Society’s Child

Photo of a mother holding her child in a blanket.
Image c/o Buffalo Gal Pictures.

“Some kids are like light bulbs—they shine.” By all accounts, Katie Lynn Baker was a unique 10 year-old. She was exceptionally beautiful. Her smile lit up a room. A magnetic personality, with a wicked sense of humor. And an amazing range of expression for a child who could not walk or talk. She was the victim of Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder. When Katie died, the circumstances of her death made front page headlines, led to the suspension of four social workers, the apprehension of Katie’s siblings, and the second longest inquest in British Columbia history.

And all of that happened because of one person: Cheryl McLean, Katie’s mother. Cheryl refused to allow Katie to be force fed, which led to her death by malnutrition. Cheryl maintained that Katie said she wanted to die at home, with dignity. Her opponents, however, believed Cheryl was a negligent mother who could not look after Katie or her other seven children, and that overstressed and out of control, she starved her child to death. And many were convinced that Cheryl was a manipulative, murderous psychopath who allowed her child to die a cruel and horrible death. In the end, the judge ruled it homicide (a preventable death) but did not assign blame — and no criminal charges were ever made.

The one witness who could establish the truth is no longer with us and her great tragedy is whatever that truth, the help and guidance the solution required was not available.

All in all, a very strange and disturbing story—and its relevance is unfortunately not outdated.

Blizzard Award, Best Movie

Gemini Finalist, Best Movie

Produced with Sienna Films and Buffalo Gal Pictures.