On Donella Knox, her disabled daughter, and the so-called ‘mercy killing’

by Robyn Hunt, The Spinoff, 9 February 2017

Ms Hunt is a writer, human rights advocate and founding member of Not Dead Yet Aotearoa.

In this article she reflects on the “dark side of disability” in the case of Donella Knox who was recently convicted for the murder of her daughter Ruby, who had a complex set of impairments.

This case raises a lot of questions which need urgent attention. One aspect which many disabled people find extremely challenging is the uncontested use of the term “mercy killing” by the court and the media. What does this mean, mercy for whom? It raises profound questions about disabled lives and their value, and their meaning in relation to our common humanity.

In New Zealand there have been about 20 deaths of disabled people at the hands of their parents or caregivers since 1983 that I know of. They were people with a range of impairments, including learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, as well as deaf and autistic or multi-impaired like Ruby. Their killers, those of whom have come before the justice system at all, have served lesser sentences than those who kill their non-disabled children. 

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