Euthanasia Or Manslaughter?

Bonnie Lilitz and her daughter.

Bonnie Lilitz and her daughter.

Nathan Currier, Staff Writer

The unfathomable questions that lurk into the deepest echo chambers of the mind, the insatiable thought that is unending that cloaks itself behind shadows. When in moments of silence or at your weakest point, every single one of you have thought… what happens when I die? What happens when you take the final gasp of air, and when it leaves your lungs and darkness is plunged over… what then? Is this the end or the start of something new?

From the words sprawled onto pages over thousands of years old, to the test tubes in the labs. Everyone looks for an answer to the most existentially dreaded topic in awe. Seeing the idea of death is one that our minds can’t even grasp. If you sit and think of what happens after death, imagine if nothing actually happens but only silence and darkness. Your consciousness can’t even begin to unravel the paradoxical implications of death. Even the most devoted and god fearing man has doubted his beliefs, and sat up in night in sweats of terror and crippling anxiety about what happens when it’s over.

I ask of you, to leave all philosophical reasonings and ideas here. Take a venture into a world of legal and moral right, battling in an intense head-to-head struggle. Feel free to scoff, but I beg of you… journey with me, and explore the idea of death, and what one of the most intense inner dilemmas I can actually think of in the recent months. I normally find it hard, as most writers do, to even have the sheer will-power to find motivation in what they do. I always find a news story and just have an intense apathy about it, I could just brush it off as the world just going to hell in a handbasket. This story however, caught my attention…

Courtney Liltz was a 28-year-old girl with very severe cerebral palsy. Her life forever changed when she was born and instantly abandoned, no one around to take care of her. Until one day, Bonnie Liltz arrived and took her into her home. She raised her as a daughter and treated her with the most compassion and care that she could give as a mother to her adopted child. Spending years as a loving parent who only wanted to see the best possible for her daughter.

Bonnie started a battle with severe ovarian cancer from as early as 19, leaving her infertile and unable to have children. Bonnie had dreams of a family of her own and took in Courtney without hesitation and raised her for years. Previously, when Courtney was in the system she didn’t receive proper care for her disability, and was even neglected the attention that she needed.

Later into their lives, Bonnie reached a critical point in her fight with cancer. She needed to be hospitalized and on heavy medication and cancer treatment procedures. Courtney had to be removed from the home and placed into state care where all hell broke loose. Bonnie went to visit her daughter and realized that she couldn’t live in state custody. Courtney was reportedly, “diaper rashed, drooling… sitting in a corner covered in her own filth.” Without the care or attention from her mother, she’d suffer severe outbursts and episodes from being separated.

Bonnie decided that with no way of herself recovering, and the horrible life that Courtney would have to endure. Bonnie laid in bed with her daughter and decided to take all of her medication, as well as give some to Courtney to commit suicide together. She wrote a suicide note that mentioned how terrible Courtney’s life would be if she was in the system and continued to be mistreated, and how she couldn’t live with herself for letting it happen. While Courtney did end up dying, Bonnie did not. She was charged with Manslaughter and pleaded guilty, being sentenced earlier in May.

Everytime I look back at this situation, everyone’s immediate thought as well as mine was, “This is clear-cut, she committed a crime and deserves to be punished.” I just can’t help but think that this only begins to scratch the surface of a much larger issue at play. Something about this entire case brings up an issue that has been in the news recently, euthanasia.

In states that have euthanasia for terminally ill-people, extensive psychological backgrounds are done on the person. As well as plenty other alternatives are offered but if a person is set on their mind… then who are we to say, “no.”? Except Courtney wasn’t terminally ill, she was just mentally handicapped.

We will never know if Courtney was actually aware of the situation in which she would die, or even understanding what death was being as severely handicapped as she was. Would the better alternative to her death be the state care? I think anyone would want to imagine this but most of the time when the state comes into play it never turns out for the better, as she would be marked as another person in the cogwheel, and not an individual with her own specific needs.

At the time of writing this article at 11:29 P.M, the persistent thought of individual morality versus legal right begins to blur at situations like this. We all know or have seen someone who is handicapped mentally in some way, but do we really know how they think or feel? Do we actually have a concept of how they perceive life as we do? Are they actually happy with being out in public or special care? About a year ago I saw a group home transport residents to a restaurant, and I saw how all the people that were handicapped were either too spaced out to even understand where they were/what they were doing or throwing a fit out of fear… most of them probably haven’t been around a lot of people in one place. So when we place someone who is disabled into the system, are we dooming them or actually helping them? They have no future depending on how severely handicapped they are, so what’s the point?  

When I see videos of the trial of Bonnie Liltz, I see a mother who cares about her daughter, one that may have made a horrible mistake, but one who only wanted the best possible outcome for her daughter and her future. But at the same time I see it as selfish, she took away her daughter’s life as she knew hers was running out. She should have sought out other alternatives to the situation instead of irrationally jumping to suicide in this instance. No matter how bad off that Courtney was, she deserved a fair shot at what little part of life that she actually had. If we bring up my plea earlier and take religion out of the equation and ask ourselves what happens? We end up with the response, “nothing.” Words cannot describe absence of life to humans, it’s how we place ourselves in accordance to the world around us. It’s every single measure than we can possibly perceive of from a philosophical point of view.

Life is one of the things that can never be measured or valued even as modern media often does. Everyone should be offered and entitled to the same chances that any other person might have, a chance to experience the one shot they get at life, a chance to succeed and bring good for themselves and for everyone. It should be the duty of everyone to help one another, not mattering is that person is handicapped or disabled, and not mattering if that person is capable. We have an ethical duty to ourselves and everyone.

Even as I write these words in a haze of sleepiness, I’m still not comfortable or satisfied with the outcome of this entire situation. We must stop these situations and extreme ultimatums from ever happening. You have just but one person’s take, your upbringing, experiences and beliefs affect every part of this argument as much as mine does. If humans are capable of free thought, then maybe we should apply it to situations that call for it, for things that really matter… even if they seem not to.