by Hilary Stace, Public Address,
Dr Stace reflects on responses to cases in New Zealand of parents killing their disabled children, including Casey Albury in 1997.
The reporting around Casey’s death focussed on the burden of caring for someone with high needs, and there was much public sympathy for her mother. The personhood of Casey, as a young woman with her own interests, such as playing the piano, was largely ignored.
A few years later a Nelson father suffocated his baby daughter after learning she had complex impairments. He was acquitted despite complaints from the disability rights movement that this placed a lower value on the lives of disabled people than for other humans.
Last April a Blenheim mother’s short memoir of her life with her disabled adult daughter was published revealing years of severe distress including mutual violence. Donella Knox and her daughter Ruby had previously featured in the media. A month later the mother was arrested for the murder of her daughter with an overdose of medication and suffocation.
Dr Stace notes that the US Autistic Self Advocacy Network has documented more than 400 cases of disabled children being killed by a family member or caregiver. They write:
We see the same pattern repeating over and over again. A parent kills their disabled child. The media portrays these murders as justifiable and inevitable due to the ‘burden’ of having a disabled person in the family. If the parent stands trial, they are given sympathy and comparatively lighter sentences, if they are sentenced at all. The victims are disregarded, blamed for their own murder at the hands of the person they should have been able to trust the most, and ultimately forgotten. And then the cycle repeats.
Click here to read the full article.