Robert Latimer was denied day parole last week after spending the past seven years in a minimum security prison.

Panel members at his parole hearing stated he has “not developed the kind of sufficient insight and understanding” of his actions to warrant receiving parole at this time.

Mr. Latimer (no relation to myself) is the Saskatchewan farmer who killed his severely disabled daughter in 1993 and sparked a national debate on euthanasia. He was convicted of second degree murder in the death of his daughter and has always acknowledged his action, which he claimed was a mercy killing he would do again if presented with the same situation.

Because Mr. Latimer did not express remorse for his action, the parole board declared he lacked insight. This is a misinterpretation of the definition of insight. Insight means to have understanding of the relationship between current thoughts, feelings and/or behaviours and where these originated or how they are maintained.

Mr. Latimer has insight but doesn’t agree with the opinion of the majority. He has been in prison for the past seven years because Canadian law does not permit euthanasia – but this issue is controversial. Many reasonable people around the world believe it should be legal and it is legal in some places.

Physician assisted dying is legal in Oregon under the death with dignity act as well as in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Even our neighbour to the south – Washington State – is currently engaged in an active debate about legalizing assisted suicide. A popular two term governor with Parkinson’s Disease is leading the advocacy debate in what he says will be his “last campaign”.

Although Mr. Latimer has different values than the majority in Canadian society and has been punished under the law because of them – he has not changed his opinion.

We may agree or disagree with his position, but it is not appropriate to say that anyone who disagrees with us suffers from a lack of insight. It is possible to understand alternative positions and still disagree.

The recent parole hearing of Mr. Latimer is an example of patronizing, pseudo-psychologizing to justify an action and the panel of political appointees should be required to give a more cogent rationale for their decision.

Mr. Latimer understands what he did and why he is in jail, but doesn’t agree.

Is it appropriate in a case like this to demand remorse as a condition of parole? If that is the requirement, then Mr. Latimer will never qualify for parole because he will never feel remorseful.

What does society gain by keeping him in prison? To date, he has already served as an example to others – anyone considering the mercy killing of a family member now knows they will likely go to jail.

In terms of protecting the public – it is unlikely Mr. Latimer will ever face a similar situation again. If by some chance he was in a position to take similar action in the future, it would likely be easy for parole officers to see it coming and intervene if they thought a repeat offence was likely.

What more does society gain by keeping him in jail? It is an expensive way to silence a dissident point of view - Mr. Latimer has stated his intention of moving to Ottawa to advocate for his position.

I say, give him parole and allow the democratic process to deal with his advocacy for euthanasia.


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