You be the judge
May 25, 2001 11:33 AM   Subscribe

You be the judge Mercy killing? Perhaps. You be the judge and pass sentence after reading the facts that convicted the father.
posted by Postroad (7 comments total)
This article doesn't really examine the case at hand. Instead the author sets up a sort of straw man comparison between James Lawson, who assisted the suicide of his chronically depressed daughter, and Augusto Odone, the author's father, whose efforts to cure his son Lorenzo (who suffers from
ALD) were eventually dramatized in the film Lorenzo's Oil.

"And yet most people I know, after a bit of polite hemming and hawing, agree... My father strikes them as monstrous, not marvellous."

It strikes me as a bit ingenous for the author to claim that her father has been persecuted for his incredible efforts to help his son, considering that the Odone family's struggle was made into a film which depicted their heroism and sacrifices as they devoted themselves to finding a treatment for ALD. No doubt the writer is offended by people who criticize her father, and appalled that another father is given sympathy for giving up on his own child, but that doesn't make for an informative or insightful article on the actual issues involved.
posted by Zettai at 12:18 PM on May 25, 2001

I would judge the facts in this case but there is far too much opinion in that article to pull out the facts.
posted by chason at 12:34 PM on May 25, 2001

She doesn't even mention the mentally ill girl's age. That's pretty poor reporting, even if her aim is to editorialize.

Obviously, the writer's perspective is skewed by her personal experience, but in my world, people don't go around harrassing people like her father. His is not a decision I would have made, but I respect it, as would most people, IMHO. As one who has sufferred from depression for many years but has found effective treatments, I can't really understand what would drive the other father to kill his daughter--unless he was ill himself, which is not unlikely.
posted by jpoulos at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2001

There is very little in this article about Sarah's depression. Although depression can be manageable, this is not always the case. I know there are cases of depression that do not respond to treatment including psychotherapy, medication, and even ECT. I have no doubt that these rare, but severe cases can cause such severe physical and emotional problems that the sufferer would justifiably want to end his or her life. It seems some of the author's rage is directed at a disease like depression being placed among other "serious" and fatal diseases such as cancer and ALD. The author should have put in more information about Sarah's case.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:24 PM on May 25, 2001

Seems almost pointless for me to post my opinion since everyone seems to place such a relativistic value on life but I believe life is pretty much sacrosanct, you don't mess with it. So based on my presupposition killing someone that is living is quite obviously a bad thing. I personally don't even consider the merits of something so subjective as "quality" of living or any argument that depends on it. Anyone share this idea?
posted by greyscale at 6:44 PM on May 25, 2001

My take on the author's comments about people "crossing the street" when they see her father is that the comments have to do with the discomfort people feel when put into an uncomfortable moral situation.

I think she's saying that people see her father as a walking symbol of their own moral discomfort and shy away due to that emotional reaction rather than from some rational decision to shun him.

Either that, or people rationalize the empathetic guilt they feel when they see or think about her father and end up converting this moral guilt, which the author is saying folks don't know how to deal with, into a feeling of being threatened -- for them, on maybe an unconsicious level, it's as if the father of the boy was antagonizing them just by trying to make an ethical act.

In this way, it becomes a case where people feel intimidated by the author's father just because he's there.

Or it could be simply that most people have a social instinct to avoid people with a lot of problems to deal with. Maybe folks are afraid of getting sucked into the other person's problems. (I know I've been guilty of this.)

Maybe I'm reading a lot into the author's thoughts. I could be wrong. That's the way I read the piece.
posted by bilco at 12:33 AM on May 26, 2001

greyscale, i wonder where your belief that human life is sacrosanct comes from. i assume it is either an understanding of a religious law (or some other intuition of the divine), a sort of "ultimate" philosophical argument (which is, as all philosophical arguments are, applied to the real world only when convenient), or simply something you've learned through experience.

if it is a theological belief, and the word "sacrosanct" is used more or less literally, this whole concept of "not messing with life" becomes interesting. as our legal systems approximate (or embody) more and more intricately our society's de facto philosophical systems, the reintroduction of "mysteries" (as in religious mysteries) into the legal system may become absolutely unavoidable. it was fine to avoid the subject of just exactly what sort of protections human life is afforded in our legal systems because the vast majority of questions posed to the judges were rather simple, or isolated from other legal precedents and thus idiosyncratic... eventually, one suspects that things of this sort must be fleshed out, as precendents on odd questions accumulate into a decent record of what our society thinks is appropriate. the judges articulate in quasi-philosophical terms how the legal system is to handle such cases; but it is gradually becoming evident that there may not always be a consensus. it is similar, i think, to the perfect split down the middle between the two political parties, which causes a seemingly random election: there are certain questions in any legal system which, by the law of averages, will never reach a consensus opinion.

so because they simply cannot be fleshed out, mysteries are resorted to, ones which are at least comfortable, if impossible to codify or even render as a philosophical argument (and thus understand). that's not to say they will form the basis of our legal system, and thus replace the philosophical bedrock entirely; but it may be an undermining of that bedrock, the more it increases.

what this article points up is the disconnect between our society's legal system and the philosophical system: it appears legally wrong yet is accepted, philosophically, in part on the grounds that the true answer to this dilemma is essentially unknowable. not that i thought the piece was at all well-written.

i hope that made some sense - it's a bit compressed.
posted by mitchel at 5:36 PM on May 26, 2001

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