Why is there an ethical problem with capital punishment?

There is no problem of ethics involved in destroying cancerous cells in our bodies.

There is no ethical problem in destroying viruses and microbes which threaten disease.

There is no ethical problem in wiping out entire populations of plants and animals which we consider invasive, or threatening to other “native”plants or wildlife, even if humans are not directly threatened.

There is no ethical problem in killing any animal for food.

There is no ethical problem in culling animals – of any non-human species – if we believe their numbers are excessive.

There is no ethical problem in putting down domesticated but unwanted pets.

There is no ethical problem in police forces killing in performance of their duties.- as a last resort – perpetrators of crime.

There is – apparently – no ethical problem any longer in killing, or helping to kill, those elderly who are suffering great pain and have no quality of life remaining.

There is no longer an ethical problem – so the consensus goes – in the on-demand killing of unborn fetuses less than about 20 weeks old.

There is no ethical problem in soldiers of your own country killing soldiers of the enemy in times of conflict.

Why then, should there be any ethical problem in executing a German nurse who has confessed to killing over 100 patients while they were in intensive care? Or in executing an Anders Behring Breivik who glories in the 77 people he killed? Or executing Robert Bowers who killed 11 at a Pittsburgh synagogue?

The real point of capital punishment is not as a deterrent or as revenge or as redemption, but just the simple excision of a cancerous individual from the body politic.


 

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