Friday, November 30, 2007

Robert Latimer Applies for Daytime Parole

In 1993, Canadian Robert Latimer killed his 12-year-old daughter Tracy, who had cerebral palsy, in order to "ease her suffering." He put her in his truck and ran a hose from the tail pipe into the window, and left her to die. The rest of the family was at church.

Latimer is serving a ten year sentence at a minimum security facility and is asking to be released into the community during the daytime.

For a news story see:

In my personal view, this case highlights an ongoing problem for women and girls with disabilities, as well as boys and men, namely: are people with disabilities safe from their own family members? Yes, parents should strive to do what is best for their children, but when it comes to people with disabilities, especially those who do not communicate, often the gray area is HUGE. Latimer was supposedly trying to help Tracy escape suffering, but was he really just making things better for all involved (i.e., getting rid of Tracy so the "burden" would end)? Who can really say?

This calls to mind other examples of when families abuse or reject or kill children. What about parents whose children come out as LGBTQ? What about parents whose children inform them that they have HIV? Would most families of children without disabilities who were in severe pain simply kill them?

At a basic level, I think there are lots of parents out there who, intentionally or not, view their children with disabilities as less than full people. I know I work with plenty of young people with disabilities who believe their parents love their nondisabled siblings more, and give them more freedom (and conversely sometimes the siblings feel the parents treat the disabled children in a more special way). A disability-inclusive perspective within families, that does not pity or devalue or infantilize the disabled child, is something that bears further discussion.