John Rathbone. Picture: Evan Morgan
John Rathbone. Picture: Evan Morgan

JCU in ethics clash over pro-Crabtree comments

A FORMER paramedic has been suspended from a volunteer role with a James Cook University ethics committee after making online comments about a woman who allegedly murdered her two disabled children.

John Rathbone weighed into discussions about Gold Coast mother Maree Crabtree, who was charged this week with murdering her son and daughter five years apart and torturing another relative.

Police will allege Maree Mavis Crabtree, 51, gave her children prescription medication to keep them bedridden, eventually causing them to overdose.

Mr Rathbone referred to Erin and Jonathan Crabtree as "diseased, cabbages, bed bound adults," after stating his "sympathy lies with the mother".

"Yes, I have sympathy towards them, sympathy that our society allows people like that to live when we are quite happy to euthanise animals for the slightest disability or disease," he wrote.

The comments prompted backlash, with JCU moving to stand him down from his role with the human research ethics committee.

A JCU spokesman said the university rejected comments attributed to Mr Rathbone.

"Mr Rathbone is not an employee of James Cook University," he said.

"John Rathbone is a volunteer member of the James Cook University Human Research Ethics Committee (JCU HREC).

"The JCU HREC is a committee established under the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.

"John Rathbone has been suspended from the committee and his ongoing membership of the committee will be reviewed."

Mr Rathbone said his comments had been made in a discussion about assumptions people had made about the circumstances of the deaths and had been "taken out of context".

He said he believed euthanasia should be an option in cases of severe disability.

"We don't know what's happened in her life and what the difficulty of caring for the disabled has meant for her," he said.

"Until circumstances come out we don't know what's really happened.

"At the end of the day when it comes to the disabled we need to be open-minded."

Mr Rathbone said he was disappointed someone looked into his background to report his comments to JCU.