Pubdate: Wed, 06 Oct 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: William A. Collins 
Note: William A. Collins is a former mayor of Norwalk and a free-lance writer.


So Harry Kiernan of Glastonbury has finally been convicted. The judge says
he helped his wife commit suicide. The jury in his previous trial said he
didn't, but since they were not unanimous, the prosecutor had the right to
try him again.

The first thing we know about Kiernan is that, guilty or not, he's stupid.
Or maybe crazy. No sane man with an IQ high enough to keep him out of an
institution would choose a judge over a jury. Juries have the right to be human.

The old saying that "no jury would convict him" seems on target here.
Kiernan's wife, Denise, had multiple sclerosis real bad. There was no
dignity left in her life, but lots of pain. She told everyone that she was
eager to die, and despite the pain and indignity, she still had all her marbles.

Even if Kiernan did help her, it would have been a rare jury that thought
punishing him would serve justice.

Let's hope Judge John Maloney, who found him guilty on the facts, now feels
the same. Perhaps he could sentence Kiernan to a week of Happy Meals at
McDonald's. That would surely make him ponder his deed.

But the real villain in this drama is the prosecutor, Kevin Murphy. One
wonders what sort of monster this man must be.

The case against Kiernan had been adequately resolved. The decedent's
fervent wish had been granted. Lives had returned to normal. Pointless
suffering had ended. God seemed to be in his Heaven. But Murphy, for
whatever ignoble reason, decided to reopen the wound.

Judge Maloney should discipline him with a year of Happy Meals. Who knows
how many real criminals have gone unprosecuted because of the time wasted on
Kiernan. We know that staff shortages are desperate in the courts.

Unfortunately, America's religious fervor against assisted suicide does not
end with Harry Kiernan. In Congress, House Judiciary chairman (and most
prominent moral hypocrite) Henry Hyde is trying to overturn the human
suicide law in Oregon. Hyde wants to defrock any doctor who uses
prescription drugs to help some miserable wretch legally end it all. Since
prescription drugs are the best vehicle for painless deliverance, such a law
would instantly override Oregon's two remarkable pro-suicide referendums.
Not to mention all the careful procedures the state has dutifully put in
place to implement them.

Locally, press reports suggest that both our senators, Chris Dodd and Joe
Lieberman, are on Hyde's side in seeking to undo Oregon.

Meanwhile, up north, the state of Maine is conducting a fierce referendum
battle in hopes of joining Oregon. The Roman Catholic Church is focusing its
considerable national resources in fending that off. The tiny Hemlock
Society is sanity's chief sponsor.

Curiously, it is our country's Draconian drug laws that push many sufferers
over the brink to suicide. Often their pain can only be controlled by big
doses of narcotics, but the Drug Enforcement Administration sets stern
limits on the size of doses a doctor may prescribe. Thus doctors, fearful of
losing their license, under prescribe to dying patients, leaving them in
fearsome pain. The DEA worries that they'll become addicted.

Do common sense and mercy on this issue exist anywhere in the world? Well,
yes. In Holland. The Dutch have figured out both drugs and suicide. That
should be a serious comfort for them as each individual's end draws near.

In Connecticut we prefer suffering.

William A. Collins is a former mayor of Norwalk and a free-lance writer.
Readers may write him at 32 Allen Road, Norwalk 06851.

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