Earlier this month we noted Theodore Dalrymple’s discussion of the German cannibal who killed and ate a man who had asked to be killed and eaten. We wrote about it under the heading “The case for cannibalism.” The defendant raised a variety of defenses based on the victim’s consent to serve as grist for the cannibal’s mill. Today’s Telegraph reports: “Cannibal not guilty of murder.”
Dalrymple challenged readers to formulate an argument that responded in principle to the defense of consent. Dalrymple wrote: “The case is a reductio ad absurdum of the philosophy according to which individual desire is the only thing that counts in deciding what is permissible in society. Brandes [the murder victim] wanted to be killed and eaten; Meiwes [the cannibal] wanted to kill and eat. Thanks to one of the wonders of modern technology, the Internet, they both could avoid that most debilitating of all human conditions, frustrated desire. What is wrong with that? Please answer from first principles only.” So far as I am aware, no one has risen to Dalrymple’s challenge.
The case is interesting in another respect. It illustrates the declining value placed on life in legal systems that have accommodated themselves to unlimited abortion and euthanasia: “The court had rejected the defence lawyer’s argument that Meiwes should be convicted of ‘killing on request,’ a form of illegal euthanasia carrying a far shorter sentence of six months to five years. However, his lawyer Harald Ermel argued that the death was ‘homicide on demand’ because the victim had given his consent to be killed and eaten.”
The court found Meiwes guilty of manslaughter and senteced him to a term of eight and a half years, of which he is likely to serve five. Perhaps the court was swayed by Meiwes’s closing statement: “I had my big kick and I don’t need to do it again.” He added that his victim “came to me of his own free will to end his life. For him, it was a nice death.” He stated that he now regrets the killing.
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