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An Interesting Idea From A Totally Badass Movie

In Movies, Science Fiction on April 22, 2010 at 8:34 am

A while ago I was watching Escape From New York, which I’d never seen. Short review: It was pretty good. But, that’s not what I want to rant about, really. At the beginning of the movie, Snake (Kurt Russel’s character) is being escorted through a prison office building, and a recording is playing over the loudspeakers. The recording says that before the prisoners are locked away, they have the option to be euthanized and cremated. In the context of the movie, it’s meant to seem creepy and sinister. However, I thought to myself, “How humane- that’s a pretty good idea.”

Really. I think that offering prisoners to off themselves would be a pretty good idea. What’s more, I think it’s the type of thing that both liberals and conservatives could get behind.

Liberals have a number of reasons to support voluntary criminal suicide. Physician assisted suicide is already in place (here in Oregon) and the option allows a greater degree of autonomy for people who are suffering. Those who are doomed to suffer ought to be able to take their own lives, be it because of a life-crushing disease, or a life inside the criminal justice system.

Conservatives ought to support voluntary criminal suicide as well. If someone supports capital punishment (as most conservatives do, and I, for the record, don’t) then they already have demonstrated that they are alright with criminals being killed via state-applied violence. They should also, then, be alright with criminals being killed via self-applied violence. While I can’t prove it, there’s also the possibility that prisoners killing themselves would save the criminal justice system a fair amount of money.

With this in mind, it’s ridiculous that criminals sentenced to death be put on suicide watch, or not allowed objects such as belts or pens. If anything, they should be able to say the guards “I would like to go now,” and then be allowed to press the lethal injection button themselves.

Not that I want to turn this into a rallying cry or anything, but in a sane society, I see no reason why criminals shouldn’t be given the very option that Snake and his fellow prisoners were. Turning Manhattan into a giant prison may have been kind of insane, but this detail was something they got right.

  1. Seems like that would incentivize the state in all the wrong ways…

  2. That's a very good point. However, I still think that an individual ought to have the option to off themselves if they so choose, particularly in reaction to grievous suffering. I still think that this option is (theoretically) ethically consistent with physician-assisted suicide.

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