Let’s throw some gasoline on the fire in the debate about executions and the drugs used to accomplish them.
The Associated Press filed a report from Brussels, Belgium the other day about a convicted murderer and rapist who says he cannot control his sexual urges and therefore can never be released from prison. He has been granted the right to euthanize himself. He had asked the courts to transfer him to a special psychiatric center where he could be treated or to be allowed to order his own execution. The courts in Belgium have said “no” to the move to the psychiatric center but have said “yes” to his right to order his own death.
Frank Van Den Bleeken has been given permission to have himself moved to a hospital where doctors will hook him up to the killing chemical(s) and on his orders send him on his way.
Belgium has allowed mercy killings since 2002 for those with incurable psychological or physical conditions . The AP report says about 1,400 people a year take that option. But this is the first time it’s been allowed for a prisoner. The country otherwise does not have capital punishment.
Assisted suicide has been batted around in our courts and in our legislative halls for years and the most famous advocate for it and practitioner of it, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, has spent some time in prison in this country. But the story from Brussels adds a new flavor to that issue as well as to the issue of capital punishment.
Euthanasia is illegal in every state. But PAD is legal in New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana. Physician Aid in Dying differs from euthanasia because PAD requires the patient to decide when and where to administer the final dose. Euthanasia has the doctor do it.
It would take a law change in Missouri to let inmates have this option and there will be scads of organizations challenging any such law in the courts.
In recent post-execution comments by some family members of murder victims, the comment has been made that forcing them to wait for two decades for justice to be done constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for them.
Would Missouri ever allow a condemned inmate who knows he or she will never leave prison alive anyway to have this option—someone who has through the spiritual growth many of these inmates say they have experienced while under the death sentence and who has accepted their fate and perhaps even looks forward to it as a step into a new form of freedom?
Should the right to die be allowed for those facing state-sanctioned death anyway?
Many inmates’ last statements include apologies to the victims’ families.. Would any of these inmates have the courage to bring relief to their victims’ families by pushing their own execution button?
No last-minute stays. No last-minute court filings. No backing out because an executioner will push the button if the inmate chickens out.
Frank Van Den Bleeken is adding a new dimension to the issue.