Neighbor urges euthanasia for autistic child – a lesson lost

euthanasia, autistic, autism, parent, Catholic, Church

If I am this horrified, I can only imagine how horrified the Ontario mother of a 13-year-old autistic child was when she received an anonymous letter from one of her neighbors urging her to euthanize her autistic child.

The neighbor ended her letter, “Do the right thing and move or euthanize him!!! Either way, we are ALL better off!!!”

She also mentioned that the mother should take “whatever non retarded [sic] body parts” the child owns and donate them to science. She concluded the letter by signing it from the stance of an angry mother. Since it included a curse word, I won’t repeat it here.

Apparently, the child can get pretty noisy when he’s outside and this disturbs the neighbor and frightens her “normal” children.

What a shameful lesson lost! So much for taking advantage of a prime teaching moment. The Catholic Church teaches us that parents are the primary educators of their children. What we do and say to and around them molds who they become when they reach adulthood.

The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World tells us, “Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. The right and duty of parents to give education is essential …”

The neighbor may not be Catholic, but what the Church teaches holds true for parents of all denominations. It’s even true for parents of no denomination.

The neighbor fails to understand this. At least I pray so, because if she does understand it, then she is consciously teaching her children to judge and disdain anyone who is different from themselves – judgement and disdain to the point of feeling we have the right (obligation, as the neighbor states) to wipe out anyone with a disability.

I wonder how changed the situation would have been if the neighbor had gotten to know the family with the autistic child, if she had used the opportunity to teach her children how to handle difficult circumstances, if she had taught them about the beauty of bearing cross and suffering in holiness, if she had chosen to teach her children that every single person – regardless of their abilities or disabilities – is a cherished child of God with a heart and soul that is worthy of awe, if she had taught her children to more fully appreciate and utilize their own abilities rather than hate and fear others for their disabilities.

This sad, sad, case prods me to work harder on practicing respect and regard in my own life. Hate, fear, judgment, and disdain begin with the little things and slowly build over time until they become impenetrable walls between individuals, families, religions, and nations. At the core of it is the failure to understand and value the other for who he/she is in totality, with all the gifts and shortcomings God has bestowed on that person, and the failure to recognize that God’s plan is perfect even when we can’t comprehend it. From, “I can’t stand the way you chew your gum!” to “I’m cutting you out of my life!” to “You don’t deserve to live!”, it’s all passing judgment in some form.

God can help us, but we must first want to be helped. We must pray, do penance, and implore God’s grace and mercy to temper our hearts. Allowing God to first change our own hearts will give example and encourage others to change theirs.

In case you’d like to read the full account, here’s the link to the article:…euthanize-autistic-13-year-o


  1. .

    On Dateline NBC a few years ago, they showed a case where
    the police were investigating similar notes being received
    by a teacher at a school (and the notes were designed
    to look as of they were sent by another teacher).

    It was later found that the ‘taunted and tortured teacher’
    had actually sent the notes to herself as a cry for attention
    and public sympathy due to feeling overwhelmed with her
    life (and no other ‘teacher’ or ‘outsider’ had sent it to her).

    Also, a couple of years ago a man claimed that he began
    to receive ‘religious hate mail’ our of nowhere from “an
    unknown neighbor” (even though there was no history
    of any of the neighbors having harassed, disliked or
    shown bigotry or hatred toward his family before) and
    within a few weeks his wife ended up “attacked by an
    unknown stranger, possibly the “neighbor”, and killed”.

    It was later found that he felt his wife was a “burden”
    and had composed and sent “the mysterious letters”
    himself as a set up and cover for the crime he was
    planning in order to “set himself free” from someone
    that ‘he’ (not his neighbors) saw as a “burden” in life.

    In both cases, entire innocent-communities (even if
    it were seen as just ‘one’ phantom-person within that
    community) were placed with suspicion and blame for
    something that they did not do and would never have
    even thought of doing — simply because someone who
    felt they wanted to ‘escape’ their own “burdens” in life
    were setting up both the communities and the family
    member from whom they wanted to be set free.

    In addition, there have been story after story of
    late of the many parents and caregivers of autistic
    children who — feeling overwhelmed with taking
    care of a person with severe needs and yet also
    wanting to gain public attention, pity, sympathy,
    support, and a type of victim and/or hero status
    — have plotted for weeks, months and even years
    to ‘get free of their burden’ in such as way as to
    look both innocent and pitiable (and this is often
    done by pointing-the-finger at innocent-strangers).

    My point is that — UNTIL the police investigate to see
    IF this “mysterious note” is actually LEGITIMATE —
    this community should NOT be seen as having
    some sort of hate-monger living in it’s midst.

    This ‘mysterious note’ seems to have a far “too personal”
    touch to it to have been composed by any ‘man’ and / or
    even by ‘woman’ who would have been a ‘stranger’ or
    a ‘near stranger’ to this family — and, until it is PROVEN
    that it IS IN FACT from “someone in the neighborhood”,
    it seems unreasonable to assume that the neighbors are
    not (possibly) being set-up just so that someone who
    may feel overwhelmed with life can literally ‘script’ a
    situation in which to garner both pity and attention.

    It’s not that I’m not trying to be ‘sympathetic’ toward
    the family to whom the memo was directed … it’s just
    that … the situation of “setting things up in order to
    get public sympathy and attention” has been found
    to have occurred so frequently in the past number
    of years that — unless someone has a video of
    a situation occurring — many times it should be
    considered as possibly “one of the usual suspects”.–Caregivers-Should-Seek-Help.html?nav=5208


    • AP,

      I appreciate your comment, because it brings another side to this issue. Frankly, I’d never considered the possibility that the mother had written the note herself. I’d found the story on a trusted and reliable news site when the affair was still fresh. It remains to be seen who actually wrote the letter.

      Even if the mother had written it herself, it brings to light a serious problem, and some serious questions. Do we, as a society, lend enough patience and support to families with special needs children? To adults with special needs? If these families and individuals had sufficient backup, would they be tempted to resort to such drastic measured as writing hate letters to themselves or even doing away with those who “burden” them?

      True, there are people in this world who are mentally ill and would behave this way even with support. But I also know that caring for a child or adult with special needs can be draining, difficult, and discouraging to the point of pushing the caregivers to very end of their ropes. There are two special needs children in our family, and I see what the parents go through, even when supported by a loving family.

      I hesitate to label the letter “too personal,” though. In my opinion, it really depends on the configuration of the neighborhood in which the mother with the autistic child lives. For example, my neighbors are all quite close. I can hear my neighbor rattling dishes in her kitchen and smell the cigarette smoke when she lights up (which drives me crazy, by the way, since it makes me nauseous). Unless I purposely tune it out (which I try very hard to do), I can hear their family conversations. Neighbors can know an awful lot about each other, even without trying.

      Again, thank you for coming forward with your thoughts. I will be watching for new developments to this story so we can all learn what actually happened.

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