Mercy Killing

By Patrick Appel

A bit of Daniel Maguire's 1974 meditation on the right to die:

When the law imputes malice to mercy killings it is indulging in the Anglo-Saxon penchant for confusing reality with legality. Happily for the human race, legality and reality do not always coincide. That is why wise judges are needed to temper the shortcomings of the written law. That is also why the Greeks insisted on the virtue of epikeia, whereby it is reasoned that the law is too general to cover every particular case and that therefore there are valid exceptions which epikeia discovers. Epikeia discerns the primacy of the spirit over the letter of the law. It is the virtue that knows that the spirit gives life whereas the letter can be lethal.