Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Do Murderers Deserve Our Sympathy?

Murders do not occur in a vacuum. In some societies murder occurs more often than in others. It's always possible for murderers to find some kind of justification for their crime. Maybe they were experiencing economic hardship. Maybe they were abused as children. Maybe they had some kind of "mental illness". Maybe they did not receive enough support and services.

But the role of society in making murder more likely does not constitute a justification for murder. Murderers do not deserve our sympathy and should be punished regardless of circumstances.

And people realize this for the most part. When parents murder their non-disabled children, there's seldom any sympathy for the murderers. This is true regardless of any hardships the murderers might have been experiencing. Sentences are generally harsh. And there's little to no outcry about such sentences.

But it's different with disabled children. And I can't help but conclude this is because the disabled victim is considered to be less than human - perhaps better dead than disabled.

And make no mistake. It's not autism which caused Karen McCarron (reputedly a curebie mom) to snap. It was the negative discourse about autism which contributed to her state of mind. It's organizations like Autism Speaks with videos such as Autism Every Day. They have sent a message (and continue to do so as I write this) to the effect that it's unremarkable for parents of autistics to be thinking about killing their autistic children.

Things don't have to be this way, as evidenced by all the parents writing about acceptance at Autism Hub, and by the parents of Rett girls, who apparently don't spend their time whining about services and the mostly self-imposed difficulties of raising autistic children.

I'm not one to believe in fate or purpose. But I'm willing to consider that Katie's death might have fulfilled a purpose in a sense. Perhaps it will help people realize that "if we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities", as Autism Diva points out.

In Memoriam - Katherine "Katie" McCarron


  1. In a very eerie way, this blog entry is related to your last - both are on eugenics and the question under which circumstances it is permissible to kill a child. My guess is that the individual thresholds vary a lot.

    One thing that baffled me is that a lot of geneticist will not tell parents the gender of their child before the legal abortion limit. Gender is a huge issue in infanticides (pre- and postnatal) in some cultures. It is often very difficult for others to think in the frame of thought of the parents. When I first thought about the idea of aborting a child because of (usually her) gender, I was appalled, but the pressure of society (not mine but some mothers') can be very hard to bear.

    I saw a documentary once about a mother who was caring for her apallic son. It was clear that she loved her son dearly and that she was very afraid what would happen to him once she died, which is why she openly pondered to "take him with her". Along similar lines I recently had a conversation with a mother on the playground whose older daughter is severly brain damaged, and, since she turned 16, does no longer qualify to stay in her care home. The mum spoke of the desparation that she felt and other mothers in a similar situation feel when they are deserted by the system to cope with the phenomenal task of caring for their children and it is not the lack of love that makes them ponder murder, it is the sheer exhaustion of someone who has to care for someone else 24/7 for years on end without a break.

    Rather than focussing on "healing" whatever necessitates the intensive care, maybe a "give a mom a break" programme could prevent a lot of cruelty and ultimately murder.

  2. Hi Catherina. Thanks for stopping by.

    One thing that baffled me is that a lot of geneticist will not tell parents the gender of their child before the legal abortion limit.

    That's an excellent point. And it goes to differences between groups of people. There are differences, in average, between men and women. I know a lot of people don't like to hear this, and prefer to pretend differences do not exist between sexes and races. But this kind of thinking hurts autistics, as differences between autistics and non-autistics are undeniable. Instead of denying differences, we should work on acceptance of differences.

  3. If Ms. McCarron was in fact heavily into "curebie" stuff, then I wonder how much her mental state was affected by repeatedly being sold hope at a high price and then having those hopes dashed (and lets not forget that all quacks are really in the business of selling hope). That certainly can't excuse murder, but I can certainly see such a cycle contributing to a growing sense of hopelessness and despair (especially since the biomed pushers typically argue that you have to buy their stuff Right Now or else your child is doomed forever). Expose someone with a broken moral compass to that and you've got a recipe for disaster (and even in a morally stable parent, that kind of despair could lead them to institutionalize their kid, or to simply give up and not do anything to help their development).

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  6. FYI, I've moved John's comment and my response to the comments section of my previous blog entry. John, please follow the link.