Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Capital Punishment vs Assisted Suicide

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr Kevin Hay
Dr Kevin Hay, who is a family physician in Alberta, wrote an excellent op-ed titled: It's illogical to ban capital punishment but allow doctor-assisted death that was published on November 28, 2018.

What is most interesting about the article are the comparisons that Hay makes between capital punishment and assisted suicide. Hay wrote:

So is it contradictory for a society to embrace voluntary euthanasia while banning the death penalty? (MAID in Canada is overwhelmingly by voluntary euthanasia rather than the optional assisted suicide). To answer that question we need to take those arguments used to decry capital punishment and apply them to MAID. 
Capital punishment can kill the innocent. Euthanasia can kill the coerced and the incompetent. Both capital punishment and euthanasia are irreversible once enacted in error. Capital punishment is morally wrong because of the intrinsic value of human life; so, too, is euthanasia. 

Capital punishment brutalizes the prisoner, the executioner, society-at-large, the law and human rights. The requirements for MAID can brutalize a suffering patient (e.g. if death is not “immediately foreseeable,” MAID should be refused). After providing euthanasia, some doctors in Ontario “found themselves overwhelmed by the act of killing another human being.” Euthanasia can have devastating effects on friends and family, especially young children. Only a handful of countries allow a citizen to demand death at the hands of another citizen. Most countries believe that the state-sanctioned killing of a citizen is wrong. Rights are universal; if one person has the right to die, then we all have the right to die. 
Capital punishment is cheaper than life imprisonment. MAID is vastly cheaper than treatment or palliative care. It’s barbaric to promote cost reduction through the killing of the sick. (Note the case of 42-year-old Roger Foley in Ontario.)
The death penalty is unique as a punishment. Euthanasia is unique as a “treatment.”
In the U.S., the death penalty is applied unfairly across capital cases. No one can truly ascertain that some MAID applicants — and not others — “deserve” death. 
Capital punishment fails to deter serious crime and can martyr a terrorist. The glamourization of MAID in the media can cause suicide contagion — the Werther Effect. 
The mentally ill offender should be treated, not put to death. Civilized societies strive to prevent suicide in the mentally ill — not collude with delusions. 
The death penalty is inhumane (even by lethal injection, as reported in the Lancet in 2005). There is potential for difficulty with the administration of euthanasia. 
Capital punishment is unnecessary, especially with life imprisonment without parole. Autonomy allows a person to refuse care — that doesn’t commit the state to provide death at the hand of another citizen. 
Misguided compassion has blinded sympathetic people (including the Supreme Court of Canada) to the similarities between voluntary euthanasia and the death penalty. Logical consistency requires a society to have both or neither.
Hay makes it very clear, it's inconsistent to legalize assisted suicide and to outlaw capital punishment. In fact, when the Supreme Court of Canada (45 years ago) rejected capital punishment, they stated that is was inhumane to ask someone to inflict death on another person. I think the Supreme Court of Canada is inconsistent and Dr Kevin Hay is consistent.

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