It must be that Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer believes the best defence is a good offence.
How else to explain his over-the-top reaction to the news that the Supreme Court of Canada had granted him a new trial in the 1994 “mercy killing” of his 12-year-old disabled daughter, Tracy?
While the pro-life community has not always greeted Supreme Court decisions in glowing terms, Latimer’s description of our justices as “backwards, bloodthirsty butchers”, seems a little excessive.
It could be that Latimer’s reaction reflects extreme disappointment in having to undergo a new trial in the first place. A faulty police investigation, coupled with the Saskatchewan Crown Attorney office’s questioning jurors as t their beliefs about euthanasia, abortion and life issues, crated a juridical quagmire and no doubt inspired Latimer to thoughts of exoneration.
But now Latimer again faces the national spotlight and his actions two years ago to end his daughter’s life will come under intense scrutiny.
We are not privy to Latimer’s state of mind or his motivations in choosing his particular course of action. Perhaps it is trite for outsiders to speak of the anguish and suffering he went through in dealing with his daughter’s many disabilities.
Latimer no doubt will argue once again as to the sincerity of his motivations, his lack of support and his eagerness to end the suffering of his eagerness to end the suffering of his helpless daughter. Many will buy that argument and look to Latimer as some sort of champion of the right to die movement. But those pushing the death with dignity argument had better look elsewhere. For all her suffering and infirmity, Tracy Latimer was a unique human being. For others, even a caring father, to decide that her life was not worth living, sends a chilling message to anyone with disabilities.
The underlying concern in the Latimer case is simple. Dismissing the death of Tracy Latimer will send out the message that it is acceptable to end the lives of people with multiple handicaps. It’s a message that it is acceptable to end the lives of people with multiple handicaps. It’s a message disabled rights activist Mark Pickup of Beaumont, Alberta has sounded repeatedly since the right to die movement gained momentum.
Pickup has not let multiple sclerosis colour his views on the sanctity and value of all human life. Pickup supports the idea of a new trial or Latimer simply to refocus attention of the rights of the disabled community.
As Pickup rightly notes: “it seems if you kill an able-bodied person, you will face the full weight of the law. But if you kill someone who is disabled, it is dismissed as a right to die.”
Undoubtedly, Latimer wasn’t thinking about “Seamless garments” and “slippery slopes” when he took his action. But notions of the quality of life might have entered his thinking.
And this is where the disabled community, in fact the pro-life community in general, have more than a passing interest in this new trial.