Wisdom and Wanderings

a dish of political and personal rants with a side order of curiosity

Month: June, 2013

Ian Brady: Right to Die?

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As I write this, Ian Brady is in court attempting to gain the right to be moved to a prison in which he hopes he will no longer be force fed and allowed to die on his own terms. The contentious issue is his sanity: he’s a diagnosed schizophrenic, but Dr. Adrian Grounds who has interviewed the man on numerous occasions over the last decade argues that he feigned symptoms of the mental illness by mimicking patients around him. Brady now claims that he is absolutely sane, and hopes to be moved to a prison facility as opposed to a mental hospital.

Should Brady be allowed to commit suicide? I find it interesting that while a significant proportion of the population advocate the death penalty (regardless of the mental state of the criminal), and during the trial of the Moors Murderers there was a demand for the return of the death penalty, we seem to be, for the most part, refusing this man the right to die. In 2011 Andrew Turner, Conservative MP gave Ian Brady as a prime example of when the death penalty would be appropriate. I’m surprised by the lack of advocacy for Brady’s choice. I suspect it may be on the grounds that we generally don’t want prisoners to make any decisions for themselves, regardless of how appealing the outcome of that decision may seem to us: if he gets his own way, we’ll see it as a victory for a man we want to see constantly fail. If Brady were to beg for more life, if he was receiving state of the art medical care to keep him alive, perhaps there would be an equal uproar.

I personally believe that assisted suicide or euthanasia, under the right circumstances and sufficiently approved, ought to be legal in the UK. I believe that this is a case where a man, who has refused to be fed for over 10 years, coherently knows that he wishes to die. I’m not saying I’m on the side of a Moors murderer, I’m saying I’m on the side of a human being who has made up his mind about his own life: he’s not going to be able to reform himself or change his outlook. He cannot integrate into a normal prison life – he’d be subject to violence and besides, he’s a sociopath. Ian Brady needs to be allowed to go through to courts and speak for himself in order to be given the right to have control over his own existence.

Obviously, I don’t know this case back to front, I’m not sitting in court today listening to the testimonies. If anyone can comment or add something to this post I’d be glad to hear contributions. I’m only speaking on the basis of my own beliefs about the right to life and death, and in addition to my perception that Ian Brady is sufficiently mentally coherent to make such decisions over his own life.

Solitary Confinement

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This is quite harrowing and thought provoking. Many do not know the extent of the use of solitary confinement and the impact which it has. It’s not just putting a prisoner in a padded cell for a few hours till they calm down.

Solitary confinement amounts to torture: humans developed the ability to communicate for survival, the way we develop, connect and function is based upon integration into some sort of society, be that in a prison community or a family. To take that away from someone – no matter what they have done, be that their political views or their criminal record – is simply inhumane. Now I know a lot of people will say ‘as soon as you kill another person/commit x atrocity you revoke your human rights’ but, we must remember that not all murderers/’bad people’ are entirely sound in the head. Behavioural influences from childhood have an enormous impact on a person, and I cannot believe that a person who is genetically sound and has had an average upbringing willingly commits wrongful acts. But that’s a whole other subject. The point is, just because one person may have violated another persons human rights, what then gives the law makers and prison wardens the right to then become that violator?

Further mentally isolating a criminal is not the correct way to deal with people in such situations. We need to show that we are willing to rehabilitate prisoners. Even on a small scale, nurturing and educating them so they may give something back to society from behind the bars. Some prisoners have gone on to write serious academic papers through schemes which allow this. I’m well aware that many refuse to actively participate in rehabilitation schemes, but is it ever justified to simply say ‘right, I’m taking away every option you could possibly have and shoving you in a concrete cell’? It’s almost as inhumane as the death penalty.

I’m only speaking here for solitary confinement in standard prisons. When it’s done on political grounds in foreign countries that’s an even bigger issue, and if you’re interested I urge you to check out Amnesty International‘s website as they do a lot of work on this. I know this is a big political rant but we have to fight to end injustice, whether it’s overseas or in our own countries,
and we have to start now.

Nazi Nuns!

Well, not quite, but this is a really interesting bit of speculation on church involvement in the Holocaust. I say dig open to old church files and let us all know the secrets (I’ve been desperate to root around in the church archives since I read a Dan Brown book about 10 years go…that might not have been particularly accurate, but I’m sure there’s a lot of dirt!)

Check it all out here.