CCDI on Katie McCarron


Katie McCarron by Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois.

Sobsey suggests that the “widespread social perception that ‘altruistic homicides’ like the killing of Tracy Latimer, are the acts of heroic and loving parents who deserve praise rather than punishment can be expected to encourage more parents to kill their children.”

Sobsey’s research also sheds light on what it is exactly that causes a parent to kill a child – it has very little to do with “mercy killing.” In fact, FBI profilers and criminologists agree that “the deeper motivation for mercy killing to be a pathological need for ‘power and control.'”


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Developmentally disabled, physically and cognitively disabled. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died in 2014 and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

6 responses »

  1. first thing CCDI has gotten right. They had a Thing against nonobvious disabilities when I was in IL. The central IL chapters in particular suck, as did their former director.

    Glad they’re hitting this one. If only it reached the mainstream, instead of preaching to the choir.

  2. Thanks for this, Amanda. I looked up Dick Sobsey’s 2001 article “Why we shouldn’t blame the murders of disabled kids on lousy services” and have bookmarked it. Thank you.

    My best friend A for many years has CP. Her mother B once told me the following story. When A was a child, B went to her school, exhausted. She was a single mother barely making ends meet and was at the end of her resources – both financial and personal. She just couldn’t do it any more. The social worker at the school understood. She pulled out some documents: Sign here to give up your parental rights and put A up for adoption. B was appalled, left the office, and did what she needed to do to find the resources she needed.

    I’m a Canadian, so I heard a lot about Tracy Latimer at the time. The way her parents and the newspapers presented her situation was that she suffered. I don’t recall that her parents complained about caring for her, or that they asked for more services. Maybe they did, or maybe they and their lawyers were careful about what they said to the press. But what the press presented was a child who needed heavy medication to control almost constant seizures. She was unable to communicate much at all, so it was unclear to others what she understood. She was, however, understood to be in constant pain — muscle spasms? joint malformations and stress? — but effective pain medication would have been fatal because of interactions with her seizure medications. As a pain relief measure she was scheduled for surgery to remove her hip. Whatever the facts, this is what was presented to the public.

    I’ll admit to having been ambivalent, right along with many (most?) other Canadians. If I try to imagine caring for a child who I believe to be in constant pain, who I am not sure (doubt) is able to understand her pain, and for whom the only relief proposed is to remove the painful parts of her body — well, it seems horribly sad. And unfair to Tracy. I don’t feel particularly attached to my own life (perhaps only because it has never been seriously threatened from the outside) and imagine that when I have aged and lost the mental and physical faculties I take for granted now, that I would prefer to bow out earlier rather than later. (I am aware that this is what I imagine now, that when the time comes my feelings may be quite different. I also understand the political implications of giving up on life when I start to require services I don’t need now.) Because of what I think I would want for *myself* — what many people think they want for *themselves* — it was easy to project on Tracy even without thinking of her as less-deserving. (Or rather, being aware of thinking of her as less-deserving.)

    The disability advocates were outraged at this ambivalence — rightly so — but were not effective in getting a message through the press that addressed what the (non-disabled, unfamiliar with the issues) public felt were the complexities of Tracy’s life and death. Disability advocates tended to focus on the point they wanted to get across — the value of every individual, of everyone’s life. (Or at least, this is the message that the press passed on.) Which, sure, most people will accept or at least pay lip-service to. But it didn’t address the “Yes, but…” of suffering, of people’s own (imagined) preference for death when the time comes that they *themselves* are faced with that combination of extensive limitations and severe pain.

    The people promoting increased services as a solution tended to be editorialists, ethicists, hospital social workers. People who ordinary readers thought perhaps had a point, but were probably being too theoretical. I don’t recall that the Latimers complained that they had to kill their child because they weren’t receiving enough services. Services are nice but they aren’t a panacea. Services don’t stop the dismantling of a child’s body.

    What did ultimately get through to me was one of my disabled employers patiently explaining that parents are not always the best judge of a child’s desire to live. They project. They may be at the end of their personal resources… and imagine that their child must be too. That made sense to me. It addressed the “Yes but… .”

    My point is that the press need to get (and pass on) both kinds of message. Yes, reiterate the back-to-the basics message of the value of every life. It is basic and it bears repeating. But also the message that addresses the “Yes but… .” Otherwise people remain ambivalent and can’t take a strong stand.

    In Katie McCarron’s case, the second message is she wasn’t suffering and she was loved. It’s a relatively easy message for the press to pass on and for the public to accept, especially since she was cute. In Tracy Latimer’s case, the second message might be that it’s not for anyone else to decide whose life is worth living. That people do tolerate suffering and cling to life all the time. That people do choose life over body parts all the time. Or that whatever the individual circumstances of Tracy, we cannot accept the consequences of murders of other children that we know will follow.

    People who had opinions or who were ambivalent about Tracy Latimer’s life and death generally believed they were being thoughtful and compassionate and willing to face complex issues. They (correctly) didn’t think her murder could be treated in the same way as a drive-by shooting. They deserved an analysis that addressed them on those terms.

    Dick Sobsey and the CCDI are getting it right. Now as Kassiane says, to get it to the mainstream…

  3. *In fact, FBI profilers and criminologists agree that “the deeper motivation for mercy killing to be a pathological need for ‘power and control.’”*

    Not really…

    Half the time the clear message is that the person doing the killing has an issue with the concept of a person needing to be understood on their own terms, rather than the prescribed terms of societal interaction. I think – and I wouldn’t want to upset Mike McCarron in any way by saying this (but this is what comes out of the whole dialogue about Katie’s death) – that Karen had an issue with having a child that she, with all her medicalised knowledge, couldn’t be bothered to deal with. It’s easier in medical practice to limit the value of a life than it is to restrict the value of that life in educational and developmental work.

    Autism isn’t, and never has been (should never be) the poor relation in medicine that it is: it is a developmental issue and should be worked with in educational methods. Asperger knew that. Ultimantely, it is likely that Kanner figured that out too, and thereby managed to prove himself to be more observant than the rest of his psychoanalytically sophisticated colleagues…..

    I want autism out of medicine and into education.

    That way, we could get rid of the whole thing of mercy-killings in autism.

    Medicine has had sod all to offer except bad news and euthanasia. It’s way past time that this was stopped.

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