (with beheading often being the merciful route). How often are people hung or beheaded in the US today? Almost never--beheading in particular is often seen as somewhat barbaric now. Standards change, so that I think interpretation of that amendment has to be a little flexible as well.

                      I think it's notable that the US is the only Western power that still has capital punishment......
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                      • #12
                        I am absolutely in favor of the death penalty and euthanasia.

                        I am in favor of euthanasia because I believe elderly and terminally ill people should have the right not to suffer. When an elderly person is hooked up to machines and can do nothing but lie in bed waiting to die, why should they not have the right to decide when to go? Same with a terminally ill person.

                        I am in favor of the death penalty for quite a few reasons. One...it is cheaper. I don't care what anyone else says...it is cheaper than housing thousands of criminals for decades. Criminals that will most likely have to be put in solitary confinement and watched over by guards all day and all night. Crimanls that can not be rehabilitated and should never see the light of day again. I am with LRae on this one. The death penalty is there so we can get rid of the sociopaths and other murderers who do not deserve to live. When a person walks into a court room, says he is guilty, has no remorse and says if given the chance he will do it again...why in the world should we keep him locked in a cell for the rest of his life? So he can appeal and appeal, and find some stupid technicality and walk?!? Or so someday, when someone messes up, he kills a few people, escapes, and starts to murder others again?!?! In my opinion people like that deserve nothing more than a death penalty. At least they get an alcohol swab, a clean needle and a last meal. That is a lot more than their victims got.

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                        • #13
                          Actually, I think it's outside the Supreme Court's legitimate authority to find the death penalty unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment. The original understanding of the language when that was drafted was very clearly not meant to include capital punishment. And, since I'm a textualist, originalist, and a federalist, that should be the rule. But Congress, state legislatures, or an amendment could do away with it.
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                          • #14
                            (with beheading often being the merciful route).
                            I think I'd prefer beheading or a firing squad, which offers instant or near-instant death, over lethal injection:
                            http://scientificactivist.blogspot.c...h-penalty.html
                            The potential to be paralyzed but still able to feel your heart slowly stop and your lungs stop taking in air, under less anaesthetic than the amount used putting animals down at the vets?* I can't think of a more inhumane thing to do to someone else, regardless of their crimes.

                            *I tried looking for the article that said the bit about the amount of anaesthetic, but I can't find it. I definitely remember reading it though. That scientific review site has the evidence for the rest though.

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                            • #15
                              I really thought this thread was about Tom Waits. And then, in true Waits fashion, it is something completely different.

                              I agree with the death penalty depending on the severity of a crime. Why should murderers deserve to live, and, why should we keep them alive and taking up money and space?
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                              • #16
                                don't believe in retributive justice of any kind, so the idea of killing someone out of retribution - the "eye for an eye" kind of justice - isn't something I believe in. It's too close to revenge. I feel that I want someone who's done something bad to suffer sometimes, but I also think that is a bad impulse.
                                Yep, I totally agree with you there. So yes, I'm totally against the death penalty under any circumstances.

                                I agree - the theory of euthanasia is something I support, but the practice is definitely a complicated question. But I believe that as long as there are many checks and balances in place, it would allow people more dignity and prevent suffering that is pointless. It's not something I feel quite able to comment on in terms of what truly constitues a terminal illness - but, I think it should be up to the person who's suffering from that illness to decide whether the suffering is worth the one in a billion chance (or whatever) that they *might* get better.

                                There are worrying questions surrounding old people, who might feel they were a burden and choose euthanasia for the wrong reasons. So, if it became legal in the UK, I'd want it to be only possible under very limited circumstances (incurable, painful diseases with no quality of life for example).
                                Once again I agree. As someone who nursed both my parents for many years, I can understand how difficult long term illnesses can be, and how devastating it can be on the family and the person involved.

                                At the very end I was given the heart rending decision whetehr or not to artificially feed my own Mother or just let her die 'naturally'. After doing extensive research on the viability of 'peg feeding' an elderly person with dementia I chose to let her die, believing it to be the kindest option. My father also was on the point of having to be peg fed, but he ended up dying before I had to make that his decision for him too.

                                I've never regretted doing that, even though at the time it devastated me. So you could say that some kind of euthanasia was in play there, and still is in many hospitals in the UK, where patients suffering is brought to an end by either withholding treatment or by over medicating.
                                Last edited by sueworld; 29-09-08, 08:54 PM.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Risa View Post
                                  I am absolutely in favor of the death penalty and euthanasia.

                                  I am in favor of euthanasia because I believe elderly and terminally ill people should have the right not to suffer. When an elderly person is hooked up to machines and can do nothing but lie in bed waiting to die, why should they not have the right to decide when to go? Same with a terminally ill person.

                                  I am in favor of the death penalty for quite a few reasons. One...it is cheaper. I don't care what anyone else says...it is cheaper than housing thousands of criminals for decades. Criminals that will most likely have to be put in solitary confinement and watched over by guards all day and all night. Crimanls that can not be rehabilitated and should never see the light of day again. I am with LRae on this one. The death penalty is there so we can get rid of the sociopaths and other murderers who do not deserve to live. When a person walks into a court room, says he is guilty, has no remorse and says if given the chance he will do it again...why in the world should we keep him locked in a cell for the rest of his life? So he can appeal and appeal, and find some stupid technicality and walk?!? Or so someday, when someone messes up, he kills a few people, escapes, and starts to murder others again?!?! In my opinion people like that deserve nothing more than a death penalty. At least they get an alcohol swab, a clean needle and a last meal. That is a lot more than their victims got.
                                  But the fact is that it's NOT cheaper--not when you take into account all the legal appeals they get before being killed. And these legal appeals are quite necessary safeguards against wrongful execution, as KoC pointed out--wouldn't you like to have as many appeals as possible if somehow you were accused of a crime wrongfully sometime?

                                  Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                                  Actually, I think it's outside the Supreme Court's legitimate authority to find the death penalty unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment. The original understanding of the language when that was drafted was very clearly not meant to include capital punishment. And, since I'm a textualist, originalist, and a federalist, that should be the rule. But Congress, state legislatures, or an amendment could do away with it.
                                  Heh, I figured you'd say that! But I think that they probably meant to include certain forms of capital punishment within that amendment--for example at one point treason in England merited hanging, drawing, and quartering, an excessively cruel way of punishing/killing someone, even to many contemporaries. I wouldn't be surprised if that was one kind of thing that the Founders were referring to in the amendment.....and likewise I think that certain methods of the death penalty that are excessively cruel should fall under that category--that don't just cause death, but which cause great suffering in the process, like the electric chair, or perhaps lethal injection as it transpires.
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                                  • #18
                                    The key is to look to the custom of the day -- hanging or firing squad were simply not considered cruel or unusual. So, while, yes, the Supreme Court could strike down a state or federal law permitting them to do all that Braveheart stuff, the mere fact of execution is beyond it's reach under Article III. That's a legislative matter.
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by sherrilina View Post
                                      But the fact is that it's NOT cheaper--not when you take into account all the legal appeals they get before being killed. And these legal appeals are quite necessary safeguards against wrongful execution, as KoC pointed out--wouldn't you like to have as many appeals as possible if somehow you were accused of a crime wrongfully sometime?
                                      Yes if i was accused wrongly, I would like a few chances. But I wonder what the statistics are, on people just doing appeals trying to get out of it all. Guilty people get to appeal just as much as the innocent do...probably more considering all the stupid loopholes and technicalities that can be found. I think they should put a limit on appeals unless there is some real good evidence. The death penalty would be cheaper if we didn't let the murderers appeal for so many years. In some states you are more likely to die of old age before you ever get executed.

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
                                        The key is to look to the custom of the day -- hanging or firing squad were simply not considered cruel or unusual. So, while, yes, the Supreme Court could strike down a state or federal law permitting them to do all that Braveheart stuff, the mere fact of execution is beyond it's reach under Article III. That's a legislative matter.
                                        Lol, "hanging, drawing, and quartering" wasn't just Braveheart--it was on the books up until 1870 for treason, well past the time of the Bill of Rights. And I'm saying that things like the electric chair and lethal injection could be considered modern equivalents in suffering to hanging, drawing, and quartering. They certainly cause more pain than firing squad and hanging.
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