Robert Latimer Case Study

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On October 24th 1993 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Robert Latimer was convicted of second degree murder for the intentional killing of his 12 year-old daughter, Tracy Latimer, who suffered a severe form of cerebral palsy since she was born. Tracy endured seizures five to six times a day, could not take pain medication because it would interfere with her epilepsy medication, and underwent painful surgeries throughout her life to stabilize her body weight and correct spinal abnormalities. Just weeks before her death, her doctors planned to surgically remove her hipbone, which had become dysfunctional as a result of a previous surgery and spinal complication, and would have taken at least a year of recovery and been extremely painful. Her father,…show more content…
According to Emile Durkheim, the inconsistent legal and social norms regarding the killing of someone in insurmountable pain has given birth to anomies, which refers to a “lack of social regulation in which the unrestricted appetites of the individual conscience are no longer held in check…” (White and Haines2004). While Latimer’s direct motives for killing his daughter revolved around her pain, short life expectancy, and limited sources of joy in life, and horrific surgeries, the lack of a collective moral direction towards euthanasia served to legitimize Latimer’s act against the criminal code, in that his plan was well thought out over a long period of time and enabled him to feel wholly confident and unremorseful about this criminalized act. For instance, Latimer planned days in advance to euthanize Tracy while the rest of his family was at church, following which he had to wait an hour in his garage for the carbon monoxide poisoning to fully work, actions which indicate “his lack of remorse…the significant degree of planning and T’s extreme vulnerability” (Supreme Court Judgements 2001). Durkheim’s theory of sociological positivism plays a very big role in Latimer’s crime, as the legal…show more content…
According to Sally Howard, a Professor at Lethbridge University, Judge Nobel (the first trial judge), demonstrates how judgements dealing with illegal acts against imperfect or deficient bodies can be relabeled as positive and enforce narrow views of what it means to be disabled. In his findings, the judge repeatedly defined Robert Latimer’s actions as a “compassionate homicide” and a “mercy killing”, simultaneously associating words bound for heroes and leaders with the action of life-taking, and this is directly related to the way Latimer described his daughter in trial and the single image of disabled people the court held. Tracy was painted as disfigured, in constant pain, and bedridden (unproductive), and this single story feeds and finds legitimacy in the stereotype that physically and mentally disabled peoples are “basically or nearly dead”, which according to Howard is reminiscent of biological positivism, in that the disabled are a sect of society labeled inferior and unnecessary because of physical abnormalities. It was for this reason that Judge Nobel felt

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