James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Causing death, liberty and Judaism

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A few items in the news, including, the Supreme Court struck down the juvenile death penalty, Terri Schiavo’s looming death by malnutrition, and the awards for ‘Million Dollar Baby’ have me thinking about the issues of human-caused death, Judaism and libertarianism today.

For me the death penalty case is separate from the others. A person found guilty of a capital crime is very different from a disabled person. However, the recent case involving the child who, at 12 years old, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years as an adult infuriated me. A twelve year old can hardly be as culpable as an adult. Even so, a 17 year old gangster with repeat violent offenses can certainly be as culpable as an adult. Without general opposition to the death penalty, it seems strange that the Supreme Court could make such a broad rule.

The Schiavo and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ cases are similar to each other, but I would still treat them differently. First, let me observe that as a Jew, suicide, assisted suicide, and death by treatment refusal is always tragic and usually evil. Disabled people, even quadriplegics, can live long and fulfilling lives. We should embrace the life G-d gives us, no matter how underprivileged our situation may seem. However, in the case where a person is capable of giving their informed decision to die and that decision is documented in a writing, I cannot oppose stopping such a wrong by force. Consequently, while I am troubled by the message of ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ I ultimately would probably permit its result.

However, in the case of Terri Schiavo, there is not written intent. Even if her husband is honest in reporting that she would wish to die, she never indicated as such in a legal fashion. A written expression of the intent to die demonstrates a level of consideration and willfulness that is absent in an oral communication to a close family member. For someone that appears largely disconnected from this world, she is functioning quite well biologically. Her parents care for her and are willing to shoulder that burden. Starving her to death seems basically evil in this situation. I realize that the courts will probably find otherwise, but this is a situation where it is appropriate for the state to use its power to protect life.


Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 at 3:46 pm

Posted in other

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