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Dead Serious – why we need to talk about Capital Punishment, Suicide & Euthanasia

American novelist Ernest Hemingway famously said; all stories, if continued far enough, end in death.”

Well, duh.

But death is a discussion the world really needs to have.

I want to talk about only three kinds; two are state-controlled and the third is very much of concern to governments and society.

Not that the myriad other forms of death aren’t important.

They are; death in war, in terrorist attacks, through sheer poverty, preventable disease, hunger, through domestic violence, and so on.

The world is a dangerous place and there’s no shortage of ways to die.

All of these are deaths the world needs to talk about.

But so are capital punishment, voluntary euthanasia and suicide, my topics today.

And yet so often we don’t.

These deaths are somehow more challenging, more polarising, more painful.

Bali Nine conspirators Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will almost certainly die soon by an Indonesian police firing squad; shot through the heart from a distance of 5-10 metres.

Should they survive the initial salvo, a designated subordinate will then press the muzzle of his gun on the prisoner’s head and fire a “finishing shot.”

This is capital punishment at its most savage, stripped bare.

Worldwide, the statistics are unequivocal; capital punishment is not a deterrent.

It doesn’t work.

Most often it’s advanced by people and courts that can’t tell the difference between justice and revenge.

Watch virtually any Hollywood action film you can name if you want to see how much trouble Americans seem to have with that particular distinction.

Papa Hemingway, of course, wrote his own last line with a shotgun.

That was suicide.

On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world.

Global suicide rates have increased 60% in the past 45 years.

Who knows how many of those who kill themselves would have had regrets; would have made a different choice, perhaps only moments later?

The effect on society is incalculable.

And then there’s the right to die for people who are facing terminal illness, euthanasia.

Should it be a right?

Many people directly affected say “yes.”

Author Sir Terry Pratchett – who died recently and whose brilliant mind entertained millions – was one.

Pratchett said he wanted the right and the means to end his life when those extraordinary gifts were diminished by his relentless Alzheimers Disease.

So, please, let’s have these important discussions.

For the record, my own views.

I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases, with the one exception of Top Gear presenters whose initials are Jeremy Clarkson. (OK, so perhaps I just mean enforced silence rather than actual death.)

On suicide, I think – sadly – some people make a sane and rational decision to end their own lives.

That said, emotions are mercurial and I would urge anyone with even the vaguest notion of suicide to get professional counselling.

Death – as far as we know – is permanent.

Sometimes the feelings that drive people to kill themselves are not.

And the right to die?

I believe it is a right.

My own mother – with her whole family present – took this course in the bravest way imaginable.

Who better than the person who is suffering – assuming they’re mentally competent and not being coerced – to make that final decision?

Or we could all just follow the lead of the eccentric comic Steven Wright, who said; “ I plan to live forever. So far, so good.”

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