Saturday, 21 August 2010

Eye for an eye

If someone had attacked you so violently you ended up paralysed, would it be a fitting punishment for the attacker to be paralysed in return? An eye for an eye, as it were?

A man who was left crippled after being hit with a meat cleaver asked a Saudi judge to sentence his assailant to surgical paralysis. The judge is now getting medical advice on whether this would be possible, before he decides what sentence to pass.

The paralysis could be induced by severing the man's spinal cord.

Apart from the question of whether any criminal, however serious the offence, should be subjected to such a gruesome and debilitating punishment, it is extraordinary that the victim should have a say in what punishment is meted out.

In most countries this would be a matter strictly for the judge, precisely because the victim might demand something utterly barbaric.

It is extraordinary too that the traditional "eye for an eye" attitude is still seen as a sensible legal principle. If the real cause of the attack is a fit of uncontrolled anger, how is physical paralysis the solution? Surely it can only breed bitterness and more anger?

I also wonder what surgeon with any conscience or humanity could possibly agree to deliberately paralyse a presumably fit and healthy man, simply because a judge decides it is an appropriate punishment. How could he live with himself afterwards?

18 comments:

kylie said...

i live alongside this type of attitude and the damage it causes is unbelievable.

apart from any other considerations how stupid would it be to put that extra cost on society?

Rummuser said...

A surgeon with similar conditioning that someone who will throw stones at a woman buried up to her neck in sand. Or similar to an executioner who will decapitate a convict's head. We live in very peculiar times Nick.

Nick said...

Kylie - I hadn't thought about the cost of looking after a disabled person, but of course that would be huge.

Ramana - You're right, there are plenty of grisly precedents for this sort of inhuman behaviour. Peculiar times indeed.

Wisewebwoman said...

A regressive global society that would invade sovereign countries without cause and murder millions of its citizens would condone this.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - On the other hand, some nations are quite capable of banning inhuman sentences in the name of civilised values while at the same time waging wars on other countries. Perpetual double-think.

Grannymar said...

What was it mammy said? "Two wrongs do not make a right"! I would hate to play God with another person's life.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Indeed, two wrongs don't make a right. I was thinking that as I wrote the post. And it's hard to think of anything more wrong than deliberately paralysing someone.

meno said...

You know, i really can't say how i would feel if it were me that was paralyzed by some criminal.

But it seems like it would be more fitting if he were somehow forced to care for a paralyzed individual.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I was profoundly influenced by Camus' "Reflexions on the Guillotine" when I was a teen. It was the first treatise I had read in which capital punishment was compared to murder, or an eye for an eye.

In recent years I have changed my position on occasion to accommodate criminals who molest and murder children, or whose crimes against others are so heinous that society would be endangered by their continued existence and the possibility of escape.

I think it's fair to say that the Saudis have a very different system than the ones you and I live under.

Nick said...

Meno - To sentence him to care for someone who's paralysed is an excellent idea. That would be very educational.

Heart - I still can't bring myself to support capital punishment, despite the sort of arguments you mention. It just seems to me too brutal and too risky (they might turn out to be innocent).

Macy said...

The main problem with retribution is that it is inconsistent.
If it is wrong for someone to maim or hurt another, it is also wrong for anyone else to do the same back to the perpetrator.
Justice has to be independent of both mob rule and vengeance.

Nick said...

Macy - Absolutely. And doing the same thing in return doesn't address the actual cause of the offence. It's just an act of revenge (or spite) as you suggest.

Baino said...

Ah well the East is a different world is it not? No, not a capital punishment or an eye for an eye believer myself, it makes the victim as vicious as the criminal. Not perhaps in this case, but in many, it could be the wrong person being recriminated against and there's no margin for error in these things.

Nick said...

Baino - Precisely, it makes the victim equally vicious. And as you say, there's no margin for error and no way of reversing such a drastic punishment.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Yes, exactly. They might turn out to be innocent, which is why I have serious issues with it. I think what I meant was that if I could endorse it, I would do so in such cases. But when I think of the mechanics of doing such a thing, I really can't.

Nick said...

Heart - I'm surprised there are so many Brits who still support capital punishment, given the arguments against (around 49% at the last count).

secret agent woman said...

I wonder the same thing about capital punishment - how do people live with committing murder, even if it is their "job?" When we torture, maim and kill in the name of justice we demean ourselves and sink into barbarism.

"An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind." Ghandi

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Absolutely. Torturing and killing is still just that, however much you dress it up in official justifications and legal routine.