A Taiwanese man has been sentenced to just a year and a half in prison after stabbing his disabled son to death.
Last August, the man — identified only as Chang — killed his son, claiming it was at the young man’s request. According to the government-run Central News Agency (CNA), the son had become disabled following a car accident and was reportedly suicidal. Zhang could not walk on his own, and though the extent of his disability was not made clear, he was said to have been facing the amputation of both feet due to severe bedsores.
Since his son had previously attempted suicide, Chang claimed he finally agreed to assist him in killing himself and stabbed him multiple times with a fruit knife. He then called the police to turn himself in and supplied a suicide note from his son. The Yunlin County Police Bureau decided the letter was genuine, and prosecutors charged him merely with assisted suicide, rather than murder.
According to CNA, the son had repeatedly begged his parents to kill him because he felt he was a “burden” on them. Though heartbreaking, this mindset is what most often leads people to choose assisted suicide. Many studies from prestigious medical journals have found that many people want to die not because they are suffering or for fear a painful death but because they fear being a burden on loved ones, have little or no support, and are depressed. When these issues are properly addressed, the request for suicide is often withdrawn.
In this case, the fear of being a burden may not have been unfounded, considering it was his father who killed him. The police accepted the letter allegedly written by the son as proof of his wish to die, but there is no way to know if the letter was written under duress, as he is not here to explain. The only person whose word police can rely on is the murderer himself.
Additionally, the condition that led Zhang to face amputation — severe bedsores — should raise concerns in and of itself. According to Mayo Clinic, people most at risk for developing bedsores are those with “medical conditions that limit their ability to change positions or cause them to spend most of their time in a bed or chair.” People with disabilities need to be repositioned frequently in order to prevent bedsores from developing or becoming infectious — a task that usually falls on the person’s caregivers. It is unknown whether Zhang was being cared for properly.
The answers to the questions will remain unknown. But the life of a disabled person has been undervalued and his death at the hands of his caregiver has been brushed off as inconsequential. As assisted suicide and euthanasia grow more widely accepted, it is likely that people like Zhang will continue to be killed.
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