Thursday, December 6, 2007

Latimer should stay in prison

I'm finding myself begging to differ again with many of my colleagues, but I think the National Parole Board of Canada did the right thing yesterday by denying Robert Latimer day parole. Latimer, who's serving ten to life for murder two in the death of his daughter, Tracy (he poisoned her with carbon monoxide) is still in a certain mindset about the matter.

I appreciate he was under considerable duress after taking care of Tracy for thirteen years (she had celebral palsy). One could argue he finally just snapped, although he put a lot of thought into how he was going to end his daughter's life.

But the problem for me is that he keeps insisting it was an act of love. Perhaps it was. However, he just can't get around to saying that it was wrong. I'm not saying he should apologize, just merely acknowledge that his actions were out of the norm. Instead, he said he wanted to go to a halfway house so he could lobby politicians in Ottawa to change the law.

Last time I checked, Latimer was still free to surf the Net and send e-mails to Parliamentarians; or to send good old-fashioned snail mail. Until he appreciates the gravity of what he did and steps up to that, he should remain incarcerated -- at least until the ten years are up, three years hence.

That being said, I do agree we need to have some more compassion in situations like he was in. I think we need to change the law to including, perhaps, creating something similar to what many US states have for situations like his -- third degree murder; something between voluntary manslaughter and murder two (with a sentencing range of five or seven to twenty-five).

But we also need to focus on reforming long term care facilities and hospices and ensuring people like Tracy Latimer get the care they need, with full family participation; including the right to die with as little pain as possible. One can understand why Robert refused such offers at the time -- our health care system is still stuck in the 1960s and focusing on primary care. It was never designed to deal with chronic and persistive illnesses. No one, absolutely no one, should ever again have to resort to Robert's desperate measures. If the health care system did its job, he never would have had to do what he did.

But that's not a matter for the criminal system to change. Unlike Mainland China and Burma, we keep prisons and hospitals separate for a reason. Patients aren't criminals. And certainly neither was Tracy. She never had a say in the matter, though. Her father made it for her, and for that he needs to accept the consequences.

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JimBobby said...

Whooee! I reckon I agree with the parole board, too. It ain't that I don't feel sorry fer Latimer. Families and primary caregivers are under-appreciated and poorly served by our system. I'm a rural feller and I can say that the lack of support is magnified out here in the sticks.

I figger Latimer was driven beyond his own breakin' point. That don't let him off the hook, though. Lotsa folks are pushed to their limits and don't try to solve their problems by killin' their kin.

I'd be more sympathetic to Latimer if he'd admit that there were other options available and admit that he was not only acting to end his daughter's suffering but also to end his own unbearable caregiver role.

Despite the opposition from groups representing the disabled, I reckon there's a place for legal euthanasia. Sane, sentient, adult sufferers should be able to end their own suffering. If they need assistance, the helpers should be immune from prosecution.

Minors and non-communicative patients should not be exterminated like pests -- even if we think that's what they want or that we are doing them a favour.

There ain't any easy answers and Latimer's biggest mistake was in believing there was an easy answer.


KC said...

Why would Robert Latimer apologize or acknowledging something is wrong... WHEN IS WASNT WRONG? Seems to me that before we impose the requirement on people that they acknowledge their wrongness we should at least be sure that what they didnt wasnt right (or at least not wrong).

Johnathon said...

A Liberal wanting to keep a criminal in jail?


I thought you would be going crazy demanding that he be released.

After all, Liberals love to coddle criminals and feel sorry for them.

Maybe a basketball court or a few programs would have stopped Latimer from executing his daughter.

I guess we'll have to wait for Stephane Dion to raise this issue in question period.

I'm sure he has already sen the National Parole Board a letter demanding he be released.

I still can't believe your a Liberal and you still want him in jail.

I didn't think the two would go hand in hand.

I guess I was wrong.