The Cost of a Life Saved

Had Itai Ben-Dror's parents, friends and the mental health services not taken considerable, and costly, effort to keep him alive the world would have been spared this terrible tragedy.

Sometimes a person who saves a single life destroys an entire world. In the marathon of shocking reports from the scene in Netanya where Itai Ben Dror murdered his three children, the thought given by the police and the prison service to preventing the murderer from committing suicide was mentioned a few times. The suspect has suicidal tendencies and has attempted suicide several times, according to reports from the funeral of the children, the news conference held by the bereaved mother and the reenactment of the murder.

Itai Ben Dror
Itzik Ben-Malki

The large numbers of police officers who escorted Ben Dror to his Netanya apartment for the reenactment - a bulletproof vest over his hospital pajamas - exemplified the extensive, and expensive, security measures needed to protect the suspect.

Because Israel is a state of law the police were right to guard the suspect during the reenactment to prevent him from being harmed by incensed neighbors. The police have a duty to ensure that the murderer's fate is determined by the legal and mental health authorities.

The police have a duty to protect the murderer from anyone who might want to harm him before he is brought to trial. And if he is sentenced to prison, it will be the duty of the Israel Prison Service to protect him from other inmates, but who benefits from preventing the murderer from killing himself?

The state will certainly gain nothing. On the contrary, the security measures or lengthy stay in a psychiatric hospital will require significant state spending. Legally, everyone has the right to commit suicide, since Israeli law neither prohibits it nor prosecutes people for attempted suicide.

But the prison service plans to make sure that Ben Dror's cell is free of any pipes or shoelaces so that he will not be able to take his own life, as Assaf Goldring, who murdered his daughter in Moshav Batzra, did a year ago. Why try to prevent a person so clearly despicable and miserable as Ben Dror from carrying out his scheme?

One of the purposes of the Mental Health Law is to protect individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others. The armies of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers that were called in to do the impossible and to try to identify, after the fact, signs that could have disclosed Ben Dror's intention to wipe out his family, explained that the two risks are not necessarily connected: Not everyone who wants to take his own life wants to take the lives of those who are supposed to be most dear to him, and not everyone who becomes a murderer is suicidal.

Ben Dror is a clear and terrible example of a reverse causal relationship: Had he not been prevented from fulfilling his death wish; had his parents, friends and the mental health services not taken considerable, and costly, effort to keep him alive, against his will, the lives of his three children would have been saved and his family and the world would have been spared this terrible tragedy.