Question: Examine the ethical issue on capital punishment and discuss the extent to which it should be allowed.
We live in a society where killing is deemed and known as unethical and immoral, and this is because of society’s condemnation of death. We are bounded by a set of guidelines, a social contract, and these common guidelines create boundaries – boundaries that determine how the law is formed, what is wrong and what is right, benefitting the majority of the society. By having this social contract, it enforces us to stay in within these boundaries.
The term ‘kill’ is defined as ‘causing of death to a person, animal or any living thing’. (Note that this definition does not include or suggest the intention of the killing.) Today’s society deems killing as unethical, as it goes against and beyond social norms and mores, and because of its condemnation, killing is an immoral act that cannot be justified. However, there are few forms of killings that can actually be debated on whether it is justifiable, because of the intentions and reasons that are able to substantiate that it should be permitted. This essay aims to examine the pros and cons of capital punishment, and whether it should be allowed.
Capital punishment is a legal authorized killing of a person as a punishment for a crime, and it is currently a highly controversial issue with valid and convincing arguments on both sides. Statistics from the Amnesty International have shown that about 137 countries have abolished the death penalty, and the highest form of punishment is life imprisonment. This report can be said to show that the majority disapproves of the idea of capital punishment.
Singapore has possibly one of the highest execution rates in the world, relative to its population of 4 million, executing over 400 prisoners in 1991. (Amnesty International. N.p., 15 January 2004. Web. 18 Jun 2010. <http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA36/001/2004>) Singapore applies the death penalty to the following crimes: waging or attempting to wage war; treason; mutiny; piracy that endangers life; perjury that results in the execution of an innocent person; murder; abetting the suicide of a person under the age of 18 or an insane person; attempted murder by a prisoner serving a life sentence; kidnapping or abducting in order to murder; robbery committed by five or more people that results in the death of a person; drug trafficking; and unlawful possession of firearms. (Goldstone, Richard. IBAHRI. N.p., 23 April 2009. Web. 19 July 2010. <http://www.ibanet.org/Human_Rights_Institute/ About_the_HRI/HRI_Activities/DP_Int_Sing.aspx>)
Many people have condemned this kind of punishment, as they think with such punishment, it disregards human life and does not give value to it. Thus, Singapore is constantly being criticized by the United Nations because of this. A letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been written by Justice Richard Goldstone last April proposing to drop the death penalty charges in Singapore. Even though there are many opposing views, Singapore still chooses to continue enforcing this law as it is acting in accordance for duty for the nation’s well being and interests.
According to Singapore's government response to the Amnesty International Report, it says that ‘Singapore weighs the right of life of the convicted against the rights of victims and the right of the community (which represents the majority) to live in peace and security’, which why Singapore is considered one of the safest country in the world. It is because of this “punishment” enforced upon our society that ensures the safety of the country. This follows the philosophy of Immanuel Kant – “Good will is motivated by duty”, as well as the bible. Genesis 9:5-6 says, "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man....
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