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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quality Of Mercy

So the surviving suspect in the Boston bombing has been caught - saving Boston from a potential second nightmare...the suspect who was killed was wearing an explosive vest, and it might have been assumed that he who was captured had one as well.

He was evidently badly hurt in the shootout, and as I write this, is in serious condition...at the same hospital to which the victims were taken.

There are a lot of people who don't like that. Neither do I.

But the fact remains that, first, he was wounded, and had to go to a place where the injuries could be treated. This begs the question, why not take him somewhere else? Why take him where it's almost an insult to the families of the victims?

It's a good question, and here are some answers. First - Mass General is one of the best trauma care facilities on the planet.

Another question, begged - why does he deserve the best treatment? Why not say, well, this is the best you're going to get. Too bad.

We don't do that because he's still a suspect. He may have killed one police officer and wounded another, and he may have robbed a convenience store and hijacked a car, but he might not be the bomber. Stupid as it may seem, some criminals confess to crimes they didn't commit. Why, I don't know. But it happens.

And even if he did the shooting, and did the bombing, and is without a doubt the cold-hearted killer we think he is, there's an overriding reason why he has to be treated as Mass General.

Because this country is still a good place to live, with values that say, you don't assign care based on preference, or out of revenge. He may get the death penalty - but until he's tried and convicted, we operate under 'innocent until proven guilty'. And that means that both justice, and care, have to be blind.

That fundamental decency is something we've been nourishing for over 200 years. It's why Allied medics in Afghanistan treat wounded Taliban, and send them to hospital by helicopter.

We can't afford to be anything less. We can't afford to do something that makes us say, "We're better than that."

The quality of our mercy has to be defined by how we treat those we hate, when they are in our hands.

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