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 ...

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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