Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

An Ethical/Moral Question


I was reading another blog and it inspired me to present the following ethical/moral problem, based on an actual case here in Canada. I will present the scenario and would be interested to hear people’s opinions on what is morally/ethically correct, and assessment of the verdict…

A man has an eight year old child who is severely handicapped both mentally and physically. The child is in constant pain and is subjected to regular painful medical procedures necessary to prevent further problems from developing. In what the Father perceives as an act of compassion, not being able to withstand his child’s suffering any longer, he elects to end the child’s life. As a result, he is charged with murder in the first degree and sentenced to Life 25 in prison.

Is this justice served? Is the man guilty of murder? Is this man morally/ethically wrong by way of is actions? Were the courts morally/ethically wrong in their sentencing? Was Science morally/ethically wrong in the preservation of child’s life? Was this an appropriate/inappropriate outcome? Thoughts?????

18 Comments:

  • At 12:56 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This is a tough question. I think that one would have to be in this persons shoes inorder to know his dilemma. If I had to choose whether to have a child who knows nothing but pain, or help the suffering to end, and be greatful for the time spent with the child, I'm not so sure I would'nt do the same. My question is, how does the court system put someone like that into a "MAX" style jail? And what type of person will he be when he gets out?

     
  • At 1:30 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The courts and parliament demonstrated the inability to deal with that case compassionately over 10 years ago. The subject, guilty of panic and pity, did not go to Maximum security. But he is charged with the most serious form of murder, due to early Chretien years inability to be reasonable. Yesterday a distraught woman does not go to jail for assisting her son's suicide. No difference in cases, really, but timing is better for her. Incoming minority government may have difficulty as a minority getting concensus on removing a few judges who display irrational sentiment in releasing to house arrest those guilty of child porn possession and distribution and drunk-driving-causing-death. Public is outraged; parliament not in seesion. But today in journal mention was made of government intention to apply Dangerous Offender status to those convicted of 3 or more sexual assaults. This would be a law one century overdue. But can the judiciary be educated enough to realize how obviously necessary this approach is to defend victims?
    Maybe a future benefit to minority governments will be the balance potentially achieved between appropriate sentencing and victim protection. The Liberal/NDP sense of defense of offenders' rights needs a balance with actual appreciation of victims' rights, not just the "appearance of", and the real values of the people of Canada need to be expressed in judiciary, as well as parliament. I think so. nodroganon

     
  • At 4:41 p.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    Playing devil's advocate here, what does it matter "why" someone commits murder in the first degree, whether it be a planned hit from one gang member to another, versus the case above versus someone who is jealous because another got the promotion he/she was seeking? Should the law not be black and white - pre-meditated killing is murder one? In Canada, that would be a mandatory 2 years in a max (in many US states it would be the death penalty). This was not assisted suicide (as in the case of the Montreal Mother reference), nor are we discussing the result of the Robert Latimer case (on which this scenario is based).

     
  • At 7:02 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Why? The devil you say? We spend so much effort collecting data after the fact to determine needs and appropriate placement, not so the punishment fits the crime, but suits the criminal. Mistakes in that lead to placement of one person who committed a crime in range of cells with others who do it for a living, or the fun of it, or to be in jail with their friends. The isolated sane person falls into insane world. Is God really angry with that guy? Or does God know he can handle it? " Here, buddy, you are so good now you can only get better by suffering this meaningless fate, being locked up with "the gang".". Does God think? If justice is served at all, intelligence required to garnish it with love. If God is pleased, offer dessert, like a Pearl fed to swine, coughed up on a plate of ham sandwiches to an inner-city vagrant, resulting in a changed life, or a dead drunk. Look up Comics.com for Pearls before swine. The risk expressed by the court is that they cannot protect someone from being euthanized for profit if they allow it for any compassionate purpose. God only knows what the compassionate purpose is. I will go back to being a cockroach in the walls now.

     
  • At 9:37 a.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    It is interesting, as an aside, to see how our focus has shifted from victims of crime to being humane to the Offenders in their incarceration. Is this good? I suppose most folks would not like to associate themseleves with state run torture, myself included, but the whole concept of rehabilitation has become a bit of a runaway train. Look at the Tookie Williams case recently in the US. I do support the death penalty, but can see one losing their stomach for it if the sentence is carried out 25 years later. Does that mean my initial feelings are blinded by anger? Regardless, again I point out the focus - Offender over victim.

    ...But as I stated, this is an aside and we're getting off topic - someone spell out their take on our hypothetical case here....

     
  • At 11:32 p.m. , Blogger Marie Starr said...

    Aye, there's the rub. I've never been any good at hypothetical situations because I feel it is untrue to say what I would do unless I have been in that position and it is nearly impossible to be in the same postition as someone else. Even if I found myself in the same exact circumstances, I would be coming from a different place: background, belief, experience, etc.

    With this particular question, it is hard to feel sorry for any man who would kill his own child. Being a mother myself, I cannot imagine doing this. My questions would focus on whether this boy still had a good life. I know many people who live with chronic pain but live fulfilling, happy lives. I also know many people who live with no physical pain but live miserable, unsatisfied lives.

    Pain is variable and intensely personal. I cannot say whether what this man did was right or not. Whether he did it out of love for his child or to free himself from the pain of seeing someone he loved suffer or for any number of other reasons.

    All I can say is that, if it were my child, I would have done everything I could. And if all cirumstances pointed to the resolution that the child was in so much pain and such constant pain and such debilitating pain that they could not possibly ever live a life that would bring them any happiness, then I might have done the same.

    But if I were to be honest with myself, making such a decision would also be made out of my own grief and pain at having to deal with the pain and suffering of someone I loved and I would have wondered for the rest my life how much that played a factor in my decision.

     
  • At 7:41 a.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    I agree that we all come at things from a diferent place (culture, social class, etc.), however in a social setting we are judged by our peers. We can never truly put ourselves in another's shoes, regardless of how empathetic we believe ourselves to be.

    I liked your point about suffering and pain in that the Father in this case could have found enduring his child's pain harder than the child enduring his/her own pain.

    As a Father myself I couldn't imagine anything more horrible than this situation and pray that I never will. Not only is life different shades of grey, but it can also be harsher than we ever imagined! I get worked up when my daughter has the sniffles!

     
  • At 9:58 a.m. , Blogger auntiegrav said...

    We have no natural rights except the right to try and live. We try to increase our Net Creativity in the universe by raising productive offspring (even a quadraplegic with puff controls can be a creative addition to our species). Each of us, whether we realize it or not, is under contract with society as we choose to live according to society's rules in exchange for the protections of society. We have a responsibility to the species and our society to behave according to the rules agreed upon. Society has the responsibility to accomodate our needs in this contract, as well as it can. When we find that the contract doesn't work for us, we have to make a decision to behave outside the rules, or pay the costs of what society provides for us. Statutory laws are designed with a broad brush from the societal point of view. The individual needs to have enough education and wisdom to know when to push the envelope of those rules, and take the risks of such experimentation. I think the father acted according to the individual viewpoint, and morally, therefore, was correct. As a society, we should be able to examine the circumstances (jury/peers) with the social contract in mind and determine if this father broke the contract because the contract wasn't adequate, or if he broke it to disrupt all societal contracts (is he going to kill for other reasons?). Was his action for the intent of solving an individual problem, or creating a societal one? Was he committing self defense against the real threat of his future torment, or did he just take the easy way out?

    If we cover all killing as morally wrong, then how would we manage to continue our Empiric War for Democracy? (A.K.A. "Consumers vs. Everybody Else")

    G'day, eh?

     
  • At 1:46 p.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    Is the social contract something that we "agree" to or is it something that we are "forced" to accept? I refer of course to the Hobbsian analogy here as esposed in "Leviathan".

    Also, playing devil's advocate, isn't "democracy" another form of mob rule? If the will of the majority is considered what is "right" then we could say that if you have 51 white people and 49 black people and 51% of the people vote that slavery of blacks is okay, do we truly have a moral majority? I think not. Thus, again I ask if we are forced into the social contract or dragged along with the status quo? As many folks have pointed out in this discussion, we're not the Father here so can't truly know his thoughts. If we can use this reasoning here then could we also say "I can't relate to the gang banger who executed a rival gang member", so how then can we judge him/her?

    Perspective is an interesting thing through the eyes of the majority. For example, Americans who rose up to overthrow the British in the war of independence are known as being "patriots", even though they were rising up against the British authority who had established the colony in the first place. On the other hand, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was called a terrorist organisation, even though they were Irish people fighting against British occupation of Northern Ireland. These are observations, not judgments or evaluations.

     
  • At 3:54 p.m. , Blogger auntiegrav said...

    Democracy is mob rule. That is why the U.S. was created as a representative republic. The Senators were supposed to be chosen by the state legislatures, to create a chain of responsibility and a check on the mob rule (the representatives in Congress) in addition to the electoral college which was supposed to make up for the illiteracy of the mob.
    The difference between the gang banger is in the Net Creativity to the species, and the purpose of the death. If the purpose was to simply answer violence with violence, with no consideration of the societal rules, then there is no useful purpose to the death. If the resources involved and the people involved exhaust all other means of maintaining a net species diversity and usefulness, then a death may be the answer. Philosophically, there is no voting here. Just the general movement toward doing right things in accordance with our dominion over the world and our purpose of being useful to the universe. Sometimes, the individual has to make decisions which are not popular or easily defined, but they still have to be made. Courage is needed to bolster what little wisdom is available. The gangbanger uses neither to 'pop a cap'.

     
  • At 9:55 a.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    It's interesting how we say that we couldn't put ourselves in the Father's shoes in this example, yet we are quick to dismiss the reality of the Gang Banger. Doesn't the Gang Banger, in his/her mind, consider themself some form of Warrior? I know that is very much the mindset on Native gangs in this country, and I see this every day inside the maximum security prison in which I work. Their cause is not palatable to someone outside of the culture, but we are not in their shoes. I can say, as a Correctional Officer that we are at war with these gangs.

    As for the rest, I can't say my views on human nature are quite so idealistic. The Communist experiments of Eastern Europe failed because of human nature as Marxism morphed into Leninism and Stalinism - a far cry from a people's socialist paradise.

     
  • At 10:43 a.m. , Blogger auntiegrav said...

    Sorry, this is too long, I'll post it on my blog.

    All wars come from resource scarcity(or perceived). I think in the case of gangs, the resource we are at war over is respect and the assumed right to OPS (other people's status).

    I don't think of human nature as any different than other predators in the environment. Unfortunately, we don't acknowledge our animalness, but would rather come up with some kind of ethereal magic that is supposed to guide us right from wrong. In the natural world, evolution tries to push the envelope of form continuously, while the environment limits that expansion through competition, disease, or random disasters. The result is that species appear to be 'aiming' for some end result, ;snip;

     
  • At 11:04 a.m. , Blogger Stephaine said...

    Is this justice served? Unfortunately yes.

    Is the man guilty of murder? He ended someone else's life, therefore he is.

    Is this man morally/ethically wrong by way of is actions? by whose standards?

    Were the courts morally/ethically wrong in their sentencing? Ethically no.

    Was Science morally/ethically wrong in the preservation of child’s life? again by whose standards?


    Was this an appropriate/inappropriate outcome? It was both. It was appropriate because he broke the law and should be punished. If you start clouding laws with gray there will be anarchy. It was inappropriate because life is full of gray and there are times when it should be valid.

     
  • At 9:39 a.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    Stephanie, you've made some good points here. The only point that I really struggle with is your first one on "Justice served". By the book, the Courts followed the letter of the law. What one must ask, however, are all laws "just" and is justice tied to adherring to the letter of the law? For example, in many countries homosexuality was a criminal offence. Therefore one must ask, is that a "just" law? At one time the law stated that women, Natives, Blacks etc. were not "people" and thus didn't have the same rights as others such as voting - was this just? Aparatheid used to be the law of South Africa - was this a just law? The list goes on. So, in this case, to the letter of the present law, I'd agree that justice was served. But taking justice in a more universal sense, I'm not so certain...

     
  • At 7:38 p.m. , Blogger Stephaine said...

    I understand your struggle with my statement. I struggled as I wrote it. I took it black & white which is why I said unfortunately. I understand where you are going with your references to laws on Apartheid, voting and racism. However, I think they are different.

    In the case you stated, I can't help but wonder how the mother felt, where the doctor's stood on it, whether or not he did it as someone else pointed out because he couldn't stand to watch it. If the law is changed does it make it easier for someone else to get away with murder?

     
  • At 8:33 a.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    Where I work we tend to say that we are not part of the "justice system", but rather the "legal system". I guess that this is perhaps the most disconcerting aspect our society. Justice implies some kind of balance or resolution coming from an offense. I don't think that happens in most Western societies. Therefore we have a set of laws and prescribed consequences that don't necessarily take a holistic view of what lead up to and surrounded the offense, nor does it have a necessary verdict that aids the victims or adequately deals with the offender.

    If you can step outside of the Christian -Judeo perspective that dominates our society's views on life, how can we justify putting down a dog, but not a human (and trust me, I know the slippery slope this statement will raise!)? Is there a point where to allow one to go on living is more cruel than ending their life? There's no black and white answer here, I know, otherwise, we are back at setting "legal" rather than "just" mandates.

     
  • At 2:42 p.m. , Blogger Stephaine said...

    The problem is you could find one doctor who states let them go and another who tell you there is hope. What do you do than?

    I do think it is cruel to let people exist as opposed to live. I believe a doctor should be able to end a person's suffering. But what if the patients wife isn't ready to let them go? What if a parent isn't ready to let go of a child? There are so many what if's.

    What if someone is just tired of being someone's caretaker and kills them, then proceeds to say it was to end their suffering? How do we know what is in someone's mind/heart which is really what you need to know to decide if something is just.

     
  • At 4:27 p.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    I can't disagree with any of these points. Ultimately, I guess, we have to ask ourselves as to how we are to proceed as a society? Everything, including justice, is subconscious and regardless of the collective's size, it will never become the whole nor will it become black and white.

     

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