Heard an interview on my local CBC morning show with Loïse Lavellee. The interview began this way: “Robert Latimer. To some he is a monster. To others, he is a kindred spirit…”
The essence of the interview was that Lavellee sympathized with Latimer on a very personal level: She also lost a disabled child, her daughter Éloïse. If I heard correctly over the morning chaos of my house, Éloïse died of natural causes after being denied life-sustaining treatment. “Latimer,” Lavellee said, “didn’t get that chance. So he had to take his daughter’s suffering into his own hands.” When asked what she had to say to disabled people who felt threatened by the whole Latimer affair, Lavellee said she understood their fear but that “the issue with Tracy was not her disability, it was her pain.”
But can Tracy’s pain and disability be so easily separated? I have read that Tracy’s pain control consisted of Tylenol. Whether that’s all she was able to take or all she was allowed to take is irrelevant. Either way, Tracy’s unrelenting pain could not have been so easily ignored had she not been disabled.
I once asked one of my teachers in bioethics how much of the euthanasia debate hinged on improper research, investment and education in palliative care. He thought about it for a minute and said: “Most of it.”
Tracy didn’t have a right to die. But she did have a right to proper, effective, medical care which included adequate pain control. The system failed her and she paid with her life.