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On Sunday, October 24, 1993, Robert Latimer killed his daughter, Tracy Latimer. Robert Latimer placed Tracy in his truck and ran a hose from the exhaust pipe into the cab of the truck. Tracy was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning and Robert Latimer confessed to the murder. What makes this case so unique and debated is that Tracy Latimer had cerebral palsy.
Robert Latimer has been in court several times and has only served minimal time in jail. On November 16, 1994, he was first convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in jail with no parole for ten years. This ruling was overturned due to a technicality in the case. The second conviction occurred on December 1, 1997. Rather than receiving the minimum sentence for second degree murder, Judge Noble made an unprecedented exemption from the second degree murder minimum sentence. He sentenced Robert Latimer to one year in a provincial jail and one year of house arrest on his farm in Wilkie, Saskatchewan. Both the crown and the defence appealed the conviction. The case is still in the courts.
Our legal system is not yet equipped to deal with euthanasia cases. The law is very unclear about consequences for euthanasia. Robert Latimer deemed that Tracy was better off dead and that he killed her out of love, but who has the right to determine who should live and who should die?
Society tends to define people by their ability to produce. Anyone who is unproductive is seen as being of little worth. According to a survey conducted by Angus Ried Group, 73% of Canadians believe Robert Latimer should receive a more lenient sentence and of that 73%, 41% said mercy killing should not be against the law. I believe society needs to re-evaluate its stand on this moral issue
Robert Latimer killed Tracy because he said that he could no longer allow Tracy to endure all the pain she was experiencing. People call it mercy killing but I believe Tracy was murdered. In some people’s minds, Tracy was a burden on society, she had nothing to offer. But, I feel that every life is valuable and has much to contribute to our world although it may not be in a physical or intellectual capacity.
Robert Latimer who claims to have loved his daughter so much that he killed her to relieve her pain, denied Tracy proper medical treatment. Tracy did not receive surgeries that could have improved her condition and she was given only mild pain relief medication. If he could not stand to see Tracy in pain, why did he refuse better treatments?
We are often reminded of what Tracy could not do. Tracy could not talk, feed herself or go to the bathroom by herself. But Tracy could smile and laugh and cry. Most people have seen the picture of Tracy and her father. Tracy has a huge smile and is apparently happy. Tracy was a person who also had feelings of joy and happiness. How can one know whether or not for Tracy, these moments of happiness were worth all the pain she had to endure? It is not up to us to decide which lives are more important than others.
The innocent, the unborn, the elderly and the disabled must be protected from those who consider their lives less worthy than others. The only way they can be protected is by laws. The courts of Canada must address the euthanasia topic and develop laws that protect the lives of people who cannot protect themselves.
Every person has a right to live. No life is less important than another. Disabled people can influence many lives for the better. I believe that Mrs. Wolfe’s children have made her a better and stronger person. Many special needs people can teach us about courage, determination, accepting and enjoying life.
Tracy’s right to live was taken away by her father. Robert Latimer murdered Tracy not out of love, but because his love for her ran out. By killing Tracy, he ended all her chances to smile and laugh ever again.
The church believes that life is sacred and is a gift from God. Any type of murder destroys God’s gift to that person. The Catholic Church believes that each life is precious and deserves to be respected as an unique creation of God.
Robert Latimer is still waiting to be given a sentence. I believe the supreme court will not come to a definite conclusion until the laws are more clear on the issue of euthanasia.
I believe that the sentence for euthanasia should be severe enough to dissuade people from what is considered to be mercy killing. Although those who would take another’s life are not necessarily hardened criminals, if the life of a disabled person is as valuable as any person’s life, than the consequences of taking that life must reflect this.
Society, must also make an effort to help families with disabled children. Governments must support these families not only financially but must also provide them with resources and support systems that they can turn to. If Robert Latimer had been receiving more support and help would have he have sunk to such desperate solutions?
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