Bioethics Blogs

Life, Death & Governance

You think these are challenging days for the governor of New Jersey? Life is getting especially complicated for the governor of Ohio — in the myriad meanings of the word.

Ohio Governor John Kasich is well respected by abortion opponents. and last summer signed both restrictive new pro-life laws and what was considered the “most pro-life budget in history.”

But it is not the value of life at its beginning that is increasingly demanding Kasich’s attention; instead it is how, and whether, the state punishes or forgives those who kill.

Early Thursday, Ohio executed the admitted rapist and murderer of an 8-months-pregnant woman. What made this newsworthy, beyond the simple fact of state execution, was the means employed: a new lethal cocktail of drugs, used for the first time with little real sense of how much pain they would inflict or how long they would take to complete the task.

Why is this of interest, on a blog devoted not to politics or criminal justice but to community understanding and perspectives regarding medical ethics? Because of the focus on the continuum of how life is valued in American society, and how prominent the extremes have become.

While Ohio balances its belief in the justice of capital punishment with charges that it lacks a humane means to carry out the executions, hospitals in both California and Texas in recent weeks, and for very different reasons, have mechanically sustained patients determined by doctors to be dead. (Nowhere are end-of-life politics in sharper focus than Texas.)

Pardon the leap, but the most recent study by the Community Ethics Committee, to be submitted soon to the ethics leadership of Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospitals, concerns transparency and decision-making in listing for organ transplantation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.