It appears that the members of the parole board that turned down Robert Latimer’s request for day parole were incapable of the compassion and empathy shown in this remarkable letter from Christopher Stone, the father of a child, whose suffering paralleled Tracy Latimer’s.
He bluntly describes his daughter’s and Tracy’s lives: . . . quadriplegic, severely quadriplegic, that is totally paralyzed, incapable of any voluntary movement of arms, legs, face . . . not able to walk, talk or chew . . . blind, unable to see those who loved her dearly and cared for her . . . chronic, uncontrollable, untreatable epileptiform. That is, randomly subject to massive convulsive seizures that were preceded and resulted in what, I am told by those who can speak of it, are the most hideous headaches imaginable. And cruelest of all . . . an unknown degree of mental retardation – in other words, so injured . . . that there was no way of knowing to what extent [they were] aware of [their] surroundings or [their] own condition. Our children were not disabled, they were severely injured beyond any repair.
The response of medical professionals to his daughter’s agony was, he says, barbaric: To stop the limbs from falling out of joint, you slice the ligaments that hold them to the body. To stop the spine from collapsing, you insert a metal bar. Does anyone think that the pain associated with a steel bar inserted into the spine ends with the anaesthetic? To continue being able to feed the child, you put a hole in the stomach and apply the food directly. Do we enjoy food and all that goes with it? Do the justices of the Supreme Court? Imagine the terrible irony – the gentle ritual of feeding, one of the few pleasures, nay, life-affirming things they were able to enjoy, would be denied our children so they could be kept alive. What would these repulsive insults to our children’s bodies result in? An improved functionality or capability? – No. A medical cadre assuaged by doing all it can? – Yes. A prolongation of life? – Perhaps. A greater quotient of pain? – Most definitely.
Two desperately sad stories. I understand why advocates for the disabled are so vociferous in their condemnation of Robert Latimer. And yet, as a parent myself, I can imagine doing what both of these fathers did to put an end to their daughters’ pain. (I should also add, that not everybody in the disabled community condemns Robert Latimer for what he did.)