Why We Have the Death Penalty

This guy seems like a good reason.

If he were in the USA I think he would have been sentenced to death or life without parole or 4 consecutive life sentences. No way would he be eligible for parole in 30 years. He’s only 32 years old.

Also, it appears he worked for the NHS. IIRC so did Shipman, the monstrous mass-murdering physician. What a surprise.

Everybody knows that you have to carefully screen people who apply to be schoolteachers, cops or prison guards, but how about a little more psych review for hospital employees? Hospitals are playgrounds for clever psychopaths. Some elderly patients die. Who suspects?

This kind of event, of which I am sure many more go undetected, is by itself a strong reason not to allow physicians to engage in euthanasia. The scope for abuse, even by practitioners who mean well, is extremely high. In my experience, people who favor institutionalizing euthanasia a la the Netherlands never consider the likelihood that the system will be abused. It’s like handling lit blowtorches around open pools of gasoline.

UPDATE: In the comments, Tim Worstall says that I misunderstood the meaning of “eligible for parole” in the British system. However, from his description it sounds similar to the US system (which nonetheless varies from state to state). How close are the similarities? And how likely is it that the subject of the article I linked to will actually be released at some point?

7 thoughts on “Why We Have the Death Penalty”

  1. You slightly misunderstand what a life sentence means in the UK. You never actually get “parole”, although you can be released on licence. What that means is that you still have the life sentence hanging over you. You can be called back in to serve it at any time (and it does happen).
    The 30 years is the minimum tariff he must serve before he is even considered for release on licence.
    Minor difference perhaps but one that all too many trip over.
    It isn’t 30 years and then he’s out. It’s 30 years and then maybe we’ll think about it, and even if he is let out then he can be dragged back in again just for looking at someone a bit funny.

  2. I think the English system is pretty much the functional equivelent of the American system. People must serve a minimum sentence before being considered for parole. When they do get parole, they can in theory remain under supervision for the length of their original sentence.

    The “angel of death” phenomenon (an actual technical term for a specific type of serial killer) is very real and more common than those of use who find ourselves immobilized in a hospital bed would like to think. I’m not sure euthanasia would worsen the phenomenon because the entire allure for the angel of death lies in abrogated to themselves to power to decide who lives and who dies. If its accepted practice, it would take all the fun out of it.

    I think a bigger threat from routine euthanasia would be the evolution toward viewing geriatric patients as disposable annoyances. There’s already a lot of discussion of how elderly receive inferior care simply because medical personnel find it unpleasant and boring to care for them. Imagine the dynamic, imagine the dynamic if those medics find themselves thinking, “jeeze, I wish that just give this old fart the needle and get it over with.”

  3. Sorry, but I’m firmly against the death penalty, even for such apparent scum as this. Miscarriages of justice abound, and who’s to say one won’t be found here?

  4. FWIW, I oppose it as well, partly for the irrevocable nature of a mistake but mostly for the public-choice theory implications; letting bureaucrats bury their mistakes takes things to a whole new level. My opposition to the death penalty, however, is less than fanatical, thanks to:

    – its imposition by (usually) juries rather than judges
    – its rarity; the ratio of homicides to executions in the US is well over 100:1
    – ongoing quality-assurance efforts (the Innocence Project) and DNA validation in general

  5. I’m against long-term imprisonment. Mistakes happen far too often, and were I on a jury I wouldn’t want it on my conscience that I sent an innocent woman to prison for thirty years.


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