Assisted suicide in prison?
The prison suicide of Harold Shipman, a British doctor who became one of the worst serial killers of all time, has resulted in a surprising campaign to promote more suicides.
Britain's Inspectorate of Prisons says that the suicide rates in U.K. jails are about two a week, and some pundits want to see it climb even higher.
Much of the controversy stems from British Home Secretary David Blunkett's response to Shipman's death. "You wake up and you receive a phone call—Shipman's topped himself," he said last week. "You have just got to think for a minute: is it too early to open a bottle? And then you discover that everybody's very upset that he's done it."
But knowing that you'll spend the rest of your life in a cell is "a horrifying way for any human being to die, whatever they may have done," Mark Leech writes in Sunday's Independent. "For 'whole life' prisoners who have no hope there has to be a more humane way out of life, where intent can be independently verified and clarity of thought confirmed, where individuals can say their 'goodbyes' and with dignity check out of a life they no longer have the will to live."
Harry MacKenney, who was given a "whole life" sentence before being cleared of murder, made the same argument in widely quoted remarks to Leech's ConVerse Monthly Prison News. "The 20-odd people who are in the position that I was in ought to be given a way out by the State instead of festering in prison year after year only to die a horrible death at the end of ripped bedsheets dangling from their cell bars," he said. "I had reached such depths of absolute despair that I was prepared to sacrifice the whole of my future rather than spend one more day in prison but I did not have the courage ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more