How to Kill a Human Being

There was a touch of irony in the simultaneous broadcasting of BBC2‘s Horizon programme How to Kill a Human Being, and STV‘s Taggart offering of the Judgement Day episode at the same time. In the former, Conservative MP Michael Portillo was searching for a ‘perfect’ method of killing, or rather executing, and individual, while in the latter, a group of Senior Citizens in Glasgow were completing the final stages of a Suicide, or more accurately Euthanasia Pact, which had been (wrongly) interpreted as a series of murders.

I freely admit to giving politicians as a group a hard time, the game they play of trading ‘smart’ comments at one another’s expense to gain political is tiresome, but having seen Portillo’s research and personal involvement in the tests shown in the programme (he could easily have used a younger volunteer) think he’s earned some respect.

I think the first thing that struck me was that there were no surprises in the programme, and that all the points that I had mulled over in my previous post came to pass…

Both the spokesman for the Pro-Death-Penalty people in America, and the inventor of the Lethal Injection confirmed the Revenge aspect of the penalty. Neither was in the least concerned that current execution methods are undoubtedly painful – one said ‘So what?”, while the other positively relished the possibility, and was clearly of the opinion The More The Better. Both are clearly strangers to the term ‘Miscarriage of Justice’, and both are clearly blind to the fact that in carrying out executions in this way, The State renders itself little better than those it is despatching – in fact, the only difference then is that their murder is legal.

Probably the most telling part of the whole programme was the Pr0-Death spokesman’s response to Portillo’s description of a quick and painless death by hypoxia also resulting in a feeling of euphoria in the seconds before death – he thought that was “Terrible” and the lack of pain and suffering was all but an insult to the family of the victim. Again, we see Revenge is the real motivator of these people, not the completion of the Death Sentence imposed by the court.

Another aspect that was apparent, even though it was not highlighted as such in the programme, was the simple observation that when it came to the State execution of Humans, there didn’t seem to be much controlling legislation or documentation, yet when the matter of euthanising animals was addressed, the list of documentations and controlling regulations and requirements was… quite long.

The overall outcome of the programme was nothing more that a sad indictment of society today, when in 2008 there are still influential groups who cannot conceive of the duty that the State has to make sure it is both neutral and compassionate. While the Death Penalty stays on the books, the State has a duty to carry that sentence out. Despite the veiled lust for revenge the the Pro-Death movement fosters, there is no Torture and Death Penalty, and the State, if it needs to carry out this final sanction should be using a method such as hypoxia – if nothing else, it would appear to be a simpler and cheaper method of execution than any other currently in place, and is also fast and guaranteed, something else that the incumbent fail to provide. It also addressed a degree of ‘comfort’ – if that can in any way describe the absolute and utter despair, dismay, disbelief and horror that must accompany the last few seconds of life that all too many innocent people have experienced at the moment they were wrongly put to death, a death punctuated by pain and terror.

This is simply something that the State should not sanction if it takes on the responsibility for ending someone’s life, guilty or not.


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