In a recent report, Amnesty International notes that as of May, 1990, "33 prisoners in 13 states {in this country} were under sentence of death for crimes committed before they reached their 18th birthday." And this nation is one of only four -- including Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq -- that executes juvenile offenders.

It is unlikely that any candidate for any office this year will publicly deplore this nipping of juvenile crime in the bud. And it would appear to be fatal to any candidate to oppose any limitation on capital punishment.

After all, the Eighth Amendment's forbidding of cruel and unusual punishment, according to the Supreme Court, has nothing to do with the state functioning as an executioner. And those not yet born are, of course, being executed in huge numbers in accord with the Constitution's fundamental right of privacy -- as guaranteed to their mothers.

Should Roe v. Wade fall, six states have already declared that their state constitutions will continue to protect abortion rights. There will be more.

Dianne Feinstein, as she runs for governor of California, neatly draws a circle of death by vigorously supporting both abortion rights and the death penalty -- in both cases, far more enthusiastically than her opponent. In one of Feinstein's commercials, her embrace of capitalpunishment comes right after a shot of Feinstein at an exhilarating rally for abortion rights. Says her campaign manager: "Pro-choice, pro-death penalty is where the voters are."

In Texas, both candidates for governor -- Ann Richards and Clayton Williams -- are supporters of the death penalty. The National Right to Life Committee is going to endorse Clayton Williams. (Officials of that committee have proudly told me in the past that a majority of its membership opposes the death penalty -- contrary to the invidious stereotype of pro-lifers by the kinds of liberals who will nonetheless vote for Feinstein.)

Then why does the National Right to Life Committee endorse either candidate in Texas if the "right to life" extends after birth?

Commonweal -- a long-distance runner among publications of the Catholic left -- makes an intriguing point about those who selectively protect the right to life. It concerns the Cruzan case, and nobody else, to my knowledge, has noted this omission in the Missouri supreme court's otherwise penetrating argument that someone as voiceless as Nancy Cruzan must in the past have shown "clear and convincing evidence" that she wanted to be killed before the state can allow her life to end.

Commonweal points out that Missouri's highest court emphasized that state's responsibility to safeguard the sanctity of life, in whatever condition that life is. But while the court was saying this so compellingly, there were -- Commonweal notes -- "72 prisoners living on death row in Missouri." They did not want to die, but they were not mentioned by the Missouri Supreme Court nor by any of those, including right-to-lifers, who applauded the court's decision preserving the life of Nancy Cruzan.

And none of those 70 men and two women were in a persistent vegetative state. Each had what Commonweal calls "the gift of awareness ... taking that gift away -- even from someone who has violently deprived another of the same gift -- denies the sanctity of human life."

Not yet before the United States Supreme Court is another way of ending life -- assisted suicide. Many doctors still recoil at being actively involved in the death of a patient who sees no future reason for being. They have been trained to "do no harm." But what of someone who knows she has Alzheimer's disease and knows what will surely become of her? In that case, asks Marcia Angell, executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, "What is harm? To act or not to act?"

In Washington -- the only state before Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion by a referendum initiative -- there is a good chance that "a physician aid-in-dying" referendum will be law in 1991. Physicians who actively aid in suicide will receive legal immunity. Think of the one-way doors that's going to open.

The initiative covers not only patients who are aware of what they want but also -- according to the Hastings Center report, a bioethics publication -- it includes those in irreversible coma and persistent vegetative states "under the concept of terminal illness."

Will it then be legal to write a living will that authorizes a doctor to actively kill the patient when he or she is no longer conscious? Will a persuasive physician who believes that a certain level of "quality of life" is not worth preserving be able legally to talk conscious patients into committing suicide -- with his help?

What will future generations of physicians -- trained and accustomed to being killers as well as healers -- be like?