Theories of Justice: Application

Photo taken from

Photo taken from

In today’s learning experience, we investigated the concept of Justice and how various people have conceptualized it. We learned what Kant, Bentham, Aristotle, Locke, and Rawls all had to say about the idea of Justice. Michael Sandel helped us realize that Justice is not a concrete idea, but one that is very much up for debate:

We tried to match our understandings of justice with the scenarios he posed and then we tried to see how the theorists we explored might view justice in the context of the trolley car example.Here are the resources we looked at in the event you need to refresh yourself:






Now here are the facts of a real case in Canadian legal history. What we would like you to do is familiarize yourself with the facts of the case and then comment on how your philosopher might perceive justice in this case. Next, what would be justice for you? Comment and/or comment on what someone else has said. Be courteous, concise, and thoughtful. Take time to reflect and read what your peers have offered.


On October 24, 1993, Robert Latimer, a farmer from Saskatchewan, placed the helpless body of his 12 year old daughter, Tracy, in his pick up truck and connected a hose from the exhaust to the cab resulting in her asphyxiation by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tracy had been born severely disabled with cerebral palsy and at age 12 still had the mental capacity of a three month old. She was completely dependent on her parents for round the clock care. Just prior to the events that would lead to his arrest, Latimer had been told that his daughter would require further operations to correct a hip dislocation that had been aggravated by her advanced scoliosis- a condition that had reached the point where her spine diverged from a perpendicular position by 75%. He was advised that the operation would place her in even greater pain than the intense pain she was already experiencing. Moreover, because of other anti-convulsive medication she had to take to control her epileptic seizures, she could not be given pain killers of greater strength than regular Tylenol without the risk of inducing a coma. Latimer would later contend that he was faced with the dilemma of subjecting his daughter to ever more agonizing operations without the ability to limit the intensity of her pain because of the adverse interaction between the drugs she was taking and any pain medication stronger than regular Tylenol.

It was under these circumstances, he would claim, that he chose to end her life.

October 24, 1993- Wilkie, Saskatchewan, Latimer ‘places’ his 12 year old severely disabled daughter- Tracy -in cab of pickup truck- piping CO into the cab through a series of connecting pipes and hoses and resulting in her death by asphyxiation.

November 4, 1993- RCMP bring Latimer in for questioning and arrest him on charge of 1st degree murder.


27 thoughts on “Theories of Justice: Application

  1. Robert Latimer committed murder, he killed his own daughter and by law he was guilty and should’ve been punished accordingly, but morally he theoretically did the right thing. He put his suffering daughter out of misery. Nevertheless, I would have found him guilty because murder is murder. I think he deserved at least a few months in prison, or a large fine of some sort because people shouldn’t be able to just walk away with absolutely no consequences after they’ve willingly killed someone.

    • I agree 100% with you. I think I would have found him guilty, had he just killed his daughter without knowing about the operation she was about to go through. Since his daughter was already suffering, and would have suffered more (due to the surgery), morally, if he thought that this was best for his daughter then it morally was correct. Although morally he was correct, legally, it was not correct because murder is murder. I think he should have a sentence in minimum security prison for 6 months and 150 community hours.

      • To be honest I agree with you. I believe that the punishment for first and second degree murder should at least be changed in morally correct situations like this, instead of saying that he was morally correct but still should have gone to jail. I also believe that Mr Latimer should have gotten help instead of a harsh prison sentence, since he killed his own daughter. Maybe thats something we can work on in class, taking a look at different ways we can punish people who did the morally correct thing to do instead of taking away the part of their life that counts.

    • I agree with yonzaa, i think that what he did was morally right but the law does say that if someone commits murder then they have to pay the price but I think that the the justice should be waved.

    • I agree with you as well. According to the law, he murdered his daughter and should have been punished accordingly. Since the daughter could not have actually given consent to her death in this way, it could not have been viewed as assisted suicide, which is also illegal. So I agree that he was punished in the proper way, but morally I think it was the right thing to do.

  2. I believe that Robert Latimer should be innocent. In the circumstances, he had to look at what would be best for his daughter. And he was aware that his daughter was suffering everyday, and that going through with this operation would make her suffer even more. At a moral standpoint, this was the right thing to do, since it would put her off her suffering. Latimer didn’t have very many options, since doctor- assisted suicide is illegal. It may seem like Latimer committed murder- an immoral action, but in reality he didn’t commit murder, he just did what he had to do for his daughter.

  3. There are two sides to this argument: The just side, following the rules of the law and following and carrying out the law’s punishment and the moral side, what you think is right. Latimer murdered his daughter and should be ruled guilty. He has broken the criminal code and ended someone’s life, therefore the jury must rule guilty. However, I believe he did the right thing. His daughter was barely living, and would have had to endure severe pain. This is an interesting case, because it shows just how powerless the law can be. In order to have laws, there are always grey areas and loopholes, and unfortunately, this case is one of them. Overall, he should be ruled guilty but I personally believe he did the right thing.

    • I agree with Luke. The law is the law no matter what the morals. He should be charged guilty but with taken consideration of how much suffering the family and daughter have been through and how soul damaging the act of killing his daughter must have been. I believe community service, few months in jail, and a small fine would make due as punishment.

  4. Robert should be innocent. As a loving father taking care of his daughter for so long he had a reason for killing her. The best path in his opinion was taking her life. As said in the arcticle she had lots of pain and would behave like she was three months old. Looking at the law Robert should be arested, but looking at it in a moral way what Robert did was the right thing to do. I really hope iin the future is there is a case simillar to this one the ccourt would look at it in the eyes of the way a loving father would.

  5. Although Roberts morals may not be out of place, he did break the law and must be punished equally to anyone else who has committed murder. The reason I say this is because if they allowed him to commit murder and get away with it because his morals are right, other people will begin doing the same. This will result in people killing other people constantly and will be more a battle of if your morals are right in court, not if you followed the law. I believe this would not be a good path to take as people should not be able to end other peoples lives based on if they think its right or not. For this reason I believe we must stick to the law and not our morals.

  6. If I were on the Jury I would rule guilty. Latimer murdered his daughter, he broke a criminal code and that shouldn’t be dismissed. Although I do think that what he did was right, he ended his daughters suffering.

  7. There are two ways to look at this case. The first way to think about this case is through the eyes of the law. Robert committed a murder no matter what his original intentions were, he had no rights to take someone’s life with out their consent or the consent of the law. But when we look through a moral point of view, Robert was right in his intentions towards his daughter. The facts in this case state that she was suffering and had to under go even more surgeries to live an okay life. She didn’t deserve to suffer and Robert doesn’t deserve to be accused of 1st degree murder. I think he was more innocent than guilty.

  8. If I were on the Jury I would rule guilty. Latimer murdered his daughter, he broke a criminal code and that shouldn’t be dismissed. Although I do think that what he did was right, he ended his daughters suffering. Overall I think that what he did was the right thing to do but he is still guilty for what he did. This is a very hard decision to be made, what Latimer did ended his daughters suffering but since it was done it is murder.

  9. I think that the man is guilty of murder. We have to remember that even physician assisted suicide is still illegal. So as harsh as it may seem, he is guilty of 1st degree murder. Morally I thing he is not guilty, however he broke the law, and according to our judicial system he has to pay.

  10. I believe that Robert Latimer is innocent. It’s true that he committed murder on his daughter against the law, but he did it for the better. With her severe disability and limited mental capacity, Tracy would’ve required very intensive care for her entire life. She was completely dependent on her parents for everything, so Latimer more than just witnessed the suffering his daughter was going through, especially with all the operations and drugs. You may argue that Tracy never chose to die and that Latimer doesn’t just have the right to take her life away, but how is asking Tracy about ending her intensive suffering any easier than asking a three month old? Being someone whose life was more impacted by her than anyone else, and at her side for her entire life, I think Latimer does have the right to choose on her behalf.

  11. Robert Latimer committed a murder. Although his daughter had cerebral pulsy and he thought the right thing to do was put her out of her misery, murder is murder and the law needs to be enforced in the right way. If I was on the jury I would vote him guilty on the fact that it is murder no matter what. I think that the Robert did the moral thing by putting her out of her misery though because she had cerebral pulsy and the surgery for her spine would have made the pain worse and she could only take regular tylenol.

  12. If the choices were made by law, Robert would certainly be guilty since killing is considered murder. Murder is one of the most cruel thing a human can do as a crime. However in a moral way, I believe that Robert is not guilty. If law is put to the side for a moment, Robert has actually done better for his daughter even if it involved murder. The reason for this is because his daughter was facing immense pain with illness and her disabilities. What Robert did to her was better for his daughter since dying quick and painless is a lot better than dying slowly in great pain. If following the law, Robert would be put to jail. Although, moral decisions from the court is better because moral acts do more good to other people. I believe that the court should use more moral thoughts for crimes that were actually necessary and did good rather than evil even if it takes more time.

  13. This all boils down to the fact that murder is murder. While Robert is legally responsible for the young girl and feels it was the best decision for her, he had no basis for taking her life. Every person has the right to live. I know he hated to see his daughter in pain, but that doesn’t give him the right to take the executive decision and end her life. No one knows for a fact what could have been in stored for the girl in her future. There could have been new medications for pain or easier ways of treatment. I feel like if he were really doing this for his daughter’s best interest, he would have found some other way rather than resorting to death, which he knew was against the law. The law is like a set of rules, it applies to everyone. Many people have different opinions on what is moral, but law is law and we need to follow it in order to maintain a safe society.

  14. I think Robert is innocent. Yes he may have killed his daughter but the reasoning behind it was only to benefit her. As her parent, he saw her suffer each day and felt hopeless because he could not help her and ease the pain. I think Robert made a wise decision to end his daughters life because of her pain and suffering, but to also help his own pain of seeing his daughter in a terrible condition and feeling helpless. Under this circumstance I think what Robert did was morally right.

  15. Im on the fence for this one. Although Latimer murdered his daughter, he did it for the right reason. It said that the daughter had to have another surgery that would put her in more pain then she is already in. Latimer killed his daughter in a harmless way. On the other hand, murder is murder. It wrong that he killed his own daughter but then again he did it for her best interest. So im gonna have to say that im 50/50.

  16. I think that Latimer is guilty because he indeed did commit murder and murder is murder, although I do think that it was understandable why he did kill his daughter but was still wrong because assisted suicide is illegal and the daughter was not in the mental state to say what she wanted.

    • I do agree with you that this is murder and he should be punished for taking away his daughter’s life and this is against the law but the child was in so much pain! And the doctor so the child will have anymore surgery but it will put her in even more pain than she is already in. And plus Latimer killed his daughter in a harmful way. It didn’t hurt! He didn’t want to watch her suffer everyday and he couldn’t do anything to help.

      • I do agree with you that this is murder and he should be punished for taking away his daughter’s life and this is against the law but the child was in so much pain! And the doctor said the child will have another surgery but it will put her in even more pain than she is already in. And plus Latimer killed his daughter in a harmful way. It didn’t hurt! He didn’t want to watch her suffer everyday and he couldn’t do anything to help.

      • I think the real fundamental question for this case is ” What is right?” and “Who chooses who dies and who lives.” I agree with you, he should be punished. Although taking away someones life even if they are hurt or not is morally wrong. On the contrary, if it was so serious that they should be decided to die or not, their parents? Their loved ones? Or the government?

  17. I think that Latimer is guilty because even though he was the parent of the poor child he does not have the right to choose if she get’s to die or if she get’s to live. It’s a parent who decides what’s the best for their child and I think Latimer did what he thought was the best thing for his child. I guess the real fundamental question I’ve been thinking about this is who get’s to choose someone’s life? Like there are many diseases out there which cause pain and alot of people committed suicide or doctor assisted suicide. What if in a country where assisted suicide is not allowed, who chooses who dies? If we think this case through the parent (Latimer) obviously, being the parent, would have been chosen to decide his daughter’s fate. While on the contrary, the government actually chooses if a person should die or not. Would it be morally right if a person you never met before chose what happened in your life?

  18. Terry Fox, a proud Canadian who chose to spend his last few months of life towards cancer care fundraising. We all see him as a hero, or an idol of some sort; someone who we praise to become or to value. Now think about what would happen if he didn’t pursue the marathon of hope and decided to spend his last months like every other person by either committing to a bucket list or spending time with family. The impact of this would cause millions of dollars of cancer care research at the time to have been non-existent and for the millions of dollars of research being done today in honour for Terry in the form of a run done by many schools around Canada. Now we ask the question: Why was Terry Fox’s run so honourable and praised? The reason why (given by almost anyone you ask) is because he did the impossible. With only 1 functioning leg he managed to reach Thunder Bay from Cape Spear. I’m not saying that everyone with a disability is going to become a renowned hero, but what I am saying is that everyone has the potential to be great. In fact, more than 30 studies have proven that people with mental disabilities or mild retardation are usually more intelligent than the average human meaning that a handful of the greatest writers, mathematicians etc. were mentally disabled. Putting this into perspective of Tracy Latimer, if Robert had not killed her in the attempt to save her, she could have had a bright future and been able to return the favours to her parents when she is older. Even more evidence to support this is that dogs have about the same cognitive capacity as a 4 or 5 month old and are one of the most intelligent creatures alive. I’m not trying to sound insensitive towards Tracy, but there could have been great things coming from her and she could have not only succeeded academically, but also mentally in the sense of accomplishment which she never got to experience. Looking at something a bit closer to home, no one has the right to end the life of anyone. Why don’t you think Canada has reinstated capital punishment? If we kill someone for them killing someone else, then we are stooping down to their level. Similarly, if we kill someone because it was morally correct, we aren’t stooping down to their level, we are doing something completely involuntary when that person deserves to live, nonetheless. In conclusion, sometimes the moral solution isn’t always the correct solution and we have to stick to the rules no matter how good the reason because breaking our own rules, especially one of such high state is simply not acceptable in a society as advanced as we are today.

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