Criminal law and victims who refuse medical treatment
VOLOKH at MAIL.LAW.UCLA.EDU
Mon Dec 14 16:30:31 PST 1998
There's much to Doug's point, but I wonder whether the withholds
treatment / gives lethal injection distinction is that helpful here.
After all, the standard "withholds treatment" model in the right to die
cases also includes cases where the doctor withholds food and water; and
I take it that in my example 2, where the victim starves herself to
death, the rapist would not be considered a murderer.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Douglas Laycock [SMTP:dlaycock at MAIL.LAW.UTEXAS.EDU]
> Sent: Monday, December 14, 1998 3:02 PM
> To: RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu
> Subject: Re: Criminal law and victims who refuse medical
> There are no non-artificial distinctions here. But Eugene's
> about his hypotheticals fit a causation distinction that has been used
> the right to die cases: that when the doctor withholds treatment, the
> patient dies of the disease, but when the doctor gives a lethal
> the patient dies of the drug injected.
> At 02:09 PM 12/14/1998 -0800, you wrote:
> > I too have no sympathy for the drunk driver who claims that
> >conduct wasn't murder because the Jehovah's Witness victim refused a
> >blood transfusion; but the case seems to me a bit more complex than
> >might suggest.
> > As I understand it, there is a loose supervening
> >principle afoot in the criminal law: At a certain point, the actions
> >another, be it the victim or a third party, break the chain of
> >causation; the criminal is not held responsible for these indirect
> > Thus, consider example 1: Criminal C rapes a woman. She is
> >upset by this that she commits suicide, perhaps because of a (purely
> >hypothetical on my part) religious belief that she is tainted and no
> >longer deserves to live. I assume that C would be held liable for
> >but not for murder. (I intentionally chose rape, as an *extremely*
> >serious crime, for which I endorse extremely severe punishment; but
> >for such a heinous crime, I take it we would not go further and hold
> >responsible as a murderer for the woman's death if it's genuinely by
> >own hand.)
> > Now consider example 2: Criminal C rapes a woman. She is so
> >upset by this that she stops eating, and dies within several weeks.
> >Again, I take it that she wouldn't be liable.
> > Finally, consider example 3: Criminal C rapes a woman. She
> >mildly injured by this, in an eminently medically reparable way; but
> >because she refuses to accept medical treatment (Christian Science)
> >refuses to accept a blood transfusion (Jehovah's Witness), she dies.
> >What result?
> > It seems to me quite plausible to argue that in example 3, C
> >*should* be held liable for murder -- but it seems to me that
> >considering examples 1 and 2 before 3 show that this isn't an
> >open-and-shut case. True, there's a distinction that in 1 and
> >in 2, the woman seems to will her own death, whereas in 3, she wants
> >live but refuses to accept a certain life-saving procedure; but it's
> >obvious to me, at least at first blush, that this is an obviously
> >relevant distinction.
> > I am *not* a crim law maven, so perhaps I'm mistaken on the
> >likely outcomes of these hypos; I welcome any corrections anyone
> >provide. (I did, however, check them with a crim law maven colleague
> >Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School
> >405 Hilgard Ave., L.A., CA 90095
> Douglas Laycock
> University of Texas Law School
> 727 E. Dean Keeton St.
> Austin, TX 78705
> 512-232-1341 (phone)
> 512-471-6988 (fax)
> dlaycock at mail.law.utexas.edu
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