3
   

The right to take his own life?

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 12:06 am
I don't usually post to the Philosophy & Debate forum but I'd be really interested to hear you views on this issue.:

Martin Bryant killed 35 people in Tasmania in 1996.
Since then he has been locked up in prison forever, apparently unable to be "rehabilitated" back into society.

Apparently he has made a number of attempts to kill himself.

Dr Philip Nitschke is a leading Australian "right to die" advocate. He argues Bryant's ongoing incarceration amounts to "torture" & given that he will never be released, he should have the right to kill himself, if this is what he wants.

Dr Nitschke also argues that stopping Bryant from killing himself is torture, given that he has no way out of his situation.

Should someone in Martin Bryant's situation have the "right to die", as Dr Nitschke suggests?
What responsibility should a civilized society have to a Martin Bryant?

I may not post very much in this discussion but I'll be very interested to read your responses.:



Let Bryant take own life: Dr Nitschke
June 11, 2007 - 2:42PM

http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2007/06/11/BRYANT_narrowweb__300x330,0.jpg
Martin Bryant

Australia'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.

Tasmania's Director of Prisons Gramme Barber earlier this year confirmed that on one occasion Bryant secreted a blade in his body and later recovered it to slash his neck.

The murderer has also swallowed a rolled-up tube of toothpaste.

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.

Today, Mr Nitschke said today 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."

Prison Action Reform spokesman Greg Barns agreed with Dr Nitschke.

"If right to die legislation was introduced prisoners like any other citizen ought to be able to utilise such legislation.

"I agree with Dr Nitschke that in the case of Martin Bryant his life behind bars amounts to torture because there is no interest in rehabilitating him."

A controversial how-to manual on killing yourself written by Dr Nitschke was banned in Australia in December 2006 and in New Zealand this week.

The Peaceful Pill Handbook was given an "objectionable" rating by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Censor Bill Hastings said the "well-intentioned" book was banned not for instructing people how to kill themselves, which was legal, but because it provide information on how to get away with other crimes.

AAP

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/death-wish/2007/06/11/1181414193255.html
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Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 12:26 am
If you adhere to the belief that society must have its due, then no Martin Bryant cannot be allowed to kill himself in a country that has exempted itself from capital punishment as the courts have decreed the punishment fits the crime. If on the other hand you adhere to the belief that society should not have its due and you do not believe in rehabilitation then Martin Bryant should be allowed to kill himself.

There is no legitimate argument to be made in a modern preson system (does Tasmania's system meet modern standards?) that life imprisonment equates to life without meaning / purpose / usefulness thus life imprisonment is the greater evil as opposed to suicide.

On the other hand I do not agree that suicide should be against the law as long as the individual wishing suicide is of sound mind, if they are not of sound mind they should be a ward of the sate or some such equivalent for their own safety.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 12:28 am
It's a dilemma.

On one hand I thought: well, why shouldn't he be able to take his own life, if that's his choice ... especially if the alternative is life behind bars forever?

But on the other hand, to do that could be seen to be a failure on the part of the society he is part of. And what's the difference between allowing him to take his own life & state imposed capital punishment?
0 Replies
 
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 12:30 am
msolga wrote:
And what's the difference between allowing him to take his own life & state imposed capital punishment?
The difference is the will of the individual versus the will of the state.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 12:40 am
We posted at almost the same time, Chumly!
Yes indeed, the capital punishment issue.

And I believe (from media accounts only) that Tasmania has done what's expected regarding Martin Bryant. (appropriate counselling, etc. Though I don't know about the actual details.)


But I was thinking: what (assuming the state has done its best) if a Martin Bryant still actually wants death? What then?
0 Replies
 
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 01:24 am
msolga wrote:
But I was thinking: what (assuming the state has done its best) if a Martin Bryant still actually wants death? What then?
The aspect of incarceration or not (in the context you describe) has little effect on my belief that suicide should be legal, as long as the individual wishing suicide is of sound mind, however if they are not of sound mind, they should be a ward of the sate or some such equivalent for their own safety.

As an escape from state punishment (life imprisonment) I consider that a sane individual choice, not because I believe life imprisonment equates to life without meaning / purpose / at least within the context of a modern prison system, but because I believe a sane individual has the right to their own life-decisions.

You might well ask however if a man who murdered 35 people (not in wartime) can be classified as sane.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 01:42 am
Good and sound arguments.

But taking his own life equates escaping his life sentence, the very same as escaping prison. That wouldn't be fair to the victims.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 01:46 am
This is a real toughie.


I suspect, if he really wants to kill himself, he will end up doing so...


The thing is, the custodial authorities have a duty of care to him, and if he ends up successfully suiciding, the coroner will go to town on whoever is in charge at the time, and they may end up losing their job etc.

I doubt most folk would have a huge problem with him killing himself if he wants to, but nobody wants to be the bunny who is held responsible.

I think Nitschke is rather over the top on this one, and using Bryant to publicise his views. (I have no particular problem with hin doing so, btw, as I believe in voluntary euthanasia, but I don't know that his being especially accurate.)

For example, I suspect that the goal of imprisonment is not solely to punish Bryant, but also to protect society from his killing again, to act to give those his actions hurt some sense of justice and to act as a deterrent.

I don't think imprisonment is necessarily torture to Bryant....I don't think he was especially sociable or happy before his crime, and would likely have become suicidal on the outside, too....though I have no proof of this.


I just hope he is being treated decently.


A problem for him is likely to be bullying by other prisoners, so I imagine hi is in protection, which would be difficult for a sociable fellow...but Bryant?




I haven't answered your question, I know!!!


I guess I think anyone should be able to kill themselves, but I am so aware of the consequences of someone under your care doing so, that I have every sympathy with the authorities.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 01:50 am
Chumly wrote:
msolga wrote:
But I was thinking: what (assuming the state has done its best) if a Martin Bryant still actually wants death? What then?
The aspect of incarceration or not (in the context you describe) has little effect on my belief that suicide should be legal, as long as the individual wishing suicide is of sound mind, however if they are not of sound mind, they should be a ward of the sate or some such equivalent for their own safety.

As an escape from state punishment (life imprisonment) I consider that a sane individual choice, not because I believe life imprisonment equates to life without meaning / purpose / at least within the context of a modern prison system, but because I believe a sane individual has the right to their own life-decisions.

You might well ask however if a man who murdered 35 people (not in wartime) can be classified as sane.



He certainly did not qualify as legally insane.


I believe he has Asperger's, and is of low intelligence.


Some few Asperger's folk can be dangerous because of their lack of empathy. I am sure that more than Asperger's was going on for Bryant, but I cannot recall what, exactly.


Here are the judge's sentencing remarks re Bryant's mental state:

The great Australian jurist, Sir Owen Dixon, once observed that it was prefectly useless for the law to attempt, by threatening punishment, to deter people from committing crimes if their mental condition is such that they cannot be in the least influenced by the possibility or probability of subsequent punishment; if they cannnot understand what they are doing or cannot understand the ground upon which the law proceeds. There is no utility, he said, in punishing people if they are beyond the control of the law for reasons of mental health. Nevertheless, a great number of people who come into a criminal court are abnormal. They would not be there if they were the normal type of average, every day, person. Many of them, he said, are very peculiar in their dispositions, but are mentally quite able to appreciate what they are doing and quite able to appreciate the threatened punishment of the law and the wrongness of their acts and they are held in check by the prospect of punishment. It is clear on the materials before me that the prisoner falls into the latter category. He is not suffering from a mental illnes - certainly not one which rendered him incapable of knowing what he was doing or of knowing that what he was doing was wrong, or one by virtue of which he was deprived of any power to resist an impuse to do the things he did. He knew what he was doing and that it was something he ought not to do.

Nevertheless, he clearly has a mental condition which rendered him less capable than those of normal healthy mind of appreciating the enormity of his conduct or its effect upon others. I accept the psychiatric evidence that he is of limited intellectual ability, his measured IQ being in the borderline intellectually disabled range, but with a capacity to function reasonably well in the community. From an early age he has displayed severe developmental problems, being grossly distrubed from early childhood. Whatever its precise diagnosis as to which the psychiatrists differ, he suffers from a significant personality disorder. Professor Mullen said of him that his limited intellectual capacities and importantly his limited capacity for empathy or imagining the feelings and responses of others left a terrible gap in his sensibilities which enabled him not only to contemplate mass destruction, but to carry it through. Without minimising the gravity of his conduct or denying his responsibility for it, it would appear to me that the level of his culpability is accordingly reduced by reason of his intellectual impairment and the disorder with which he has been afflicted for so long, notwithstanding his parents' earnest endeavours to correct it, which the medical records acknowledge. That the prisoner, through these handicaps, in combination with a number of external factors beyond his control such as the loss of stabilising influences, has developed into a pathetic social misfit calls for understanding and pity, even though his actions demand condemnation.



http://www.geniac.net/portarthur/sentence.htm



Here's the transcript of a Background Briefing show:


http://www.abc.net.au/rn/backgroundbriefing/stories/1997/10603.htm
0 Replies
 
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 02:03 am
Francis wrote:
Good and sound arguments.

But taking his own life equates escaping his life sentence, the very same as escaping prison. That wouldn't be fair to the victims.
I assume you mean the living victims? If you do, then you need to make a convincing case that society must have its due, and if not for reasons of rehabilitation, then for what reasons?

If incarceration does not rehabilitate, then what's the net effect of society having its due? Arguably without rehabilitation we are left with state sanctioned revenge, if it cannot be clearly demonstrated that incarceration is an effective deterrent.

I am skeptical that incarceration can be aptly shown as an effective deterrent, at least to the degree that would justify the prison system in the developed countries.

As to incarceration's potential to rehabilitate I see more promise than incarceration's potential to deter.

In any case I stand by my views on suicide in or out of prison.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 02:27 am
I'm not making a comparative of the merits of this or that type of punishment.

Same for the purpose of the punishment.

I believe it's anchored in people's mind that any crime deserves a punishment.

What this punishment should be is part of the national culture. The problems arise when foreigners, strangers to that culture "judge", according to their own culture, what the punishment should be in another country.

But I maybe wrong and there shouldn't be any punishment or protection of society against repeated offence...
0 Replies
 
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 03:25 am
The first thing you would need to establish is that the perpetrator in question does indeed represent a real-world ongoing risk to the society in question, and does not simply represent a counter to the mores of the day. Suicide comes to mind, and is the topic de jour, n'est pas?

I cannot speak for others but it is not anchored in my mind that any crime deserves a punishment for a number of reasons not the least of which is that many of these so-called crimes are in my judgment simply an affront to societal mores. Again suicide comes to mind.
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Francis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 03:40 am
Is suicide a crime in Australia? Shocked
0 Replies
 
OGIONIK
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 06:13 am
THE RIGHT TO KILL HIMSELF? wtf does that even mean. Of course he does, noone else owns his life, he is free to do whatever he pleases with it. Thinking a law has anything at all to do with suicide is , umm, really really dumb. What are they gonna do, charge you after your dead? if you really want to kill yourself nothing can stop you, not even the law.

I forget who said it but i heard a quote similar to "what greater right does one have than to his own life?" on the topic of suicide.

its true, noone can take your right to kill yourself away, though they can try to keep the means of suicide from you.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 06:41 am
Dr Philip Nitschke is an Australian advocate of assisted suicide & the right to die. I think, in this particular case, he's attempting to put a case for the approval or the condoning of suicide. As prisoner serving a life sentence, Martin Bryant has apparently made a number of suicide attempts which were thwarted.
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 07:03 am
Francis wrote:
Is suicide a crime in Australia? Shocked


Assisting someone else to do it will get in into strife with the law, though.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 08:11 am
Chumly wrote:
If you adhere to the belief that society must have its due, then no Martin Bryant cannot be allowed to kill himself in a country that has exempted itself from capital punishment as the courts have decreed the punishment fits the crime. If on the other hand you adhere to the belief that society should not have its due and you do not believe in rehabilitation then Martin Bryant should be allowed to kill himself.

What does it mean for "society to have its due?"
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 08:18 am
Francis wrote:
But taking his own life equates escaping his life sentence, the very same as escaping prison.

What if he died of natural causes tomorrow? Would you say that it was unfair of him to die prematurely? What would you do with a prisoner with a life-sentence who, for instance, smokes and eats too much, thus increasing the likelihood that he will die a premature death? Would you force him to quit smoking and diet because you don't want him to "escape prison" by dying before you think he has served a full life sentence?

I don't see much difference in a prisoner with a life-sentence dying of natural causes or committing suicide. His sentence is for life, so it ends with his death, by whatever means.

Francis wrote:
That wouldn't be fair to the victims.

His victims don't care.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 08:21 am
Re: The right to take his own life?
msolga wrote:
Should someone in Martin Bryant's situation have the "right to die", as Dr Nitschke suggests?

Now there's an easy one. Yes, Mr. Bryant has a right do die if he wants -- and so does every other mentally competent person who wants to die. To be sure, it may be difficult in practice to determine, without circular reasoning, whether someone who wants to die is mentally competent . But the philosophical issue seems easy to me. It's Martin Bryant's life; he can do with it what he wants; that includes ending it.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2007 08:21 am
The main problem I see if this is given some sort of official blessing is not what would happen in THIS case but the precedent. Seems way too easy for prison officials to arrange for various problematic cases to "want" to commit suicide, and then go ahead and help them do it...
0 Replies
 
 

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