On October 23rd of 1993 Canadian farmer Robert Latimer picked up his twelve-year-old daughter Tracy, who suffered from cerebral palsy, and put her into the cab of his truck. He had already cut a hose, fit it into the tail pipe, and ran it through the back window. He started the truck and then sat on a tractor tire for 33 minutes or so until he was certain his daughter was dead. Robert Latimer then picked Tracy up, carried her to her room where he lay her lifeless body in her bed, and left her for someone else to find. When his wife, Laura, and other children returned home from church Laura discovered Tracy and called out to Robert that something was wrong. He then called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and reported that his daughter Tracy had died in her sleep. When the RCMP suspected that Robert was being dishonest and ordered an autopsy Robert requested Tracy's immediate cremation. After the autopsy and ten days after the murder, Robert Latimer finally confessed to the murder of Tracy. To echo Kevin Bacon in A Few Good Men, these are the facts of the case and they are not disputed.
Why did he murder his daughter? He and his wife both claim that her life was miserable and filled only with pain and depression. Because of these claims by Robert and Laura Latimer, some Canadians view him as a hero. The murder of his daughter was a mercy killing and an act of courage. In fact they are so convinced of his greatness that they send threatening communications to Mark Pickup for having the impertinence to post factual information about the case on his blog and question if Canadians might do a better job at picking their heroes. (See here for Mark's detailed post)
You see Mark published the trial evidence that Tracy was not miserable all of the time and actually enjoyed life as reported by her own mother in a communication book. This is the same mother that characterized her daughter’s life as torturous meaningless suffering at the trial of her husband. Mark reports that Robert Latimer considered poisoning Tracy or shooting her in the head before deciding to gas her to death during his two weeks of planning the murder. Finally, Mark expresses the “uncharitable” opinion that Tracy’s disabilities did not define her value as a human being and that her father was wrong to murder her.
Mark Pickup responded to the threats and thuggery by re-posting his criticism with even more information. You see Mark is in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis and is a triplegic. He wrote in his profile of the hard won understanding that all human life has dignity and value and that, “A truly civilized society includes in its tender embraces every human life.” He is not going to back down to threatening thugs who poorly choose their heroes and then hate to hear the truth about their hero murdering his daughter. Especially not now that Robert Latimer wants a special (and I ought to add illegal) trial that exonerates him of murder not based on his innocence, but based on the “fact” that murdering his daughter was the “right” thing to do.
Lydia McGrew at Whats Wrong With the World? pointed out these tactics and asked bloggers everywhere to send thugs like this a message. Hey Latimer-heads, Robert Latimer decided that Tracy’s life was not worth the trouble and pain her living caused him and he killed her. He murdered his daughter and that is not heroic. Murder is not mercy. If you are too morally confused to see that, then I pray that you never find yourself an expendable inconvenience in another’s eyes. You may suddenly see the inherent danger in the precedent Latimer is now trying to set.
There is no doubt that disabilities can introduce profound and often painful challenges into the lives of the people that have them as well as those who love a disabled person. Those challenges, no matter how great, do not diminish the value of the lives of the disabled no matter how many Canadians believe otherwise.