Human Exceptionalism

Latimer Truths Rarely Told

When Robert Latimer first murdered his daughter because she had cerebral palsy, many people bemoaned that Robert had been forced to use car exhaust to put Tracy out of her his misery rather than have a doctor do the deed.  But doctors should be no more able to kill children than parents.

In any event, the Latimer apologists are still out and about.  My wonderful friend Mark Pickup, himself disabled by progressive multiple sclerosis, has argued that the sympathy for the murderer reveals a “seething prejudice” in Canada “against the disabled.”   Tracy’s murder hits very close to home for Mark and he has kept far closer details on the case than I have.

Of course, the details shouldn’t matter about the sheer wrongness of the thing. Still, in an era of selective journalism and a view that suffering justifies eliminating the sufferer, we shouldn’t allow the whitewashers to carry the day. From his blog post, “Can We Finally Get It Straight After 19 Years?”

Misery and pain were not the sum total of Tracy Latimer’s life any more than pain and misery are the sum total in the lives of countless other people with severe disabilities. Tracy was a happy child. Professionals who worked with Tracy contradicted Laura’s dismal portrayal of Tracy. Even Laura contradicted herself through her handwritten notes in a communication book that always accompanied Tracy for caregivers to read. Samples of Laura’s notes alluding to Tracy being a happy child included comments like “Tracy was happy”, “Tracy ate a good ham supper, she was a very happy girl”, “When I came home, I gave Tracy a pudding. She was a happy girl.”, “Tracy seems cheerful and more like her old self.”,  and “Tracy was very cheerful”.

Tracy was a happy child. She did have joy — the irrepressible joy of childhood, despite her disability. According to testimony by family physician, Dr. Robert Kemp and Laura Latimer, Tracy loved music. Others testified that Tracy loved sleigh rides, television, games, parties, the circus, and pets. The Halloween before she was murdered, Tracy was dressed as a princess. On her last Easter, Laura Latimer wrote in Tracy’s communication book “Brian and Linday [Tracy’s siblings] got up at 5:30 to hunt for eggs. We spent most of the day at Tracy’s cousin Lynn’s place. …Tracy spend a happy day, she ate a nice supper, and really enjoyed the desserts.”
Tracy enjoyed sleep-overs and had a kean sense of mischief and fun. Her mother wrote in Tracy’s book: “Tracy was the worst little girl at the sleep-over, up at ten to seven, laughing and vocalizing.” In another place Laura wrote: “After supper, we had a bonfire and Tracy sat outside until about nine o’clock. It was a beautiful night. Tracy seemed alert and happy.” Laura continued, “Tracy had a good weekend, sat out on the deck lots. Grandma and grandpa came yesterday, she was so happy to see grandma.”

There’s more for anyone who wants to read it.  The claim of “compassion” in these cases is easy to make. But, as in the assisted suicide into which MS patient Myrna Lebov was pushed by her bullying husband George DeLury, they are often a false narrative.

Tracy faced many difficult challenges, to me sure.  So did her family. But as Mark says, Robert Latimer wasn’t the victim.  His daughter was.

Now, consider, in thinking about the bigger picture, that someone less disabled than Tracy would have access to euthanasia under the new Quebec euthanasia recommendations, if an adult with the competence to make decisions.  But once you go there, it wouldn’t take long until “substituted judgement” would allow euthanasia of the incompetent, just as a matter of “equality.” And then, the Tracy Latimers would be in the target zone, perhaps one day, leading to them being put down just as Latimer’s apologists opined she should have been–and as seriously disabled infants in the Netherlands already are under the Gronningen Protocol.

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