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Opening Arguments

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When it comes to assisted suicide, most jurisdictions in this country still make it a crime (34 states, including Indiana,  explicitly by aw, and nine through common law).  Three staters (North Carolina, Utah and Wyoming) have abolished the common law of crimes and have no statutes criminalizing assisted suicide. In Ohio, the state Supreme Court has ruled that assisted suicide is not a crime. In Virginia, there is no clear case law, but there are civil sanctions against assisted suicide. And some places are beginning to experiment with going totally the other way with legally approved physician-assisted suiced (Oregon, Washington). So, basically, we're muddling our way through between denial (some terminally ill loved ones are always going to seek and get help, and the law has to take some note of that fact) and a dangerous encouragement of the practice that goes way too far beyone mere tolerance.

This is how they're handling it in the UK:

LONDON -- Britain's top prosecutor published new guidelines Thursday spelling out what types of assisted suicide cases were more likely to face prosecution, keeping the practice illegal but finding some leeway for suspects not to be charged.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said assisted suicide still remains a serious offense punishable by up to 14 years in prison, but said prosecution is least likely when the suspect is wholly motivated by compassion.

The new guidelines, reached after extensive input from the public - nearly 5,000 Britons commented - also stress that prosecution is less likely when victims themselves have reached a clear, voluntary and informed decision to end their life by suicide.

As a libertarian, I've often written with scorn about laws that are generally ignored or only sporadically enforced. A civilized society has to have a system of law that is respected, and the way to earn that respect is with clarity, uniformity and consistency. But my initial reaction is that Britain's approach is a defensible one. Assisted suicide is still a crime, but some common sense is used in enforcing the law.

And here, from Randolph County, is a case illustrating why it's a good idea to keep the crime on the books:

WINCHESTER, Ind. — An eastern Indiana man arrested in his parents' deaths told investigators they had "made a plan" for him to fatally shoot his father and help his ailing mother overdose on medication, according to a court document filed in the case.

Brian "Scott" Hartman, 33, was arrested Tuesday night on preliminary charges of murder and assisting a suicide, hours after police found the body of his father in the garage of the family's rural home, said Randolph County Prosecutor David Daly. Hartman told investigators that his father had been dead for nearly two weeks, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Shot his father, gave his mother enough medication to kill her, left his father's body in the garage for two weeks, got arrested for burglary for breaking into a residence near his parents' home. Nothing suspicious there. If it had happened in England, the prosecutor could say, OK, Bub, show us that video you made of you and your parents agreeing to this pact. Don't have one? Well, welcome to the criminal justice system.