Monday, July 18, 2011

Doesn't This Sound Like The Plot Out of a Twilight Zone?

From the July 18, 2011 Washington Post:

DENVER — A convicted murderer is suing the state of Colorado for saving his life after his heart stopped beating.

Daniel Self says he suffers from sleep apnea and he ordered prison guards not to resuscitate him if he stopped breathing. The 54-year-old says in a lawsuit filed in federal court that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his right to refuse medical treatment when he stopped breathing in 2009.
I feel for Colorado.  If they had followed his instructions, his next of kin would probably be filing suit for allowing him to die.  But you have to admit, doesn't it seem like what might have happened if the pages from episode 6, first season "Escape Clause" (where a hypochrondriac sells his soul to Satan in exchange for immortality) had been shuffled together with episode 37, second season "Shadow Play" (where a man keeps getting tried and executed for murder, again, and again, and again).

So: does saving a man's life who doesn't want to be saved qualify as "cruel and unusual punishment"?


  1. In the real world, a person can have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR). This guy clearly intended a DNR and the prison ignored his wishes. I hope he wins his suit. The state has no business forcing someone to live if they don't want to.

  2. So: does saving a man's life who doesn't want to be saved qualify as "cruel and unusual punishment"?

    Nope, since it's not a punishment, judicially speaking.

    That he doesn't like it doesn't make it a punishment.

    Andy: There's no generic legal right to a DNR order. It varies completely by state, and very likely Colorado's statute doesn't include prisons.

    Prisoners do not have some right for their "wishes" to be automatically respected, after all. That's part of why prison is punishment.

    Also, merely verbally "ordering the staff" isn't going to be sufficient, legally, for precisely the reasons Clayton gave.