An age-old problem

18.07.09: A DOCTOR in the United States has admitted killing 67 people, simply because she thought they were 'social parasites'.

The case is re-igniting the 2008 US Supreme Court decision to legalise euthanasia.

'I wish it to be on record that these were carefully weighed and premeditated mercy killings,' Dr Miriam Malthus told the court. 'All those people were just a drain on the community.'

Malthus, 49, became a household name seven years ago after the publication of Parentwatch, a bestseller aimed at domestically disadvantaged children. She gained some notoriety - but also a good deal of admiration - for her Sterilise Junkie Mothers campaign.

Success did not change her life, however: she continued to work as a physician in Cleveland, Ohio. News of her arrest on charges of first degree murder horrified local community workers, who had previously applauded her public-spirited decision to hold a weekly drop-in clinic for people without medical insurance.

Malthus's victims were all adults who, she said, did not deserve to live. Ten were former convicts aged between 25 and 40. She targeted most of her hatred at the over-seventies, people who were living on the breadline and either semi- or fully retired. There is no evidence to suggest that her treatment of children was anything other than totally professional.

All her victims were given injections of a lethal but slow-acting derivative of arsenic, which she told them was a painkiller.

One of the points she made repeatedly during her testimony was that the real evil was not killing them, but letting them live.

The majority of America's children were forced to live in poverty, she said, because 'old people cost too much'. Malthus had already decided to end her own life at 65, or sooner if her health deteriorated.

Critics argued that if it became permissible to kill people with terminal diseases, then it would soon become easier to argue in favour of killing people who cost the taxpayer money and were no longer socially useful. MF