The following appeared today in The National Post. I would encourage you to go online (here) and reply to the comments section of this article. It is truly “scary” to read what some poeople say about the “hero” Robert Latimer.
Michael Coren: On Robert Latimer and how Canada just became scarier for the disabled
Posted: February 27, 2008, 6:51 PM by John Turley-Ewart
Robert Latimer, the Saskatchewan farmer who killed his disabled daughter, is to be released on day parole. The decision comes from the appeal division of the National Parole Board and is a direct reversal of the regional board’s ruling of late last year. Latimer was convicted in 1993 of killing his daughter Tracy, who suffered from cerebral palsy. Although he argued that his act was a “mercy killing,” he was convicted of murder and began his sentence in 2001. (Ed. note: Read a timeline of Latimer's case)
One of the central reasons why Latimer’s parole was originally declined in December, 2007, was because he refused to acknowledge that he did anything wrong. He killed his daughter, he argued, out of love. He was putting the girl out of her misery. Perhaps a more candid explanation was that he was putting her out of his.
Tracy Latimer was profoundly ill. But she attended school and, according to the crown presentation during her father’s trial, “enjoyed outings, one of which was to the circus, where she smiled when the horses went by. She also responded to visits by her family, smiling and looking happy to see them. The pain she suffered was not unremitting, and her life had value and quality.”
In fact almost all physical pain is controllable. The emotional pain of a parent less so. And when Robert Latimer killed Tracy shortly before her 13th birthday he was doubtless in agony. Problem is, personal suffering does not give one the right or privilege to take away the life of another human being. Nor do Latimer’s actions indicate even subjective morality. Initially he denied killing Tracy, lying that she had died in her sleep. It was only after an autopsy revealed high levels of carbon dioxide in her blood that he admitted to putting her into his truck and connecting a hose form the exhaust. He also confessed to having considered, “shooting her in the head.”
Yet if Robert Latimer had been honest from the beginning, he is still a murderer. A father who placed his able-bodied daughter in a car and choked her to death would provoke unanimous outrage. Because Tracy was disabled, and thus particularly vulnerable, we are ambivalent about the crime and even aggressively sympathetic to the criminal.
The disabled have the same rights as anybody else and Canada boasts notions of equality, derived from universal human concepts, that are supposed to form and define the very fabric of our culture. No person, whether they be parent or stranger, has the moral authority to take innocent life.
There are numerous extraordinary families who care for people just like Tracy Latimer. If her father could not cope — and none of us should judge him for that — he had the option of allowing others to cope for him. At no time did Tracy seek death. She was, however, different. She did not conform to the expectations and demands of normality and others decided that there was insufficient quality in and to her life. But life is either sacred or it is not. If it is, preserve it at all costs. If it is not, we might as well destroy it at will. It is terribly expensive to keep the sick alive and wholly impractical to prolong the life of an ill person who will die anyway.
Teague Johnson wrote the following during the Latimer trial. “I am 11 years old and have really severe cerebral palsy. I feel very strongly that all children are valuable and deserve to live full and complete lives. I had to fight to live when I was very sick. The doctors said I wouldn’t live long, but I knew I had so much to accomplish still. I had to fight pain all the time. When I was little, life was pain. I couldn’t remember no pain. My foster mom helped me to learn to manage and control my pain. Now my life is so full of joy.
“There isn’t enough time in the day for me to learn and experience all I wish to. I have a family and many friends who love me. I have a world of knowledge to discover. I have so much to give. I can’t walk or talk or feed myself but I do not need to be ‘put out of my misery’. My body is not my enemy. It is that which allows me to cuddle my mom. Life is a gift. My life is going to be astounding.” It was. Teague died, naturally, in the summer of 1995.
Not Tracy Latimer. Now her father, who still believes that he is not a criminal, has been given parole. Canada today is a little less secure and a little more frightening than it was yesterday for the disabled and those who love and care for them.