Human Exceptionalism

Killing a Disabled Son Faintly Condemned by Court

Stories like this terrify the disability rights community–and with good reason. The message is that the lives of people with profound disabilities are of less value than those of others.

In this case, an Australian couple murdered their disabled son, Matthew Sutton, who was blind and developmentally disabled, and who faced losing his hearing. The motive was love, because the man faced profound difficulties and challenges and had been abused in a group home. But “love” is always the excuse when disabled children are killed by parents or siblings. And when this happens, the courts almost always look on murder as benign events and mete out no meaningful punishment. And note these points from the story:

No cause of death was established and Mr Sutton refused to reveal what took place. Before the couple confessed to police in 2005, listening devices in their home recorded Mr Sutton saying: “It’s because there is no euthanasia”.

It is worth noting that Matthew couldn’t “choose” to be killed, demonstrating a truth about how the drive for euthanasia as a “choice” for the terminally ill bleeds into using killing as an answer to other forms of human suffering. Also, the father’s refusal to cooperate with police didn’t matter to the judge. Had Matthew not been disabled, such obstructionism would count against a defendant.

We can sympathize with the terrible conundrum faced by the parents but we cannot countenance murder as an answer to significant difficulties. Doing so sends the insidious message that the value of the lives of people like Matthew matter less than those of others. Besides, opening the door to people killing their disabled children would open the door to parents putting themselves out of misery–and then claiming love as the motive.

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