I read the news today, oh boy …
This article is in many papers around the world today; I am reproducing the BBC News version in this post. Not sure how to respond, other than to smile and pass the egg rolls.
China mother is jailed for killing paralysed twin sons
A Chinese mother has been sentenced to five years in jail for killing her 13-year-old twin sons who were paralysed by cerebral palsy.
Han Qunfeng, 37, gave her sons sleeping pills before drowning them in a bathtub and then tried to kill herself.
She confessed to the murders at her trial earlier this month, saying she “just wanted them to leave quietly”.
Judges said the “lenient” sentence was intended to highlight the strain on parents as full-time carers.
“We were trying to look for a balance between law and sympathy in the case,” said Xue Fengyan, a judge at the court was quoted by the state-run China Daily as saying.
“She has a very complicated family background and motive. That’s why we decided to hand down the lenient sentence,” Mr Xue said.
Han’s twin boys were born prematurely and had cerebral palsy, a condition disrupting the nerve signals between the brain and the muscles, leading to problems with movement, posture and co-ordination.
She had recently given up her job as a bank clerk in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, to care for the boys full-time.
The cost of their treatment had brought the family to the brink of bankruptcy, state media reported.
“I just wanted them to leave quietly. I would not kill them if we could go back in time,” Han told the judges, according to the China Daily.
She attempted to take her own life by drinking pesticide and rat poison, the newspaper said.
Neighbours and former colleagues had written a joint letter to the court pleading for mercy for Han.
Those convicted of murder in China can face long jail terms, including a life sentence or the death penalty.
Xinhua news agency reported that the judges “were more concerned whether the case could trigger improvements to the social assistance system and pool help from society for these special families”.
Copied from here. I do NOT smile at the death of anyone, nor the despair of the mother. I do smile at a particular regime and society showing surprising leniency relative to their normal modus operandi. May Han find peace, and may she know that a blogger across the world gets it.
I feel like sitting here in silence for a long time — I am so moved, so horrified yet so connected to this woman —
For once, I have nothing to say…
I do not support euthanasia. Period.
Perhaps court-order antidepressant therapy (whether via counseling, drugs, or both) can be put on the table in exchange for taking off the death penalty and life imprisonment?
I hope the author is correct and this does something to move society and/or government to support families who are in this situation before they reach the breaking point.
“May Han find peace, and may she know that a blogger across the world gets it.” Unfortunately, she probably won’t know. But I second the thought.
I do not have a severely disabled child and cannot pass judgement on the mom. However, I am not sure exactly about how I feel about China’s leniency in this matter. It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? This country already has such a strong history of categorically abandoning their girls in favor of boys under their one child policy. And it is so widely accepted as the norm because we, in the West, benefit and go and adopt so many of their girls. But what does this mean in terms of children in China? Some kids are more valuable than others? If you want to abandon your girl it’s okay, everyone does it? And now a mom kills her kids. So the Chinese granted this mom leniency, but will these deaths prompt China to do something materially to help parents with special needs kids or is this a slippery path that justifies a parent’s pursuit of their ‘perfect’ legacy.
Gimky: STOP THAT! Only I am allowed to be insightful or provocative on my blog. 😉
I pondered the same things as Gimky — wondering whether this woman killing her babies and the subsequent “leniency” was a reflection of the larger culture’s attitude toward disability — that these boys’ lives were not “worthy,” etc. OR whether Han was a parent like many of us all over the world — overwhelmed with her own suffering and that of her children and just damn tired of the fight. I would hate to see people using this incident as further justification for demeaning the lives of the disabled, particularly for those who cannot defend or advocate for themselves.
Yeah, I’d have to agree with the above few posts.
With Gimky on this one.
I’m still torn on the matter. On the one hand, I can empathize with the Mother, obviously, and certainly her pain was evident. On the other, a precedent was set here that is a frightening one to me, and I would be scared if such a precedent were set in a court of law here in the U.S.
Not that it is my place to say one way or another what is Right or what is Wrong, and my opinion on what her appropriate sentence should be is not relevant to the matter either…but legal precedent is really where my brain goes while my heart goes somewhere else, and currently they are both at odds with each other.
I find the decision heartening because of the cultural standard in China that families must be looked after. They have arbitration courts there to get adult children to visit their parents. If the court is saying this case exists because of a failure of social services, then I think there will be mobilization to organize a better support structure for families of disabled children. Individualism the way we practice it in the States is not their thing, they would not expect this women to succeed in caring for two disabled teenagers without help.
I’m afraid I see this as a failure to value the lives of disabled people, more than any move toward sympathy with a struggling parent. Things have improved somewhat in the decade since this article was published: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/23/world/23CHIN.html?pagewanted=2 (“Students whose legs have a difference in length greater than two inches or who have a spinal curvature of more than 1.6 inches are barred from a wide variety of majors, including geology, marine science, civil engineering, forensic medicine and veterinary science.”) For example, now 80% of disabled kids in China receive some form of schooling, as opposed to 77% in 2001, and they’ve just extended the number of years of free education available for disabled kids. And in an unprecedented step the government actually came out and acknowledged their very high rate of pollution-related birth defects. But they have a looong way to go, not just in terms of providing social programs but in enforcing the very basic protection, education, & employment laws that have just started to be put on the books.
(I take a particular interest in this because my son is Chinese, and has a minor disability/birth defect).
(Clarification: which is not to say that I know all about the Chinese situation as compared to anybody else, just that it’s close to home for me)
Something like this has already happened in America within the past decade. The children were adults, and the mother’s sentence was quite lenient.
The crime: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130299&page=1
A mother named Carol Carr shot and killed her two sons who were in the latter stages of Huntington’s Disease. They were in a nursing home and suffering severely from the effects of the disease and their care was substandard as well. Details at the link, above.
For the double murder, the mother was sentenced to about five years in prison, and was released after serving about a year.
The punishment: http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2004/03/03/met_407588.shtml
@Eminence Americans are generally understanding about people who kill their demonstrably suffering, terminally ill family members.
Rachel, I suppose they are. I am not advocating here, just imparting. My only point is that this situation wasn’t a total ‘one off.’ We’ve seen it happen in UK as well–this British woman, despite her ‘life’ sentence, got just nine years (and her son was not ‘terminal’–just ‘a burden’–quotes intentional):
A judge told a devoted mother ‘you cannot take the law into your hands’ as he jailed her for life yesterday for giving her brain-damaged son a lethal heroin overdose.
Frances Inglis, 57, injected Thomas, 22, with the class A drug because she wanted to free him from a ‘living hell’ of permanent disability, disfigurement and round-the-clock care.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1244731/Frances-Inglis-guilty-murder.html#ixzz1RLb8SV3e
Then, there’s the Gigi Jordan case–wealthy socialite who killed her severely (continuous head-banging) autistic child–google her name and you’ll get the sordid details. She has yet to go to trial more than a year after the event, but she’s very rich, and the rich are different when it comes to justice.