This week on the popular Dr. Phil Show, a mother named Annette Corriveau was featured. She’s special because she wants the right to be able to kill her children.
That’s right. She is the mother of two severely disabled adult children, and she feels that the moral thing to do would be to kill them by lethal injection, to end their “suffering.” Her children were diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome, causing them to lose motor function and be institutionalized. They cannot speak, and they have to be fed through feeding tubes. Any more information on their condition wasn’t made clear – probably because, as Annette admitted, she visits her children only once every two months. The people who actually work with her children every day, and see them on a regular basis, and could therefore give a better idea of what their lives are like, were not interviewed for the show. We had only Annette’s point of view, which is that – according to her – if her children could choose, they would choose suicide.
She admits that she doesn’t know if they are in pain. She doesn’t know if they’re deaf or blind. She doesn’t know if they recognize her or not, and she doesn’t know what actions and activities, if any, are comforting to them. She doesn’t know if they are able to communicate in any way. She says that they’ve never left the facility they’re in over the past twenty years, but she also doesn’t disclose if she’s done anything to try to take her children out on trips – although considering that she visits them only once every two months, my guess would be no.
Yet she feels that, because she is their mother, she should be allowed to end their lives – because she doesn’t think their quality of life is worth living for.
Also invited on the show? Attorney Geoffrey Fleiger, who defended the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian. As we all know, Dr. Kevorkian performed assisted suicides for his patients, and the argument being made is that this is the same thing: helping people put themselves out of their own misery.
Assisted suicide arguments aside, there is a glaring difference between what Dr. Kevorkian was doing and what Annette Corriveau is advocating: these children wouldn’t be committing suicide. They wouldn’t be calling Dr. Kevorkian themselves. They aren’t consciously making that decision. It is a choice being made for them, by the person who is supposed to love and protect them. No matter how sympathetic you try to make yourself seem, this is murder, plain and simple. Taking someone’s life and calling it “merciful” does not change the fact that you are taking someone’s life.
The most disturbing part of all? Dr. Phil offered a weak rebuttal to her argument, but he still went on calling this an act of mercy to her children. He then polled the audience to see how many of them agreed with this mother.
Almost every single member of the audience did.
The woman crying at the end of that video was the one person speaking out for those children. She was given all of a minute, tops, to make her case for why murdering people with severe disabilities is abhorrent and wrong. And in that minute, she was able to pretty much hit the nail on the head: that you can’t kill your children just because it’s too much work for you to keep them alive.
This isn’t the first time Annette Corriveau has spoken publicly about this issue. She was featured in a documentary, Taking Mercy, along with a father who actually did kill his disabled daughter in the name of “mercy.” (You can watch the video here – it’s about fifteen minutes long.)
Robert Latimer, the other parent in Taking Mercy, murdered his daughter to end her “suffering” by putting her in the cab of his truck and letting her die of carbon monoxide poisoning. The affliction that meant that her life was not worth living? Cerebral palsy.
These two parents want to make it legal to murder your children if, as a parent, you feel that their lives aren’t worth living, because they are supposedly suffering too much. And what makes a life not worth living? Apparently, having a disability.
While you can’t argue that Annette Corriveau’s children are severely disabled, Robert Latimer’s daughter was nowhere near them in terms of disability. You can see her in videos, laughing and smiling. The reason he decided to kill her? She had to have surgery to repair her hip, another surgery in a long line of them, and he felt that her life was too “painful” to live. He says that after she died, he knew she was at peace. And of course, so was he.
What makes these people think they have the right to decide whether their child gets to live or die? Annette Corriveau repeatedly says that you can’t judge her unless you’ve “walked in her moccasins,” but that is a load of nonsense. This has nothing to do with being judgmental, and everything to do with refusing to open the door to euthanasia.
It’s repeatedly said that this should be between the parent and the physician, and no one else, but it isn’t the parent’s choice to make. You don’t get to decide whether someone’s life is worth living or not. You don’t get to decide that it’s better to murder people than let to let them live.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this entire argument – that “mercy killing” should be legalized – is the potential for a deadly slippery slope. If they get their way, then who gets to decide what the marker for quality of life is? Who chooses when life is worth living for someone else? What disabilities deserve a death sentence? Sure, Annette Corriveau’s children are severely disabled. But what about parents who feel that their child with, say, Down syndrome has poor quality of life and doesn’t deserve to live? Multiple sclerosis? Muscular dystrophy? Cerebral palsy?
There are hundreds of thousands of people in the world living with disabilities, and I’m sure they wouldn’t want someone deciding for them that their lives aren’t worth living and that as such, they’ll be murdered. The fact that this issue has been brought to prominence on The Dr. Phil Show and portrayed as a legitimate issue of compassion and mercy is horrifying; even worse is that so many of his viewers apparently feel that killing someone because of a disability is A-OK.
The reality here is that no one gets to play God and decide who lives and who dies, or whose life is worthwhile and whose isn’t. Just because you brought your children into the world doesn’t mean that you have the right to take them out of the world, whether it’s done in the name of mercy or not. Because no matter how you may try to paint the picture, there is absolutely nothing merciful or compassionate about murder.