Euthanasia and the Death Penalty

Bosch Stone

So there I was — just seconds ago — when I ran across a headline that read, “Supreme Court upholds Kentucky’s use of lethal injections“. My first reaction was to read the headline out loud, so as to evoke a response from my fellow co-worker Joan (who completely ignored me, by the way).

Just the other day, Joan and I were discussing the difference between euthanasia and the right to reject medical assistance. For some reason, I immediately thought that the headline referred to euthanasia rather than capital punishment.

Upon catching my error, I realized that I was finally losing my mental agility, that I was going soft and should immediately refrain from anything remotely resembling multi-tasking. Then I thought about it again. Why was I confused? Maybe I am not losing my mind. What is the difference between assisted suicide by lethal injection and capital punishment by lethal injection?

Both involve the taking of one person’s life by a third party. The difference with assisted suicide is that there is consent and the act is performed below the radar of the law. The difference with capital punishment is that the act is performed by the law.



Filed under Digressions, Essays

9 responses to “Euthanasia and the Death Penalty

  1. ReWrite

    Anyone that thinks we are closer to ending executions in the this country needs to look no further than the Supreme Court- 7-2 in favor of the State. Disgusting.

    These are the same 9 people that will end a Woman’s right to abortion (which I think is an equal or better analogy than euthanasia).

    The religious right says “no” to abortion, but “yes” to the death penalty. That to me makes no sense and is inherently contradictory. Many of them believe so strongly that killing a fetus is so immoral that they have bombed and picked abortion clinics. Millions of dollars are spent lobbying against abortion. Yet they aren’t so “pro-life” when it comes killing humans. Hypocrites.

    At least the Catholic Church (minus the four Catholic Supreme Court Justices) are not hypocritical on this issue. Should be a fun dinner for them tonight with the Pope.

  2. eric


    Great comment!!!

    For the record, I am against both euthanasia and capital punishment.

  3. ReWrite

    that is surprising. how come?

  4. eric

    I assume you’re asking about euthanasia. I see no problem with voluntarily rejecting medical assistance, but I am not crazy about someone else pulling the plug or injecting you — especially not in the present political environment 😉

    Seriously, though, your mother understands these issues better than anyone else I know and I think she is against euthanasia. So until I am more qualified or informed about the matter, I will go with her.

  5. ReWrite

    What does this mean: “present political environment.”

    Let me ask a different Q: How about suicide, are you against that? Meaning should one be prosecuted for a failed attempt at suicide and/or should suicide be considered a criminal offense?

    Camus has a great quote where he says something like the only real question in the world is whether or not to commit suicide.

  6. Carol

    Good questions, difficult answers. Both the questions and the answers need so much space. They also require the listener to not be judgemental. One needs to embrace all the options and freedoms known to man/woman. It is when our options are not heard or understood that people like Kavorkian come into play.
    One of the issues I struggle with, because of my work, is the issue of suicide. Altho my work as a mental health professional is to prevent suicide, I also need to embrace the reason why a certain person wants to end their life. If I cannot embrace those ideas of ending one’s life, how can I be trusted? We must go into that darkness with the person in pain. If not, they truly die alone. It is so hard. But think about how hard that person’s life must be to even consider giving it up. Judgement has no place. Only listening. What else can I say?

  7. eric

    You see, Carol, that’s why when I run for president, you’ll be my euthanasia policy adviser.

  8. ReWrite

    So C-Nap & Eric,

    I agree at the subjective level, we must “listen,” empathize and not judge- which are all completely invaluable, important and yet almost impossible to carry-out.

    However, my question is an objective one; should the State make it unlawful (thus inherently passing judgment) for people to commit suicide? I think this is the question we need to answer b4 we even get to assisted suicide.

    When I “dabbled in passivism” (religion), I firmly believed that one should not be allowed to take their own life; as god gives life, only he should be able to take it away. Assuming arguendo that this were true, couldn’t one contend that doctors that are providing life support are overstepping god’s will; or even doctors that cure someone of a potentially fatal illness… where does one draw the line? We can go against god’s will if it prolongs one’s life, but not if it shortens it; is that the logic? Where is Frank when you need him?

    But nowadays, although I find those questions interesting on a theoretical level, I think it is wasteful to sit around a discuss god, what he wants, how he punishes and what religious folk are really after- getting blessings (selfish bastards). Have you ever listened to a Christian pray? If they don’t directly ask for blessings; that is the subtext. If one really does believe in god, as god is outlined in Western Religion, the prayer should be simple… “help me carry out your will” or simply “your will be done.” Everything else is a plea for a blessing. If god really is omnipotent, etc and “in the details of our lives” there really is no reason to beg for blessings. That isn’t religion that is superstition.

    My feeling is don’t bother god; don’t waste time in Sunday school, essentially analyzing how you can maximize your blessings (on earth or in the afterlife); just be about it. Don’t talk about it, be about it.

    And if god really is omnipotent, etc, then the whole Jesus story (and I think Joseph is the real her- which Eric I think you should investigate) seems counter-intuitive. Why does an all powerful god need to “sacrifice is son”? If the rule is Dixon (my dog) can’t go for a walk unless she eats dinner (ie, man can’t go to heaven if he has sinned); couldn’t I (god) just change the rule, instead of sacrificing the lives of one of Dixon’s toys (Jesus)?

    And then was it really a sacrifice to die on the cross? if heaven really exists and is eternal; what does an earthly (finite) existence really matter? It was not like Jesus was taking on our sins and going to hell… now that would have been a sacrifice… he was taking on our sins and going to back to his “father” to “live in his glory,” etc.

    Back to the topic at hand. I don’t think the state should criminalize suicide; doesn’t seem like much of a deterrent.

  9. eric

    Well, enforcement of a criminal suicide statute would be politically, judicially, and economically counterproductive.

    Therefore, it is pretty much a non issue.

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