Monday, May 13, 2002

To kill a mockingbird?

If you've seen or read "To Kill a Mockingbird", you'll recall a moral dilemma that arose at the end, and how the characters dealt with it.

Stephen Den Beste gives us this case from the UK. As he puts it:
A film crew has spent the last month filming at the home of Diane Pretty, the British woman who is horribly crippled with motor neurone disease and who has been legally prevented from a merciful, rapid and painless death by British law.

It's going to be broadcast tonight, in just a few hours, on British television. Anyone who opposes euthanasia, who states sanctimoniously that "every life can still be a source of joy," should watch the program and see what a living hell her life had become.
Plenty of people die unpleasant deaths, in hospitals or elsewhere. But we don't all have film crews around for the last month and get on the BBC. That's what I find interesting about this story. IMO this woman became a pawn of someone with bigger fish to fry, just as Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe) became Sarah Weddington's stepping stone.

I certainly wouldn't trade places with this woman or her husband. But I've also heard the old legal maxim "hard cases make bad law". It's a little much to expect our entire society to change the rules so radically based on one tragic overexposed case.

I'm against euthanasia, but that's another post. What I'm interested in for now is in better ways for this to be handled. SDB referenced an article with this quote:
His wife always said she wanted her husband to help her commit suicide because she feared the choking and asphyxia often caused by her disease.
and this one:
"Diane had to go through the one thing she had foreseen and was afraid of - and there was nothing I could do to help."
SDB says "It was the death that anti-euthanasia activists condemned her to." You'd think they had given her the condition.

I see things a little differently. It's easy to say what I might have done or counseled. But FWIW if someone begged me to help them commit suicide, and I didn't have to flip the switch myself, and I didn't have to stick around and watch, I think I might just do it. Given a choice between throwing the doors wide open to euthanasia, or being a hypocrite, give me hypocrisy every time.

Then what? I suppose I'm guilty of something or other depending on the jurisdiction. So it's up to the investigators, medical examiners and prosecutors what happens next.

If they chose to prosecute, what do you think the opportunists at the Voluntary Euthanasia Society would have done? If they gave two cents about Diane Pretty's comfort they would have counseled her husband to help her commit suicide, then offered to defend him against any prosecution. But then they wouldn't have their film, and might not have had their test case. What's one miserable death when you have a chance to reform society?

Does life imitate art? We know what happened in "To Kill a Mockingbird". Suppose her husband had helped her commit suicide, and she did it. What should happen next?

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