Robert Latimer: A Story of Justice and Mercy
Publisher: James Lorimer and Co., Toronto (2010)
In October 1993, Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan farmer, decided to end the life of his chronically ill daughter rather than subject her to another painful surgery. Tracy, who had the mental capacity of a five-month-old infant, was twelve at the time of her death. She had already endured multiple operations to correct conditions caused by her severe cerebral palsy.
Tracy’s death and the charge of murder laid against Robert Latimer set in motion Canada’s most famous and controversial case of “mercy killing.” The case sparked a national debate about euthanasia and the rights of the severely disabled that continues today.
Author Gary Bauslaugh takes us back to the beginning of this case, describes its explosion on the national scene during two highly publicized trials, and looks at later conflicts surrounding Latimer’s parole hearing. In clear, insightful prose, Bauslaugh discusses the conflicting views of Latimer’s sympathizers and detractors in chapters that explore the ethical dilemmas as well as the legal issues that this case has raised.
As a reporter who has followed the case from its beginnings and interviewed Latimer multiple times during his imprisonment and subsequent parole, Bauslaugh’s intimate knowledge of the personalities and facts of this difficult case allow him to write a revealing and informed book.
“Robert Latimer’s story is the ultimate antidote to the tendency to see the law in abstract terms. The supposed virtue of our legal system is its ability to temper law with justice. This book sets out clearly the many barriers to that goal- naiveté of accused, pop-psychology misconceptions, prosecutorial zeal, professional incompetence, uninformed and biased political and media pressure- among many others. Gary Bauslaugh has written a book that should be on every law school curriculum and on every politician’s and justice professional’s reading list. The questions he raises about end-of-life issues deserve wide debate, but at the end of the day, as the Latimer case illustrates, even if we do change our laws, we will always need to find justice for those good people who are on the wrong side of the law for the right reasons.”
– Kim Campbell, former Justice Minister and Prime Minister of Canada