Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ponder This One

Here is an interesting angle on the choice to die conundrum. Superficially, we have a person whose death is on the near horizon and, despite the wishes of family, wishes to take no action that might delay it or potentially even put it off indefinitely. The wrinkle in this case is that there is no medical reason for this person to die, only legal reasons. Specifically, it is about a death row inmate who does not wish to pursue further appeals.

Michael Ross, the inmate awaiting execution for the murder of eight women, has repeatedly expressed his wish to not fight any longer. His father and a state appointed lawyer argue that Ross is not competent to accept execution:
His relatives argue Ross suffers from "death row syndrome," in which a person's mental state is degraded by being on death row for a long period and he thinks it would be better to die.

There is a certain perversity at work here. Ross is incompetent to accept execution because he chooses to do so. Its a classic Catch-22. Pity the prison psychologist who has to say, "Go ahead and put him down, he wants to live." It is common that appeals are automatic for death penalty cases, but it seems to be going too far when not even the wishes of the condemned would be considered.

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