How’s this for irony? During his first term, Gov. John Kitzhaber (D-OR) signed into law physician-assisted suicide in Oregon. He then actively got assisted suicide up and running in the state.
Clearly he has no problem with a doctor administering lethal drugs to a person who wants to die.
Enter Gary Haugen.
In 1981, Haugen raped Mary Archer, the mother of his ex-girlfriend. Then he beat her to death with his fists, a hammer and a baseball bat.
He was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2003, he and another inmate murdered a third inmate, David Polin. They stabbed Polin–84 times–and crushed his skull, apparently because he snitched on their drug use.
In 2007, Haugen was sentenced to death for Polin’s murder. He waived his appeals, saying he wanted to be executed to protest the criminal justice system. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection last December.
Gov. Kitzhaber granted him clemency.
Haugen refused it. He said he hated living on Death Row.
So Kitzhaber sued to–get this–force Haugen to go on living against his will.
Last Friday a judge ruled that Haugen could reject the reprieve and die by lethal injection. But Kitzhaber plans to appeal the ruling.
Because, you know, he doesn’t want the prison doctor administering lethal drugs to a person who wants to die.
Which is it, Governor? Do you support a person’s so-called “right” to die? Or don’t you? Because right now it’s sort of looking like you’re okay with everyone getting help with killing themselves except really nasty murderers.
Ironically, as bioethicist Wesley J. Smith points out at Secondhand Smoke, all Haugen should need to do to win the governor over is to say he has cancer. Then, presumably, Kitzhaber would champion his right to die under the assisted suicide law.
Back when he was cheerfully implementing the assisted suicide law, Kitzhaber kept saying that the people of Oregon had twice voted for it, and it was his job to carry out their will.
As with assisted suicide, the voters of Oregon have twice voted to retain the death penalty. But now it turns out that a governor’s job is actually just to carry out his own will. At least that seems to be what Kitz thinks.
The rule of law, rather than of men, is fundamental to to a stable society, and has been so recognized for millenia. Aristotle said:
It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws.
The rule of law is rule by well-known principles which stay constant over time. People can rely on them in ordering their lives. The rule of an individual person or group is arbitrary. It depends on the whims of that particular person or group. There’s no orderly foundation there on which to build a life, a family, a career. Nobody knows what’s coming next. It’s a step on the road to anarchy.
And it’s how John Kitzhaber rolls.