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Robert Latimer was born in 1953 on a farm on the prairies of Saskatchewan and grew up to own a 1,280-acre farm. In 1980 he married, and that year Tracy, the first of four children, was born. During her birth, Tracy's brain was terribly damaged by lack of oxygen, and severe cerebral palsy ensued. By 1993 Tracy could laugh, smile, and cry, and she could recognize her parents and her siblings. But she could not understand her own name or even simple words like "yes" and "no." She could not swallow well and would so often vomit her parents kept a bucket nearby while feeding her. She had to be kept in diapers. She had five or six seizures-some severe-a day. She could not control her limbs or sit up in a wheelchair, and she was sometimes described as quadriplegic. Many of Tracy's muscles were so tightly contracted that they twisted her body and caused her pain. To relieve these symptoms, operations were performed to cut muscles at her thighs, her knees, her heels, and her toes. Steel rods were placed along her spine to straighten it and give her stomach and lungs room to work. Despite these procedures, her hip easily became dislocated, and another operation was scheduled for 19 November 1993, to repair the hip and relieve the pain. Recuperation was expected to take a year.


Reprinted with the permission of the Hastings Center Report and Wiley-Blackwell.