‘Some rules for killing people’ is the second of the late Dr John Ellard’s essays reproduced from the book Some Rules for Killing People.* Dr Ellard, revered former Editor of Modern Medicine of Australia and Medicine Today and a distinguished psychiatrist, wrote many essays in the 1970s and 1980s on society’s most controversial and vexing issues. These were published in various journals including Modern Medicine, and a selection were chosen by Professor Gordon Parker, then Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, for publication in 1989 as the book Some Rules For Killing People. The essay here originally appeared in a 1985 issue of Modern Medicine of Australia.
* Ellard J. Some rules for killing people. Parker G (ed). Sydney: Angus and Robertson Publishers; 1989.
Depending on the circumstances, the killing of a human being may produce reactions ranging from applause to abhorrence and a desire for revenge. In times of peace the legal system is responsible for establishing the correct response within rules laid down by the parliaments. Understanding and categorising human motivation is one of the cornerstones of sentencing, yet the concepts used in the courts bear little relationship to those developed by the disciplines which have studied behaviour for generations. Clearing away the meaningless complexities would be a move towards rationality and simplicity.
Picture credit: © Barry Olive, 2017