Crime isn’t always clearly defined

There are certain things in life that divide society and inspire passionate discussion, such as abortion or the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

Those issues are pretty clearly black-and-white once you get past their moral implications. You have the baby or you don’t; you inject yourself full of steroids or you don’t.

The ethics of some other problems are more complicated, as they involve the intentions of the parties involved.

I strongly believe that there is a great difference in the way murder and attempted murder are interpreted here in the United States. Let’s say two people are face to face, and one shoots the other through the heart with the clear intention of killing him. If the victim dies, the shooter is charged with murder and gets 25 to life, no ifs, ands or buts.

But what if the victim doesn’t die? What if the shot missed a vital artery by an inch, or the victim was in great shape, or doctors perform a miraculous lifesaving operation? Should the offender’s charges be changed to attempted murder just because the victim was lucky enough to live?

The shooter didn’t want to just injure his victim, he wanted to kill him. The shooting might have been a little off, but his intent was clearly the same regardless of whether the victim lived or died.

Unfortunately, hundreds of cases like this happen in the United States every year, and will continue to happen unless the terms of the law are changed.

On the other hand, what happens when the intent behind someone’s actions is good, but the law sees those actions as something bad and charges that person with murder?

An episode of CBS’s hit show Cold Case dramatized such a scenario. The plot followed a case in which a mother was convicted of murder after pulling the plug on her baby, who was in extreme pain. The mother had consulted others but ultimately didn’t need their consent, since she was the baby’s parent and the one in charge of making life-or-death decisions.

The court disregarded the spirit of the law and went strictly by the letter of the law. In this case, common sense should have overridden what the law says, since there is nobody in the world who cares more about a baby’s well-being than its mother.

Yes, the mother’s intent was to kill, but she was acting in what she thought was the best interest of the child.

While this was only a TV show, it depicted a situation faced by parents across the United States.

Other nations have passed laws that allow more flexibility in end-of-life decisions. The Netherlands has allowed infant euthanasia since 2006 and adult euthanasia since 2001.

“The country has set up a committee to regulate the illicit killing of seriously ill infants by doctors,” wrote Gudrun Schultz in a March 2006 article about the Netherlands law. “The Groningen Protocol, drafted by euthanist Dr. Verhagen of the Groningen hospital and adopted by the committee, will allow doctors to kill children who are suffering extreme pain from terminal illness with no hope of recovery. The parents must give consent, and two doctors must agree on the child’s diagnosis.”

According to Schultz’s article, “(d)octors will now be able to collaborate openly with parents for the death of severely handicapped or suffering children, without risking charges of murder.”

Life is not about looking at things as simply right or wrong, or thinking that just because your religion condemns something everybody else should condemn it as well.

It’s about being able to look at the shades of gray that life sometimes presents, and realizing that sometimes the right things to do are also the hardest.

Martin Bater is a junior

majoring in journalism.