There have been some big stories in the news over the last week which raise some fairly weighty moral questions. There is the grandmother who has been sentenced to death by firing squad in Bali, a series of deaths related to dodgy ‘ecstacy’ use, and a bereft father who killed his son’s friend who he believed was responsible for his son’s ecstacy overdose death.
Whilst the reporting of these stories is, largely, one-sided and either takes the line that the subjects were pitiful victims or deserving criminals, it’s not hard to see how these stories sell newspapers, as they make a controversial statement which the reader either agrees of disagrees with. But if we cast our minds back to last week’s blog, ‘Drugs are bad, kids’, it’s maybe worth considering that this value-load is unhelpful in getting to the core issues.
What anyone promoting the decriminalisation of drugs must accept is – regardless of legal status, drug use will take its casualties. Yes, the recent blight of PMA in tablets believed to be ecstacy, which has killed a number of people in Lancashire and Derbyshire, was avoidable, and probably wouldn’t have occurred had the Trading Standards legislation recommended by the peers’ review been in place. Under these suggested changes to the law, the ‘ecstacy’, had it been bought through a trusted supplier and not on the black market, would have been labelled as PMA, with the relevant health warnings and expected effects, and, in all likelihood, would never have been ingested or even purchased by the now dead users, as it was not the drug they wanted to take or had experience of using relatively safely.
The Lindsay Sandiford case again exists as a byproduct of the international ‘War On Drugs’ and goes something like this – drugs kill people, drugs are only here because people bring them, so the solution is to… kill… people… No it doesn’t make sense to me either. I mean, I understand why they want to make an example of her, but they could probably achieve the same minimisation of risk she personally poses by sending her home and taking her passport off her.
And then there’s the newest development: a charity is advising her to sue the Foreign Office for not supporting her on appealing against the sentence – a decision which, although she has clearly made an informed choice with obvious consequences, does seem a bit harsh given that we are, I think, still harbouring Abu Qatada. I would think the money spent on the legal case attempting to extradite him would have been better used by the British Government supporting her appeal and attempting to get this admittedly stupid, but probably not evil, woman back to the UK. Again, it seems that replacing morality with logic would make more sense (although I acknowledge my own moral belief in this argument that killing someone is just plain wrong, and do find it difficult to separate morality from reason – hence using words like ‘evil’ – spot the *ahem* deliberate mistake). Also, I’m not quite sure what she’s planning on doing with the money if she wins her case…
However, possibly the most morally-complex case, and the one which no amount of changes to the war on drugs would have made the blindest bit of difference to, is that of Roy Allison. Roy’s son, Roy Jr, was found dead the morning after celebrating his 28th birthday with friends. The cause of death was noted as an ecstacy overdose (I have to admit I would like to know of they came to this conclusion as he had also been taking cocaine and alcohol, but I’m sure these coroners know what they’re doing), and after several months becoming suicidal and “consumed with grief”, Roy Sr killed his son’s friend, who he believed had supplied the ecstacy, and then killed himself.
I find this story incredibly sad. It’s like a Shakespearian tragedy. Even the murdered man’s mother said “He wanted some kind of justice, he wanted a life for a life, it’s just a shame that it was my boy”.
Drug-related deaths are not going to disappear because of changes to the law. The law, or rather the Government, are going to leave themselves wide open to criticism when people, although probably in smaller numbers, continue to die from taking drugs. Families of the dead, looking for scapegoats to make sense of their grief, will blame those in power.
But let’s not worry too much. I’m more likely to get spiked with PCP and eat my own face off than I am see David Cameron change drug policy. Because, much like Lady Macbeth, he doesn’t want blood on his hands.