Sunday, October 02, 2011

Lili's moral dilemma for the day

I'm watching a show on TV about some truly horrible murders, and it appears that they are all the work of one man. How he is treated by the legal system hinges on the question of sanity - if judged insane he will be kept in a mental institution, but with the possibility of release at a later date, which no one wants, as no one, besides some deluded prison shrink, believes that anyone who did such crimes could ever become safe to have free in society. If he's judged to be sane and not too mentally impaired to be tried he could be tried, found guilty and jailed. One would hope he's be given a very long sentence (one would hope).

The problem is that there's a large tricky territory in between insane or intellectually disabled and normal enough to stand trial. No one believes that this man is "normal". Clearly there is something horribly wrong with this man. The chattering classes love to debate about nature versus nurture, but I've seen with my own eyes, just from watching the TV show, clear and untamperable physical evidence that this man has an inborn physical abnormality, possibly a genetic syndrome and could well have been born with physical abnormalities throughout his body. Physical or mental abnormalities were not mentioned in the news report that I watched, but I know that such things aren't always obvious. A baby born with a chunk missing from the heart as the result of a genetic syndrome will have a clear medical problem that will most likely be detected early and fixed surgically, but what about the babies with genetic syndromes whose missing pieces are missing from their brains? The intellectually impaired psychopathic spree killer Martin Bryant was never given a clear diagnosis, even though I believe there is a major birth defect associated with learning disability in his family history, a red flag for a genetic syndrome in the family tree if ever there was one. Consider another infamous Australian serial killer, Eric Cooke, who has born with parts missing (hare lip and cleft palate). I don't think this is just a coincidence. I believe Cooke had an alcoholic and also a disabled person in his immediate family.

So, what is the right thing to do? Shut up and join in with the mass pretence that all criminals are normal people just like everyone else, the only differences between them and us being moral choices? Should we dare to look at the link between inborn disability and criminality, at the risk of stigmatizing law-abiding disabled people, and at the risk of inciting unwarranted reactions that involve negative eugenics? Is it right to punish a person for being born with important bits missing from their genone? That hardly seems fair, as it wasn't their choice. Who should be held responsible for such situations? The mother? The mother's doctor? Until our society develops a secure and appropriate way of dealing with people like Bryant and other fundamentally impaired dangerous criminals, what are we do do with such people?

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