International

New Zealand judge deems mother’s murder of disabled daughter ‘mercy killing’

euthanasia, disabled, assisted suicide

A New Zealand woman who murdered her disabled daughter was spared a life sentence in prison by a judge who called it a “mercy killing.”

Justice Cheryl Gwyn gave Cherylene Lawrence a six-and-a-half-year sentence for killing her daughter, Chevana Marie Fox. The sentence was highly unusual because a life sentence is mandatory in New Zealand in cases of murder unless a judge determines that the sentence would be “manifestly unjust.”

According to the New Zealand Herald, Lawrence admitted to fatally injuring the 28-year-old Fox, who suffered from juvenile Huntington’s disease, a condition that causes progressive degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, and physical, psychiatric, and cognitive issues. Lawrence cared for her daughter at home, something that she had admitted was very stressful for her. In a text to her own mother, Lawrence wrote, “I’m gonna end up killing chevana. I’ve had. Enough.”

After arranging for a caregiver to leave the home so that she could be with Fox alone, Lawrence strangled her daughter. She later called an ambulance and admitted to assaulting her, later telling police that Fox was “suffering with ‘no quality of life’ and being ‘stuck in delusions, torturous delusions’.” Fox died from her injuries several weeks later.

READ: HORRIFIC: Son pushes elderly mother off balcony… and is cleared of murder

“It’s clear to me your personal circumstances would make life imprisonment manifestly unjust,” Gwyn said in her sentencing. “There are elements of a mercy killing in Chevana’s death.” Gwyn also added that Fox’s death “would have been terrifying for her, but I did not consider it particularly cruel in the circumstances.”

The story is heartbreaking, but it’s the judge’s decision to classify the murder as merciful that is especially dangerous. It also draws a striking comparison with the “merciful” killings so often advocated today by people who are actively pushing for expanded access to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

While many euthanasia laws start out with stipulations meant to ensure that each person must actively seek their own death, it’s a very slippery slope that often looks less like dignified dying and more like cold-blooded murder. For instance, Belgium allows euthanasia for children who are in terminal pain, a choice that only a parent could truly make for their child. In 2014, a British mother was granted permission from the court to euthanize her disabled daughter. In the Netherlands, one in three doctors has said that they would euthanize someone who was mentally ill (and, consequently, not of sound mind to make that decision themselves). Intentionally taking the life of another human being is not treating that life as a precious and unique gift from God. Killing — whether by euthanasia, assisted suicide, or murder — can never be merciful.

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