April 16, 2024

Frontiers for prison reform

Because autonomy is the central issue of contemporary bioethics, I suppose that it is only natural that euthanasia is a constant theme in BioEdge. Unfortunately there are some weeks – like this one – when it seems to dominate!

I wonder what “lifers” must think about debates over euthanasia. Where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal, they normally don’t qualify as they are not terminally ill. However, in Belgium, where psychological suffering is a qualification for euthanasia, a prisoner was euthanased last year and five subsequently requested the Minister of Justice for permission to be put down. So there is definitely a market.

As you can read below, a British bioethicist has floated a trial balloon about prisoner euthanasia on Oxford’s blog for utilitarian bioethics. Not only would it reduce the amount of suffering in the world, he argues, but it would also help the government’s bottom line.

This is a cause which Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke has backed for years. He writes in his recent autobiography, Damned If I Do, “if the state is going to engage in this form of torture, it should at least be prepared to offer those incarcerated a peaceful death. Anything less is barbaric.”

What do you think? 

Michael Cook
Should we offer “lifers” the option of euthanasia?