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Recent cases.

Three current Canadian cases before the law courts have put the suicide debate "back in the spotlight" (Toronto Star, 12 October 2004). In the first case, Evelyn Martens, a 74-year-old member of the Right to Die Society, was charged with aiding and counseling former nun Monique Charest, 64, to commit suicide on January 7, 2002, in Duncan BC. Charest was not terminally ill but suffering from depression. Martens also faced charges relating to the June 26, 2002, death of Leyanne Burchell, 52, a Vancouver school teacher.

On Nov. 4, 2004, a jury of five men and seven women declared Martens not guilty on the grounds that while she was present, there was not sufficient evidence that she actually assisted in the suicides. Right to Die members proclaimed victory. Beverly Welsh of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, however, was saddened. "Pretty soon old people are going to think they have a duty to die," she said (Star, Nov. 5, 2004).

Liberal MP (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) Keith Martin, however, called for the legalization of euthanasia in Canada, saying "the public needs it."

In Winnipeg, an elderly woman died at St. Boniface Hospital in 2002 from a fatal dose of potassium while awaiting hip surgery. Manitoba's chief medical examiner concluded that Ettie Morris was killed by the intentional act of someone at the hospital. No one has been criminally charged in the homicide, nor are police actively investigating the case.

In Montreal, fit and muscular 36-year-old Charles Fariala was an orderly in a chronic-care institution helping to care for people with debilitating illnesses. In May 2004, he confided to friends that he had multiple sclerosis and decided to put an end to his life. His death in September is thought to have been attributed to a drug overdose. His mother, a former nursing assistant, has been charged with helping him to commit suicide.

In addition to these three cases, there was also the bizarre case in Yellowknife where a man watched his wife hang herself with a shower curtain, following a night of drinking. Her eight-year-old son picked the lock on the bathroom door and witnessed his mother in the throes of death while his stepfather sat on the toilet watching. This time, however, the judge said that the case was not one of euthanasia or assisted suicide, but one of criminal negligence; spouses have the duty to protect their partners from harm including suicide, he ruled. The man was convicted of criminal negligence causing death.

In November, 2004, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, in reference to assisted suicide, stated, "It is time to go back to the drawing board in light of high-profile assisted suicides in Quebec and British Columbia."
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:446
Previous Article:Reluctance to punish.
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