Friday, February 18, 2011

Mercy Killings

Patrick just sent me a link to the following article:

Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer stands by his decision to end the life of his severely disabled daughter almost 20 years ago, in his first interview since being released on full parole in December. . . "I know I was right," Latimer, 57, declares.
Tracy, 12, had severe cerebral palsy, and suffered chronic pain from repeated surgeries. She couldn't walk, talk, or feed herself. The decision to end her suffering was hard "but it was not sad," said Latimer, who has always insisted his "mercy killing" asphyxiation was motivated by his love and compassion for Tracy. . . In 1994, he was convicted of second-degree murder, but the jury described his crime as a "mercy killing" and recommended a one-year sentence. The judge at Latimer's trial, in an attempt to distinguish "compassionate homicide" from murder, granted him a constitutional exemption from any mandatory sentence. After several appeals, the exemption was thrown out, and Latimer was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
I will not presume even to be able to imagine what it must feel like to see one's child suffering on a daily basis. I don't want to be in any way judgmental of people who can't deal with witnessing the unrelieved and constant pain of a loved one. Who knows how one would act in such a horrible situation? Who knows what any one of us might be driven to as a result?

However, there is something in this situation that makes me suspect Latimer of being driven not as much by his love for his daughter and his desire to relieve her suffering as by his love for himself and his desire to relieve his own suffering. A person driven to such desperation that they engage in a mercy killing of their child will probably see that as the defining and the darkest moment of their life. Even if they were convinced that they had done the best thing possible for their child, wouldn't they still care about the child's death more than about the consequences they suffered as a result?

Latimer, however, seems a lot more centered on the perceived injustice that was done to him and not on the suffering and the death (at his hands, too) of his daughter:
But the soft-spoken farmer sees his case differently, and harbours deep anger towards the Canadian justice system, and against those who dare judge him. "They're just a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous, religious-backed people. They don't care about Tracy," he said. "They're just a bunch of sadistic butchers, really. They have to come clean on that. What is the legal alternative that we were supposed to take by law?" . . .  Latimer said he feels branded, and often dreams of a new trial by jury, convinced that another judicial review of his case would perhaps produce a different verdict, and clear his name. 

There is so much anger here against the justice system, and very little concern for a child who lived a short and tortured existence and has now been dead for a very long time. As I said, I don't presume to know what it feels like to kill a loved one to end their suffering. But wouldn't a person driven to such an act care a lot less than Latimer about another trial, clearing his name, or anything like that?

P.S. Thank you, Patrick! What would I do without my readers?


Patrick said...

You articulated my feelings on this beautifully Clarissa. Thanks. I wasn't sure how to pin down why this man bothered me so much.

For those unfamiliar with the case, he killed his daughter by running a hose from the exhaust of his truck into the cabin, and letting the engine idle until his daughter suffocated to death on the carbon monoxide.

Patrick said...

What is your solution to "stop the insanity". I hear many people complaining about the 'rich people' and 'those companies' without defining who they are or what they would want to do differently.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Change for the sake of change is what got Ontario the NDP gov't in 1990, and Canada the PC Gov't in 2005. If you don't know what you want, you'll always complain about not getting it.

Clarissa said...

Was this comment supposed to go into the post on the 2012 elections? If so, then my firm belief is that the Soviet style economy should be abandoned. I lived in the USSR and I can tell you with all the certainty in the world that this type of economy does not work. Capitalism is not perfect but it works a lot better. In order for capitalism to work, however, people who can't make their businesses stay solvent should be allowed to go bankrupt. This will permit more promising new entrepreneurs to take the place of those failed businesses. Investing government money into keeping solvent those companies that have driven themselves to the brink of bankruptcy time and again is what I call insanity.

Rimi said...

Oh, it's interesting, your inference! See, it simply didn't occur to me that a parent might do away with a very dependent child because such a child does have very high and very exacting demands on the parent.

Now that you mention it, I remember hearing an anecdote about a woman who killed her son with... some kind of herbal poison (the details are vague, I heard it a very long time back) because she could no longer afford to feed/cloth/educate her other children AND pay for this child's treatment (they all lived in a shack and she worked as a cleaning lady). Effectively, she was left with the choice of starving her entire family, the ill child included, or letting the poor child suffer a great deal of pain till his degenerative disease slowly killed him. So she took what for her was the optimal decision. Her sick child didn't suffer a period of protracted pain and died peacefully, and her remaining children survived too.

So I'm guessing motives are not always easily discernable into selfish and selfless. Just a thought.

Rohit said...

People have their own perspectives on Euthanasia. There was one such case recently in India. It's the story of a woman 'Aruna' who was sexually assaulted by a worker at the hospital she was working as a nurse. For the past 37 years she has been lying on the bed helplessly. she cannot even express if she's going through pain. She's in a vegetative state now.
It's sad. Euthanasia should be allowed. Some random woman came and filed a petition in the court for Euthanasia which however was ruled out.

You guys should read this story.. it's really touching..

here is the link