Monday, 9 July 2007

Hullaballoo About Murderer's Leukemia Treatment

This story was brought to my attention when it was discussed on National Radio this afternoon.

Jason Reihana, 35, was sentenced in the High Court at Rotorua last month to life in jail with a non-parole period of 21 years. He was convicted of murdering Teresa Gunn, the mother of his two sons, and her new boyfriend Andrew Grabner in a frenzied knife attack.

It was reported yesterday that Reihana has leukaemia and will receive a bone-marrow transplant – at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of $1 million. (1)

It was discussed on Jim Mora's show, with Julia Hartley-Moore and John Bishop. I can't remember what John Bishop said, but Hartley-Moore managed to annoy me intensely.

Basically, she argued that as a double murderer we shouldn't treat him. H e had - yawn - given up his rights by becoming a killer. The surreal comparison was made to him being denied the right to vote. Apparently, because we exclude killers from our decisions about how we run our society, they can anlso be left to die, miserably.

Yeah, yeah, I know. He did that ... he deerves no better ... animal ... monster ... don't you understand what he did ... you think its okay ... he's laughing at us ... the victims got nothing, why should he ... All specious, bullshit arguments, attempts to manipulate emotions. That isn't how justice work. You don't deliver justice in a fit of rage or with desire for revenge eating you up.

Hartley-Moore misunderstands - deliberately, I think - the difference between civil rights and human rights. By committing murder, Reihana sacrificed his civil rights - the right to liberty, the right to vote, and so on. He remains a human being and, as such, retains the basic sub-stratum of rights we ascribe to human beings - one of them being the right to life. I suspect Hartley-Moore was angry that Reihana hadn't been given a death sentence and was advocating capital punishment by proxy, only it wouldn't really be proxy. We'd be culpable for his death, just as if we with-held food or water from him.

Ultimately, if we withhold treatment (Hartley-Moore said, with impressive lack of logic, that prisoners should receive routine care but nothing more) we kill him. Thankfully, in New Zealand we don't do that. Humane treatment of the worst and the wicked is how we demonstrate we're better than them. We don't give into our instinct to exact justice the way he did. We have laws and proceedures and a civilised standard of behaviour.

1 - Anger at $1m health bill for double killer, Dominion Post, 9th July 2007.

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