"What's black and white and read all over?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Posted 5:57 PM by

Death be not proud, but should be

Death skipped lunch, but took a short coffee break this afternoon during a busy day for the Grim Reaper.A lot of death and dying in the news today.

First off, California executed Clarence Ray Allen on his 76th birthday early this morning after the U.S. Supreme Court refused a stay and Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger refused clemency. Allen's lawyers had argued he was too old and infirm to be put to death.

Allen had to be lifted out of his wheelchair to be put into the death chamber. He was blind, mostly deaf, suffered from diabetes and had a nearly fatal heart attack in September only to be revived and returned to death row.

I have little sympathy for him, though.

While serving a life sentence for having his teenage son's 17-year-old girlfriend murdered for fear she would tell police about a grocery-store burglary, Allen got the death penalty for hiring a hit man who killed a witness and two bystanders in the first case.

He finally got the justice he deserved. Unfortunately, non-criminals in the U.S. may have to wait a while to get similarly humane life-ending treatment.

That's because the Supreme Court today upheld an Oregon law permitting physician assisted suicide, shooting down the Bush administration's argument that federal drug laws bar the state's doctors from prescribing lethal doses of prescription medicines.

The 6-3 ruling is legal only in Oregon. But the Supremes' ruling should encourage other states to consider copying the law, which has been used to end the lives of more than 200 seriously ill people.

As far as I'm concerned, hospices and hospitals across the nation should be given that right so people wanting a quicker end can find peace surrounded by their loved ones.

Until that happens in Michigan, though, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who flouted state and federal laws to help ease the end for terminally ill patients, will remain in prison, where his lawyers fear he will soon die.

Massachusetts' highest court also eased the passing today of an 11-year-old girl in a permanent vegetative state, ruling the state could withhold her life support after she was allegedly kicked and beaten nearly to death with a baseball bat by her adoptive mother and stepfather.

The adopted mom committed suicide and the stepfather,fearing a murder charge, had argued he should be the one to decide if a feeding tube should be withdrawn.

"To recognize the petitioner as a de facto parent, in order that he may participate in a medical end-of-life decision for the child, is unthinkable in the circumstances of this case," the Supreme Judicial Court correctly found.

It will be a far better end than that of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush. He died in 2003 at the hands of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. during an interrogation into the general's financing of the Iraqi insurgency.

Prosecution documents presented during the second day of Welshofer's court martial for murder say Mowhoush had been placed headfirst in a sleeping bag and bound, and that he died with one officer sitting on him. The documents say an electrical cord may also have been involved but did not say how.

The defense is arguing that the technique was approved by Welshofer's commander, that Welshofer was under intense pressure to extract information and that Mowhoush died of a heart attack not suffocation as an autopsy report said.

The prosecutor, Capt. Elana Matt, said Welshofer failed in his obligation as a soldier to take the "moral high ground," and she asked jurors to hold him accountable.

The same logic should be applied to Welshofer's commander in chief, President Bush, who still claims the U.S. isn't torturing prisoners of his war on terror.


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