Should prisoners with a life-sentence be given euthanasia option?

By Efrosini Costa

Should prisoners with a life-sentence be given euthanasia option?
An Australian euthanasia campaigner has called for prisoners who are jailed with no prospect of release to be given the option of euthanasia.

The controversial call by the equally controversial Phillip Nitschke, comes after a court in Belgium granted a murderer the right-to-die.

Convicted killer Frank van den Bleeken, was first imprisoned at 21 years of age for sexual offences. He was later released and then raped and killed a 19-year-old.

Having been released several years later Van den Bleeken again attacked three people within weeks – including an 11-year-old girl – before being locked up indefinitely, confined to 23 hours a day in a  tiny prison cell.

But now he has been granted a peaceful death at the hands of prison doctors. van de Bleeken asked for euthanasia option rather than face what he described as ‘the unbearable psychological suffering of life in jail’.

The move, which has paved the way for at least 15 other similar requests from other inmates, has been applauded by euthanasia advocate Dr Nietshcke.

When I first heard that the prisoner was going to be allowed to have his request to have a peaceful death respected, I was very pleased in the sense that it was something that I’ve believed for some time – that a person who is incarcerated for an indefinite period and that’s certainly his case [should be able to have the option of euthanasia],” he said in an interview with an Australian radio station.

Nitschke even believes that a similar option should be available to those jailed indefinitely in Australia too.

“It looks to me like the state is not only prepared to incarcerate people forever in certain circumstances, but to try and maximise the suffering of those individuals, and I don’t think we should have any part of that, at least in these situations, offer these poor people the option of a peaceful death.

“To me, that’s equivalent to torture and I think it’s something that the state should not be involved in. We’ve had a couple of examples here.

“I was contacted by Jonothan Horrocks, a lifer in Barwon Prison, over a decade ago asking me about this very issue.

“We’ve got prisoners in South Australian jails, the Snowtown murderers, deemed never to be released and in those situations even an attempt recently to access basic communications with pen pals in other countries was denied by the state.”

Nitschke is alreayd in hot water after an investigation was launched by Australian police into his role in nearly 20 deaths over the past three years in almost every state.

But the campaigner seemed unfased brushing off questions about the controversy, simply saying:

“I run an organisation … its purpose is to make sure that people can access a peaceful death at the time of their choosing. So its not surprising, I guess, that many of our members take that opportunity.”

What do you think, should Euthanasia be an option for prisoners? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.


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