Words almost failed me when I read this story, but pretty quickly I found some words.
Short version: Elderly woman has a fall and is paralyzed and also in a lot of pain. (Yes, we have a problem with pain management in our medical system.) She keeps saying she wants to die. Her also elderly husband gets a gun, loads the gun, kisses her one last time while she's asleep in the hospital, and shoots her dead. He also tries to kill himself, but the gun jams, so he's still alive. After long pondering, the prosecutor declines to prosecute (we're not talking recommending mercy upon conviction but declining to prosecute altogether) and issues an ethically and legally incoherent statement saying that the man isn't a murderer and that's why he isn't prosecuting but that the refusal to prosecute is in no way an endorsement of assisted suicide.
This is in Nevada, by the way. Not in Belgium, Switzerland, or even England.
Yes, Mr. Woodbury (that's the prosecutor), this is murder, and yes, your refusal to prosecute does functionally endorse not only assisted suicide but also euthanasia.
Herewith some choice quotes:
Woodbury, who took office a year after the shooting occurred, cited evidence that Frances Dresser expressed a desire to no longer live, her family's request that her husband not be prosecuted and William Dresser's medical condition as reasons that a prosecution isn't warranted.
So the fact that she expressed a desire to die is being treated as legally relevant. Think that has something to do with euthanasia and assisted suicide, maybe?
In an interview, Woodbury said his ultimate goal was to achieve a "just result."
"I didn't view there being any component of evil to his act of killing," Woodbury said. "We can talk about judgment, and morally whether it was a right or wrong decision, but I didn't view any aspect of it as evil. That's truly the component you need to have in a murder case is an evil motive and we didn't have that."
Um, no, sorry, false, Mr. Woodbury. It is possible to commit murder without an "evil motive." If Miss Smith thinks that babies go to heaven and kills a bunch of babies because she thinks it's such a happy thing to send them to heaven without sin, that's still murder even though her motive is to send babies to heaven. This ought to be Criminal Law 101 stuff. And if the absence of an "evil motive" means you haven't committed murder, then no euthanasia whatsoever can ever be murder.
Woodbury also said his decision to seek a dismissal should not be interpreted to mean assisted suicide is acceptable. Rather, the facts of this specific case justified the decision, he said.
"We also wanted to be very cautious to not set a precedent that assisted suicide was tolerated in Carson City," he said. "My role as a prosecutor is not to make the law or those type of policy decisions. It's up to the Legislature to take that kind of act."
You wanted to be very cautious? Newsflash, Mr. Woodbury, you weren't being very cautious!
Let me point out that assisted suicide was functionally legalized in England by the prosecutor's office by issuing "guidance" stating that they would not prosecute in cases where such-and-such conditions applied. That is functional legalization. Woodbury is just one step short of that because he's leaving the element of uncertainty in place, but it should be pretty easy to extrapolate other circumstances where his heartstrings would also be tugged at, where he would conclude there was no "evil motive," and where he would also decline to prosecute. Vulnerable people in his jurisdiction just became that much more vulnerable.
Dresser, who was released from jail shortly after his arrested 18 months ago, is suffering from advanced-stage prostate cancer. His treatment costs about $64,000 a year, a cost that would be borne by the state if he were to be found guilty and imprisoned, according to Woodbury's motion.
So the prosecutor took that into consideration?? The cost of treating a person if he's imprisoned?
"My grandmother was strong-willed, vibrant, curious about the world, charming, perceptive, very funny, and smart," her eldest grandchild wrote, according to court documents. "She loved nature. She loved to tap her feet to good music and hold her great-grandchildren close to her. It is impossible to imagine her living without those pleasures, without her basic human dignity, and in a state of constant physical pain."
This is straightforward assisted suicide talk and euthanasia talk. There is absolutely no distinction between this sort of talk of the patient's having no "basic human dignity" and about its being "impossible to imagine her living" in such-and-such a state and the Hemlock Society's propaganda. In fact, if you told me that this grandchild belongs to Hemlock, I'd believe you immediately. He's certainly doing their work for them, anyway.
"William Lyle Dresser killed his wife, but he is not a murderer," Woodbury wrote in the motion. "He saw his wife of 63 years immobile in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down, suffering with no hope of improvement, facing a short existence not remotely resembling a life she cared to live. So he ended that life. And he ended that suffering."
Well, thanks, Mr. Woodbury, we'll bear that in mind the next time someone is suffering. We'll just shoot him in the chest and end that suffering.
A judge can actually force the prosecution to proceed:
Judge John Tatro will decide whether to accept the motion or pursue prosecution.
I can perhaps understand recommending clemency at the sentencing stage in view of the murderer's age and feebleness. But that should be strictly distinguished from the idea that he didn't commit murder because he was committing a "mercy killing." So-called mercy killing is still murder, and the lives of those who are suffering are devalued by saying that it is not.
Woodbury is wrong. Dead wrong. Mr. Dresser is a murderer. A confused murderer. A wanna-be-merciful murderer. An elderly murderer deserving of pity. But a murderer nonetheless. We must never lose sight of that, or we lose sight of the value of the lives of those who are suffering. They need help and care, not a lethal injection or bullets to the chest.