Deadly Consequences: Annette

Mercy or Murder?
Annette says she wants the right to euthanize her children, 42-year-old Jeffrey and 43-year-old Janet, who are suffering from the rare, incurable genetic disorder, Sanfilippo Syndrome. “If Janet and Jeffrey were able to make a decision about life, the way it is with them, they would opt for suicide,” Annette tells Global News Canada in the documentary, Taking Mercy.

Annette recalls that the “terrible twos” lasted longer than expected, and by age 4, she realized something wasn’t right with her children: they were losing motor skills and losing the language they had developed. A hospital in London, Ontario, finally handed down the devastating diagnosis. Janet and Jeffrey’s conditions progressively worsened, and at ages 7 and 8, they were institutionalized — and have been ever since.
“They have said for years already that they don’t think [Jeffrey] can hear or see — but how do you judge?” Annette asks. “[It’s] the same with brain activity. How do you judge how much [activity is there]?” She compares their conditions to that of a comatose patient. “There’s sometimes brain activity, but how much?” she asks. Annette says she first thought about taking control of her children’s lives when the feeding tubes went in. “If God wanted them to live past adulthood, then the tubes wouldn’t have been needed,” she says. “The tubes are allowing them to exist. Without the tubes, they wouldn’t be here. This is no life.”

Dr. Phil welcomes Annette to the show. “Tell me exactly what you want to do and exactly how you’ve come to the decision,” Dr. Phil says.

"I saw an article in the paper that said that, again, someone had tried to pass the law for euthanasia — assisted suicide — and it was vetoed,” she says. “I got angry and wrote a letter to a newspaper; and the Global TV program read that letter, and they approached me [to do a story].

[AD]“After 25 years of watching them just exist, it’s time that somebody did something," she continues. "I didn’t want to be the one to do it, but I’m here,” she adds.

“If you were going to do it, do you now wish you had done it 25 years ago?” Dr. Phil asks Annette.

She says she would have considered doing it 17 years ago, when Jeffrey first had his feeding tube inserted.

“Is it your belief that they are consciously suffering pain?” Dr. Phil asks Annette.

“My daughter broke her thumb once. No one knew about it, because she couldn’t voice that,” Annette responds. “So, how do we know if she’s suffering?” She admits that she doesn’t know whether her children are feeling pain. “I hope they’re not, but I don’t know.”

Why does Annette say she only visits her children every 2 months?

See what a typical day is like for Janet and Jeffrey.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who gained notoriety for his outspoken defense of the late assisted suicide advocate, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, joins the show. “Annette obviously wouldn’t be in this situation but for the advancement of science,” he says. “She’s faced with an unbelievably difficult decision. Her children are being warehoused. Whether or not they’re in physical pain, they’re clearly not existing.” 

Geoffrey draws a comparison between dying of starvation and dying mercifully.

In the previously-recorded documentary, Annette admits, “There have been times when I thought about doing something myself [to end my children’s lives].” To her critics, she says, “Unless you’ve been there, don’t judge.”

[AD]Ruthi, mother of seven, including three with special needs, says the idea of euthanizing disabled children is nauseating and the same as putting a gun to their heads. She addresses Annette from the audience. “I’m sorry that those children are the way they are. I’m sorry that my child might be that way some day,” Ruthi says. “I will not euthanize my child because it’s too much trouble for me [to keep them alive].”

“No one said it was too much trouble,” Annette interjects. “You’re saying it wrong.”

Dr. Phil polls the audience on whether they support Annette’s wishes.