, Research Paper
In the case Queen versus Dudley and Stephens the criticism that is most applicable is the third one about moral inconsistencies in the law. In this case the law teaches us that, in a situation such as the one Dudley and Stephens found themselves in, it is more moral to sacrifice our lives than to preserve it. Lord Coleridge confesses that ‘we are often compelled to set [moral] standards we cannot ourselves satisfy’ . However, in other cases such as assisted suicide cases where moral inconsistency in the law is also the most relevant criticism, we observe that the law in fact punishes people that appear more moral than others. For example, Kevorkian is convicted of assisted suicide while Campbell is not. Our moral intuition hopes for the conviction of Campbell rather than that of Kevorkian. In addition to this moral inconsistency, the moral notion of the sanctity of human life, that deems suicide to be immoral, conflicts with the fact that there is no legal punishment for suicide. And for those that believe suicide is not immoral then how can the act of assisting someone in committing suicide be deemed as immoral and punishable by law? Finally, the disbelief that individuals may want to want to commit suicide lends support to the criticism there are moral inconsistencies in the laws that need to be rectified.
The major distinction in the courts differing verdicts in the two assisted suicide cases lies mainly in the fact that Kevorkian is present at the murder scene while Campbell was not. Further, the deceased in Kevorkian’s case had the intention of killing herself before her meeting with Kevorkian. On the other hand, Campbell induced his friend’s intention to commit suicide.
The cases of battered women who kill clearly indicate that the law fails to adequately outline what is justified killing and what is not. In most battered women cases the jury uses its discretion to determine whether there is imminent danger in order to conclude whether the women have acted in self-defense. Moreover, the jury often fails to distinguish between imminent and immediate danger, which leads to an erroneous verdict. Justice C.J. Prager writes in his dissenting opinion of the Stewart case that even though Stewart’s husband was sleeping when she killed him she was under imminent danger. And that the state must keep in mind the mental situation of the defendant as a battered woman rather than as a reasonable woman. Unfortunately, the law cannot satisfactorily help battered women since turning to the law would only increase the violence prevalent in such households. Yet, the law, as seen in the Stewart case, exerts its presence when Stewart is convicted for taking the law into her own hands. In the Yaklich case, Judge Rothenberg states that it is impossible to justify a murder-for-fire case even if there was imminent danger. But imminent danger implies grounds for self-defense. And self-defense implies the justification to kill. Yet hiring, which is analogous to assisting, in killing for self-defense is deemed unjustified.