April 24, 2024

The assassination of Osama bin Laden

May 7, 2011 

Hi there,

The news which has
gripped everyone this week is the killing of Osama bin Laden. I have trawled
through the internet to find a bioethical angle. I am afraid that I was not
very successful or perhaps not very imaginative. However, I did discover that many
neuroscientists believe that revenge is an evolved mechanism. If that is true,
perhaps the killing is more properly a question for neuroscientists than

The far more
interesting question is a political one: is targeted assassination ethical? It
is a tactic that Israel has been using at least since the lethal attack on its
athletes at the Munich Olympics. The US seems to have adopted it, with drones,
and now with Navy Seals.

Is this consistent
with the human dignity which is at the heart of bioethics? If you think that capital
punishment even for rapists and serial killers is wrong, what about assassinating
seriously bad guys like bin Laden? Any ideas? If you want to respond, please
comment on the lead article…

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giving. We have no big sugar daddies and depend mostly on support from our


Michael Cook