Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 30, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
The Lethbridgc Herald Section LETHbRIDGE, ALBERTA, SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 1973 Pages 23 to 28 The law and euthanasia NEW YORK Robert Wes- kin's mother was in a Chicago hospital dying of leukemia. One day in 1967, just before he was to graduate from college, he went to her room and fired three shots. He made no at- tempt to hide it, saying, "she's out of her misery now. I shot her." was indicted for murder. But a jury found him not guil- ty- William R. Jones was also By Lesley Oelsner, of the New York Times Indicted for murder, charged with and admitting to the electruction of his wife. His wife, an amputee and a diabetic who was in constant pain, had asked to be killed. Judge wept Jones was convicted. But on sentencing day in a Detroit court the judge wept. And Jones, who could have spent decades in prison, got a year and a day. Msrcy killers do not always get such treatment. In 1952, for instance, Charles M. Collins of Belfast, was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to the shooting of his son, an often violent youth who was about to tie sent to the State mental hospital. But Collins is the exception. Mercy killing, classified as homicide, is illegal in every state in the union, yet accord- ing to Sidney D. Rosoff, legal adviser to two groups develp- ing policies on euthanasia the euthanasia educational council and the euthanasia society of America, few defendants in re- cent years have been subjected to the full penalties the law seems to allow. The issue of euthanasia was raised again recently by 23- year-old Lester Zygmaniak' ap- parent mercy killing of his paralyzed brother, George, 25, in the intensive care unit of the Jersey Shor Medical Center in Neptune, N.J. Begged George, according to a source close to the case, had begged to be killed after being paralyz- ed from the neck down in a motorcycle accident on his fam- ily's 18 acre rural property. Lester, according to the po- lice and hospital authorities, brought a sawed-cff, single-shot 2ft-gauge shotgun into the in- tensive care unit and fatally wounded his brother in the head. Gerge died without re- gaining consciousness. Pending a preliminary hear- ing in Neptune Municipal Court Lester has been freed on bail on a first degree murder charge. The bail, set by Superior Court Judge M. Raymond McGowan, was des- cribed by authorities as the lowest in memory on a mur- der charge. The law on the subject, tech- nically at least, is clear. But in practice the rules differ and the general area of euthanasia is mired in legal as well as ethical, religious and medical issues. In the history of prose- cution of mercy killers, as Ros- off puts it, there are "some very strange things." Degrees Homicide statutes generally set up several different de- grees of homicide: the most serious form is premeditated murder, involving "malice a- forethought" a deliberate plan to kill someone. The least serious is called manslaughter killing that can be either accidental or the re- sult of some immediate provo- cation. In mercy kMnj, Rosoff said, "every one of these cases is premeditated" but, he added, only a handful were ever found gully of that offense. He and other lawyers say this comes about in a variety of ways. Verdicts The judge may simply dismiss the charges. Such was the out- come in the case of Miss Irene Eldredge of Philadelphia, a 71- year-old retired school teach- er who in 1958 helped her sis- ter commit suicide by giving her a glass of water with which to take an overdose of sleeping pills. Or the defendant may be ruled insane; the jury may ac- quit him as "not guilty by rea- son of temporary insanity." In 1953 Albert J. Sell Jr. killed his five-year-old son, a cerebral palsy victim. According to the New Jersey prosecutor's of- fice, Ssll was found insane, in- stitutionalized for a year and then released. Sometimes the jury may sim- ply acquit the defendant alto- gether, feeling that the prose- cutor did not prove that the defendant matched the jury's conception of a murderer. One of the most notorious mercy killing cases of recent times involved Dr. Herman N. Sander of Manchester, N.H., who was accused in 1949 of kil- ling a woman patient who had incurable cancer by injecting air into her veins. Dr. Sander had noted the in- jection on the hospital's rec- ords. But at the trial a wit- ness testified that the patient had died before the injection. As one lawyer said, "why would he have bothered if she were already but the jury acquitted nevertheless. Traumatic Over the years relatively few such cases have even been prosecuted lasers explain that by saying prosecutors often don't hear of such cases and that it is a difficult and trau- matic crime to commit. Nor has there been much agitation for legislative change. Lately, some reform proposals have been made in a few states, but generally, they in- volve lesser degrees of the general area variously called euthanasia, mercy killing or the "right to die with dignity." If You Live In LETHBRIDGE and you can't keep your weight where you should Come to Weight Watchers! We can help you we care! ft. AUOUSTINE'S CARDSTON TA'IER ANGLICAN CHURCH UNITED CHURCH CIVIC CENTRE Wednesdays p.m. and p.m. Thurtdayi p.m. p.m. Carditon, Albtrta Tabir, Albtrta some listening, and a program that works." K. mtKnut umHamm. For information call ZEnith (toll free) JUDICIAL SYSTEM BEGINNING TO TREAT MERCY KILLERS WITH EMPATHY Lifeblood pours out Irrigation water, the lifeblood of much of Southern between .a sometimes crop and assured yields. Supplies Alberta's agriculture, rushes down a flume west of Ray- of irrigation water are adequate this year, says the Irri- mond. To many farmers, irrigation makes the difference gation Division of Alberto Agriculture._______________ Hhenwas the last time you asked to have your home burglarized? Apprentice programs reviewed CALGARY (CP) The ba- sic st r u c t u r e of Alberta apprentice ship programs should be retained, Labor Min- ister Bert Hohol was told at public hearings on three pro- vincial labor acts here. JfTearly all representatives of industry, labor and educational institutions who appeared at the second day of the two-day hearings said there should be stiffer penalties for violations of the apprenticeship and re- lated acts. There should also be more government support for ap- prenticeship board inspectors. They said tTTe inspectors lack the power to enforce decisions. Union representatives said they opposed specialized train- ing for apprentices. They said specialized training in one area would make tradesmen unem- ployable in other aspects of their trade, and unable to find jobs when laid off. 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