Mom Kills 17-Month-Old Son With Down Syndrome Out of 'Mercy'

A woman in Louisiana may receive the death penalty for reportedly killing her 17-month-old son by injecting the hand sanitizer Germ-X into his body. The child, whose name was Lucas Ruiz, was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect. He died from alcohol poisoning as a result of his mother's horrifying actions.

But when Erika Wigstrom, who is 20, confessed to killing Lucas, she didn't seem to feel any remorse. In fact, her family wrote in Lucas' obituary that the child died "while cradled in the arms of his beloved mother." Erika claims she was doing the best thing for her baby -- she describes the incident as a mercy killing that she stands behind because Lucas was "better off dead."

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If you can believe it, this wasn't even the first time Erika attempted to kill her son. When Lucas was just 2 months old, she told cops she poured perfume oil into his feeding tube. The child's father is currently in custody for filling the tube with rum but may be let off soon because of mom's latest confession.

It will be up to a jury to decide Erika's fate, but her actions certainly bring up a hotly debated topic among moms: do we have the right to make decisions about our child's life and death if he or she is terminally ill and destined for a future that we don't think will be worth living? Is it more cruel to let our children suffer for years if we know their lives will consist of little else but countless trips to the doctor and hospital, tests, feeding tubes, and bed rest? What if they can never attend school and learn or play with friends in the park or fall in love and lead what we would consider happy, fulfilled lives?

One month ago, Belgium became the first country to propose lifting age restrictions on child euthanasia. The law would allow children who are very sick to have a say in whether they want to die. Obviously, this proposal left a bad taste in the mouths of lots of doctors and parents, partly because we know children aren't always capable of making the best choices for themselves or seeing past the pain they feel today.

It's an interesting and important debate, but only slightly relevant in this case. Lucas was a toddler. He didn't have a say over whether or not he wanted to die. The moment our babies are born, they are no longer "ours" in the sense that we don't have the right to assume total control over their well-being. Whether they are born with disabilities or not, they are human and have feelings and rights.

I understand how utterly painful and heart wrenching it must be to watch the person you love most in the universe suffer. If I put myself in this mom's shoes, I can almost grasp what would drive her to try and do anything to stop that pain.

But we don't have the right to end our child's life because we assume, based on our beliefs about what happiness and a fulfilled life look like, that our child is not going to lead a worthwhile existence. It simply isn't fair to the child we brought into this world who never had a choice or a chance to live.

Could you ever kill your child out of mercy? Do you believe it's okay for other mothers to do so?

 

Image via Kylir/Flickr

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