Barb, Tim and Annie Farlow and the quest for justice

Filed Under (Critical Disability Studies, Discrimination, Ethics) by Estee on 30-11-2009

What does the story of a three-month-old baby with Trisomy 13 and her death have to do with the rights of all disabled individuals? It’s a question that Barb Farlow and her husband Tim have raised for the past several years, and today, the loss of their court case was featured in The National Post.

I’ve known Barb for several years and supported her after we shared numerous emails a couple of years ago about her daughter, Annie. Only because of a difficult year in my own life was I unable to support Barb more actively in her quest in 2008. Barb with her husband Tim, have pursued justice for their three-month-old relentlessly. Not only has their struggle symbolized a deep respect for the life of their daughter, but for the rights and dignity of all disabled individuals.  They have argued that  because Annie had Trisomy 13, hospital staff  executed a DNR from a subsequent illness without her parent’s permission. The Farlow’s, having taken great pains and effort to ask questions and pursue the case, have raised the question about how we value the life of disabled individuals, no matter how severe their disability.

Noreen Kelly wrote in her piece Crusade for Change:

“Most infants born with Annie’s genetic condition die shortly after birth; few live past the age of 10. Despite these odds, Barbara and her husband Tim decided, after much research and deliberation, that the right thing to do, for them and their family, was to give Annie a chance and to make medical decisions for her in the same way as a child without disabilities. The Farlows were assured that Annie would be treated like any child, and that if surgical considerations arose, they would be discussed and a decision would be arrived at mutually with the physicians.

Annie was born full term and received excellent supportive care at a Canadian hospital for the first several weeks. In August 2005, when she was not yet three months old, she suffered episodic respiratory distress. Annie died within 24 hours of arriving at the hospital. At that time, her parents believed that she would not have survived surgery and that her death was natural.

After obtaining the medical records and discovering the shocking facts of Annie’s last hours, Barbara and Tim Farlow made an exhaustive effort to seek answers and a resolution with the hospital. When this effort failed to yield much beyond an insincere apology and token, ineffective plans, they believed they had no choice but to sue the hospital and two doctors involved. The allegations included practicing a policy of non-treatment for children with certain genetic conditions and secretive euthanasia. Annie’s story is a multi-faceted case including allegations of violation of civil laws of consent and violation of international human rights laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Barb and Tim loved Annie deeply — that is evident from the emails I’ve shared with Barb. As a mother with a special needs child, though, I also feel deeply indebted to her, her family and to Annie as they have helped to raise awareness in hopes that more disabled people everywhere will be granted the same “net worth” as those living without disabilities.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.