Justice? or Torture
Ian Brady, who tortured, raped and murdered five known victims nearly fifty years ago, was to attend a tribunal on Monday in the hope that he would be allowed to die. His hearing was postponed due to poor health caused by a seizure sustained last week.
He is being held under the Mental Health Act, which is what has justified him being forcibly kept alive against his will for the last twelve years, enduring painful force-feeding through his nostril on a daily basis, and is kept in isolation to the extent that he has not been exposed to sunlight in years. If he were no longer to be considered criminally insane, he could be moved to a Scottish establishment where he would be free to starve himself to death.
In recent days the news has been rife with stories retelling the horrific acts of Brady and his partner, Myra Hindley. What’s fascinating is that the debate surrounding his ‘deserved’ fate straddles the grey area between euthanasia and capital punishment – let alone suicide – and the amalgam of moral arguments for- and against- would make this a particularly contentious issue; yet, curiously, in all of my research I have been confronted with a unanimous opinion which I cannot understand.
I am not nor have I ever been a proponent of euthanasia or capital punishment under any circumstances. However, I am adamant that in the most humane sense, Ian Brady is literally better off dead.
What must be borne in mind is that the extent of his criminal history means that he has no hope of appeal, parole, or release on good behaviour. This man will either kill himself according to his will, or live out the rest of his life in torture, both a drain and a threat to all those around him and involved with his case; the emotional & psychological wellbeing of the victims’ loved ones; and the nation at large. Thousands of pounds of the taxpayer’s money are spent every week in force-feeding, and both prisons and hospital are overcrowded and understaffed as it is.
Now, I know many will argue that a utopian view is inappropriate here: the judge has made his ruling; the least that Brady deserves as a result of his multiple tortures and homicides is his own lifelong suffering. But after all these years, his life has already been artificially prolonged long beyond its natural end (according to his will at least). At what point to we cross the line between serving justice, and playing God? How is forcibly keeping someone alive, against their plainly and clearly stated wish to die, really so different from forcibly condemning someone to death, who plainly and clearly wishes to live? When are we going to stop, and choose to be more humane than he was to those children?
The biggest stumbling block for me is that Brady’s doctors and carers are under the same oath as every other health professional, they are sworn to keep their patients alive as long as possible. Usually this is of course an admirable goal, but Brady is a prisoner, and as such is already treated with different civil liberties to the average person – does this mean that even doctors should acquiesce to exceptions? This is really a whole different can of worms which doesn’t bear opening here and now.
I have heard this view to be described as ‘heretical’; but to those who would oppose this argument I would say: it’s not about appeasing the wishes of a criminal, it’s about making the right choice for everyone and for the future, rather than desperately clutching onto old grudges at the expense of many more than this one man.