For the 11th time in the past 30 years, Nevada has a prisoner on Death Row who says he's ready to die. Prison officials have set the date of Daryl Mack's death for Dec. 1.
And once again, the specter of "state-assisted suicide" has been raised because Mack maintains his innocence yet declines to pursue further appeals that would keep him alive. He is, like 10 of the 11 people executed in the state since the 1970s, apparently going willingly to the gas chamber on Fifth Street in Carson City.
First, we must acknowledge the legitimate philosophical disagreement over state executions. It's an issue noone would take lightly. The moral debate takes place biennially in the Nevada Legislature, which is appropriate, but for now the law in this state says murderers may be executed if the circumstances warrant.
To say, however, that Nevada assists suicide by killing Death Row inmates who have given up their legal appeals misjudges the interests of society in administering the ultimate criminal penalty.
In this instance, Mack has been fed, clothed and housed by the state as a prisoner for the past 17 years after being convicted of two murders. His freedom of choice has been waived, for the most part.
One choice he may still make is to continue to appeal his conviction. If he decides not to exercise that right, what obligation does society have to choose for him? None, under the law.
Nevada legislators have made their decision on behalf of the residents of the state - and especially on behalf of the families of the victims. Daryl Mack's death would not be suicide, because he would not killing himself. The state would not be assisting; it would be carrying out its responsibility.