In 1993, while most of his family was away at church, Robert Latimer took his twelve-year-old daughter Tracy, disabled by cerebral palsy, out to the barn. He put her in his truck, turned on the engine, closed the door, and waited for his daughter to asphyxiate.
He was convicted of second-degree murder — in itself a travesty, as the crime was clearly premeditated — and did more than ten years. Now out on parole, he wants a pardon or a retrial because — get this — Tracy should have died from unintentional side effects of pain-control drugs instead of a “merciful” overdose of carbon monoxide. From the CBC story:
“The manifest injustice in Mr. Latimer’s conviction lies in the unfair and unlawful deprivation of perfectly legal pain relief for Tracy Latimer,” [lawyer Jason] Gratl’s letter reads.
“Tracy Latimer’s life should have ended ‘unintentionally’ as a secondary consequence of her physicians’ administration of opiates to alleviate her pain; her life should not have ended by her father’s merciful and intentional administration of carbon monoxide.”
Gratl argues that Latimer is a victim of “medical malpractice” and that the jury may have been “misled into an honest but mistaken belief that Mr. Latimer chose not to give Tracy painkillers stronger than Tylenol.”
Good grief. If Tracy needed better medical care, murder was certainly not the way to obtain it. And there is no guarantee that stronger pain control would have killed her, as doses can be tailored according to need and risk.
Latimer called the killing an act of mercy and sought moral refuge under the umbrella of the so-called Right to Die movement. An act of compassion, don’t you know?
That’s the way this kind of case rolls the last few decades, thanks to the assisted-suicide movement. Showing the flow of the cultural tide, polling showed that most Canadians bought it. Indeed, I remember one pro-Latimer commentary asking rhetorically, “Where were the doctors?” to kill Tracy when Robert needed them.
Read Canadian disability-rights activist Mark Pickup’s analysis of the case for a more detailed understanding of what happened.
If Latimer receives a new trial or Prime Minster Trudeau agrees to a pardon, it will send the insidious message that dead is better than disabled. What a “canary in the coal mine” moment that would be!