In a world of just 194 countries, it is estimated there are over 6,800 languages. That linguistic heterogeneity is fast disappearing. By one estimate, a language dies every two weeks. One of the oldest languages that has survived is Greek. It is from that language we get the word euthanasia. Many years ago my husband Bryan & I would frequent our favorite pizza place owned by George and Maria, both immigrants from Greece. One day I asked George if he would tell me how he defined euthanasia in Greek. In his deep raspy voice he said 'euthanasia meant someone who died a good death, without pain or suffering, usually in old age, perhaps in their sleep'. He added that term was used more so by “university professors”. I pressed on asking him then what is the Greek word for someone whose death was hastened by a doctor, e.g., with a lethal injection. George looked perplexed, but without hesitating exclaimed “In Greek you ask? In Greek - that word would be murder!” No euphemisms that time.
There is no way of knowing how many deaths can be attributed to furtive acts of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide since it is illegal in Canada.. What we know, comes primarily from investigations that have come before the courts and made it into the media. No doctor in his right mind would reveal he/she has assisted suicide or given euthanasia, but some have publicly claimed to assist friends in suicide. Such as David Lewis, a Vancouver psychologist, living with HIV, who claimed to have helped 8 friends with AIDS in assisted suicide. Russel Ogden, a researcher and pro-euthanasia activist claimed he knew of 34 assisted suicides, and Marilynne Seguin, a RN and founder of Dying with Dignity claimed to have counseled several hundred dying patients over a 20-year period.
Senator Sharon Carstairs, who sat on The Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide 1994-95, said there are thousands of cases in Canada in which doctors have illegally helped patients to die. That’s quite a statement considering only a handful of doctors and a few nurses and nurse’s aids have been reported to have been directly implicated in the homicidal deaths of patients.
So, I think you will be very surprised to hear that in my research into the history of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, I have only been able to find 40 reported cases that relate to euthanasia and PAS.
With time constraints, I am only able to give you a very abbreviated version of my report in my oral presentation. Alex has been kind enough to provide my full report in hard copy, which describes in detail, pertinent accounts of each case. Some will have additional comments and relevant links. I also prepared a second section titled History of euthanasia in that includes a CHRONOLOGY OF MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT BILLS and ad rem information with links. Time will not allow me to include part II in my oral presentation, but this important part of the history of euthanasia in Canada will also be made available to you.
I will deal with the summaries first, and end with my comments.
Let's begin with an overview of the cases
Of the 40 case studies of deaths relating to infanticide, euthanasia, mercy killing, assisted suicide, and murder suicide occurring in Canada, nine were children, eight of whom were disabled. Of the 40 cases involving prosecution, only 3 were found guilty of 2nd degree homicide and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole.
8 Cases involved doctors, nurses, or nurse's aids. In those 8 cases 6 were adults 1 infant was murdered by a physician, 1 child was murdered by a nurse's aid. Of those charged one nurse's aid received a 2 year prison sentence, 2 doctors each got 2 years and lost their license to practice - both had previously been found guilty of sexual misconduct. In four cases, potassium chloride was used to kill the patients. Potassium chloride is a salt which used in an injection speeds the heart until it stops.
1 case of infanticide, where the infant was killed by its mother
7 "Mercy Killings:" Cases in which parents felt their children had experienced enough suffering and murdered them or alleged to have assisted in their suicide.
3 "Mercy Killings:" Cases in which children felt their parent had experienced enough suffering and murdered them.
5 "Mercy Killings:" Cases in which a spouse alleged their spouse had experienced enough suffering. These just beg the question, just whose suffering was ended?
11 “Assisted Suicides”
5 Murder-Suicides, alleged to have been mercy killing-suicide.
Here is one example of a case that involved doctors. In May 1997 - Dr. Nancy Morrison was charged with the first-degree murder of her patient who had been removed from life support by his family. A Halifax provincial court judge dismissed the charges against Morrison, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to show that potassium chloride had caused the death of 65-year-old Paul Mills. Reprimanded by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the college said Morrison gave Mills, a massive dose of nitroglycerin and potassium chloride to hasten his death. The college said her actions were "inappropriate and outside the bounds of acceptable medical practice." She was not prevented from practicing and the case was closed.
An example of infanticide
September 27, 2006 In Wetaskiwin, Alta., a young woman killed her infant after delivering it in secret. The jury found Katrina Effert, 20, guilty of second-degree murder - a life sentence with no possibility of parole for at least 10 years. Many felt Katrina was being made an example of when the jury chose not to convict her of the lesser crime of infanticide, of which almost all such cases are handled. In September 2007, she won her appeal for a new trial. One woman commented " why did she have to kill the baby, she could have had a abortion instead." It was in 1940 that a 19-year-old Yorkton Saskatchewan girl was sentence to death for infanticide - she smothered her infant. The judge handed down the mandatory death sentence but in the end she received clemency and the penalty was dropped to a one year sentence. In 1948, Canada encoded a infanticide law in that carries a maximum of 5-year sentence. That law is still in effect today. (diminished responsibility)
On to the next categories.
15 homicide cases involved a parent, spouse or relative - 8 were adults and 7 were children.
I will give you a condensed version of the so-called mercy killings where 7 children were murdered by a parent:
1941 The Ramberg's were found not guilty of murdering their 2 year old son who had cancer.
1994 The most famous Canadian case that received the most media coverage aside from Sue Rodriguez - is Robert Latimer, who killed his 12-year-old daughter Tracy. Latimer was convicted of 2nd degree murder and received a life sentence without parole for 10 years. BTW, His day parole comes up Dec.8, 2007. Tracy had Cerebral Palsy. Some of you may remember that he propped her up in his truck with filthy rags and sat outside in the back and watched for a half hour as carbon monoxide slowly killed her. He still insists he did nothing wrong - that he didn't kill her because she was disabled, he just wanted to end her suffering.
This is conjecture but based on the research I have done on filicide, I have a hunch that had Robert's wife, Laura Latimer been the one to kill Tracy, I really doubt she would have spent a day in jail. I believe at trial she would have received a suspended sentence or probation with perhaps some community service. Past rulings on similar cases when involving the mother, support this theory.
1996 Ten- year-old Katie Lynn Baker's mother starved her to death. The Attorney General stated they would not be laying charges because "there is no likelihood of conviction." Katie had Rhett Syndrome. Though Katie was unable to communicate, her mother insisted that it was Katie's choice - that she wanted to die. A most appalling and alarming made for television movie based on Katie Lynn Baker was released in 2002. Dick Sobsey describes the film, Society’s Child, as providing “the most biased and unapologetic endorsement for killing children with disabilities of any ever produced.”
1996 Six-year-old Charles-Antoine Blais, who had autism, was drowned by his mother, Danielle Blais. Ms Blais plead guilty to manslaughter and was given a 23-month suspended sentence. Carmen Lahaie, president of Montreal's Autism Society later hired Ms Blais as a representative -- a sort of role model. In various interviews, Lahaie called autistic people a "plague" - She stated "Charles-Antoine was "happy now" that he was dead." In another interview Lahaie said "you can't understand, our children have ruined our lives."
2001 Rachel Craig gave her 14 year old daughter, Chelsea, a deadly mixture of drugs, and then drank some of the mixture herself. Rachel survived to face charges of first-degree murder. Like Katie Lynn Baker, Chelsea had Rhett Syndrome. A judge ruled that Rachel was not responsible for her daughter's death after psychiatrists said her problems were likely the cause of mental illness. Soon after, Rachel committed suicide while on a day pass.
2004 Xuan Peng. A 34 year-old mother was charged with second-degree murder for the bathtub drowning of her four-year-old daughter, Scarlett, who was reported to have “mild autism.” This case is still pending.
2004 Eleven-year-old Ian Carmichael was strangled to death by his father. The charge was first degree murder, but the judge ruled he was "not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder" and ordered him detained at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital in Ontario.
As I have mentioned I have compiled a much lengthier in-depth report that will be made available to you. Briefly, all I'll say now about the11 assisted suicides, is 7 were females, the most famous of those is of course Sue Rodriguez. Evelyn Martins was acquitted of assisting in 2 suicides and went on to receive Humanist of the year award. Austin Bastible left his home in Windsor, Canada to use the services of Kevorkian, across the boarder in Detroit. Mary Fogarty assisted in her friend's suicide. Crown alleged she mistakenly thought she stood to benefit from a $100,000 life insurance policy. Stephan Dufour's case is still pending. He is alleged to have assisted his uncle in a hanging.
I can't think of anything more hopeless than to have a mother help their son or daughter believe there is no hope and that it is better for them to be dead. I can not conceive in my mind how any mother could agree to such a crime. But that is exactly what Marielle Houle did. She was charged with aiding and abetting the suicide of her 36-year-old son, Charles Fariala who was not terminally ill, but had MS. She worked in healthcare and must have known about the various groups who could help. How does a nurse's aide obtain enough drugs to kill? Such an act is not impulsive, it takes time to plan. I believe both bought into the lie, that all hope was lost. In January of 2006, Houle pled guilty to the assisted suicide of her son, and was sentenced to three years probation. Marielle Houle should actually have been charged with euthanasia (second-degree murder or manslaughter). Houle didn't stop at giving him lethal drugs, she tied his hands and put a plastic bag over her son's head to asphyxiate him. Ironically, Houle's attorney Salvatore (Ma se al) Mascial, opined on the ruling, “This is actually the first case that I’ve seen charged this way. I’ve seen other cases where the charge is murder.”
nly 4 who assisted in suicides received a sentence, which basically resulted with a slap on the wrist.
From 1994 - 2007 there were 5 reported cases of murder suicide that relate to mercy killing.
Of the 40 cases, Alain Quimper earned the longest prison sentence for strangling his mother to death in her hospital bed. He pled guilty to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility of parole for 14 years. He appealed, but the Quebec Court dismissed the appeal in April 2006.
Robert Latimer received the 2nd longest sentence - life in prison with no eligibility for parole for ten years. Latimer becomes eligible for day parole beginning Dec. 8, 2007.
Some murders are grossly more egregious than others. We have heard how varied the methods of murdering 8 children were. There were drowning, poisoning, strangulation, asphyxiation by carbon monoxide poisoning, withholding food and water, so the child is starved and dehydrated to death. Slowly dying in that manner is cruel and evil, but all these cases were called mercy killing.
Did we not grieve immensely for the sister we adopted in our hearts as she lay in a Florida hospice, slowly being killed? Two words haunted us, "I thirst" - but the law shackled true compassion, truth and love. Those outside her door were like prisoners, helpless to save that precious innocent woman.
Let us look outside of Canada for other tragic deaths and rulings. A Pennsylvania woman is on death row awaiting her lethal injection for starving her seven year old daughter to death. A German couple starved their little 7-year-old Jessica to death; both received a life sentence. Germany abolished the death penalty in 1949. These are just 2 examples from many such cases I researched where parent(s) were found guilty of first degree murder for starving a child to death. None of victims were reported as having a disability. There is one case I found where the person who starved to death a family member who was disabled, was actually convicted and is serving time. Debra McMahon is serving 15 years for starving her sister to death. She had Cerebral Palsy.
How many of you have heard of Dylan Walborn? Dylan attended pre-school where "healthy students accepted" and doted on him. Dylan was born with Cerebral Palsy. In 2005, at the age of four, his parents decided it was time to "let Dylan go." Not to another school, or group home - letting go meant putting an end his suffering, it also meant meant dehydrating and starving him to death. Dylan was judged as being better off dead by Denver’s Children’s Hospital Ethics committee, Porter Hospice, a Denver social worker, Dylan's public school teachers, and the Denver Post. Just how Dylan became part of Porter Hospice, knowing he was not terminally ill is a good question. Dylan's mother decided she wanted Dylan's final days to be recorded. The Denver Post agreed to spend time in her home, documenting this legal event of stopping all medical treatment. Aside from the Denver Post articles, the media didn't pick up on his tragic end. The mother and father said the decision was made in his best interest. No one tried to stop it, or encourage the parents to change their mind, not even Dylan’s grandparents who visited nearly everyday until he died. Yes my friends, since Dylan was not living a meaningful life, they were allowing him to die.
In 1983, Daniel Callahan, then director of the Hastings Center, wrote that "...a denial of nutrition, may, in the long run, become the only effective way to make certain that a large number of biologically tenacious patients actually die." Tenacious - does indeed seem to fit the description of Dylan. We can say, Dylan tenaciously clung to life, unyielding to death for 24 days. A full ten days longer than it took to murder Terri. In the last hours of his life, his mother confirmed his temperaturehad risen to 107.2. With not a drop of moisture I believe he passed from 24 days of living hell into the arms of a loving God.
Dr. William J. Burke, professor in neurology at St. Louis University Health Sciences Center, said that eight states besides Colorado have "best interest" laws that allow guardians to render their own judgment about removing feeding tubes for incompetent patients. He called such laws "a major new step in the euthanasia movement. You can be killed by dehydration even if you never indicated you wanted to die in this way."
The Denver Post reported the Children’s Hospital’s ethics committee considers starvation for “five [children] each year,” whereas “more than half the time - doctors allow death to occur [starvation] without such consultation.” . . . “
If we ask, are our Canadian Children's Hospital ethics committee deciding any differently that our neighbor's south of us? The answer is yes.
Dylan Riley Walborn Dec. 3, 2000 - Nov 16, 2005
When studying euthanasia, our Government does not work in a vacuum. Parliament and Senate considered local consultation and investigations to see whether laws which have passed in other parts of the world should be adopted in Canada. The courts study rulings from other courts outside of Canada and are referred to when so-called mercy killing cases come before them, such as with Terri Schiavo. Just ask Wesley Smith about his concerns over his country’s judicial system looking to foreign decisions to guide to U.S. law, as in the British case of the very vocal Leslie Burke, who lost his “right-to-food” case.
The Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide issued its report entitled Of Life and Death - in June 1995. The very bad news is that though the majority recommended voluntary euthanasia remain a criminal offence, they recommended the Criminal Code should be amended to allow for a less severe penalty where there is the essential element of compassion or mercy.
Toronto lawyer and disability activist, Orville R. Endicott said “These innocuous terms ("compassionate homicide" or third degree murder) only serve to conceal what would be in effect the murder of a vulnerable person.”
Ian Robinson, Calgary Sun Columnist had this to say, ”Compassionate homicide. That's as sensible a concept as "loving rape.’”
It is conceivable that the decisions in Katie Lynn Baker and Dylan Walborn cases could affect other so-called mercy killing rulings. Then there is the unveiled threat that Parliament may one day soon consider the Senate of Canada’s recommendation to add a third degree homicide charge. If so, the ruling in the Katie Lynn Baker case could well be the catalyst.
We are very grateful for disability advocates like Catherine Frazee, Mark Pickup, Hugh Scher, Dick Sosby, NOT DEAD YET’s Diane Coleman and Steven Drake, just to mention a few, but each and everyone of us needs to be extremely vocal in defense of our most vulnerable and the exiting laws. We cannot forget that the Senate Committee's recommendation to add a less severe penalty for compassionate homicide, remains a serious threat.
This brings me to my final review which is the murder of Ian Carmichael. At the end of July 2004, in a Toronto hotel, 11 year old Ian Carmichael was strangled to death by his father. I came across his web page simply titled David Carmichael. I found 2 sections particularly disturbing, "Through Psychotic Eyes" and "my mistakes". In all the sections, the only mention of Ian is that he killed him, and how he did it. The murder was very well planned and thought out. He says nothing about Ian's character, not a word to honor his short life. I had trouble understanding how in a few short weeks of taking Paxil, the medication which he blames for his psychotic episode, all the love he claimed to have for his son for 11 years, could diminish then seem to vanish from his memory. I'm not a psychiatrist, and know very little about psychosis, but David impressed me as a man who is very self centered. Since David posted his email address, I decided I would personally write to him. It was the first time in my life that I have knowingly had contact with a murderer, and it was quite unnerving. The letters I wrote him and his response will be made available to you in their entirety. My first letter was quite lengthy, but there is only time here for few comments, e.g., I said:
In the section you call "my mistakes" there is no mention of Ian, except to say "I killed my son." You told the 911 operator "I wasn't suicidal." I believe you, because after killing Ian you were very careful to make sure the cops didn't kill you. Reading the section in "through psychotic eyes" it is clear from your own words that you valued your life and did not want to die. .[You said] "Towards the end of the call, I moved away from the phone to put a plastic cup under the door so the door would be open for the police. I didn't want them to break down the door or come in with their guns out. "
I told David I was trying to understand how he seemed to completely detach from the most primeval paternal instinct we have "which is, to protect our children." I asked him " Did the thought that Ian needed protection from you ever enter your mind?" Was his protector so completely psychotic not to know that to kill him was horribly wrong? . . . Wasn't killing Ian at least "a mistake"? The judge ruled you were not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder. If Ian had been so-called normal, do you think the judged might have ruled differently?
David's response is not as lengthy as my letter to him, so I will read it entirely:Hi Cheryl,I appreciate you lengthy email and questions. Here are some answers ...I was never concerned about Ian's mild epilepsy until I was psychotic. Until I became psychotic, I was not concerned about the quality of his life or future.I've seen several forensic psychiatrists over the last 3-years. There seems to be concensus [sic] among them that nobody knows what triggers psychosis. I came out of my psychotic episode about 2-weeks after I killed Ian. Words cannot describe the pain that I felt when I had realized that I had done something so terribly wrong. But when I was psychotic, I thought killing Ian was absolutely the right thing to do. My delusional thoughts are as unimaginable to me today as they are to you. One psychiatrist described delusions as taking an issue (e.g., Ian's mild epilepsy) and magnifying it's importance by 25 or more times. Resulting in severely distored [sic] thoughts and, in rare cases, behaviours [sic] (e.g., murder). I've made reference to my own case in the Through Psychotic Eyes section of my website.In April, W-FIVE did a story on our tragedy. ... The purpose of the episode (at least from my perspective) was to educate the public about psychosis. To demystify psychosis. And to prevent future tragedies like ours. I only thought that killing Ian was a mercy killing (as you descibed [sic] below) when I was psychotic.And, finally, no ... I don't think the courts should have a third-degree or so called mercy killing penalty.I hope I've answered your questions,David
If anything good could come out of this correspondence, it was my hope that perhaps David would consider writing the Senate and Parliament to express his opposition to adding a 3rd degree penalty. So I wrote David back - here's a small clip from that letter:
Would you also consider writing Parliament and the Senate of Canada at some time and express your opposition? Maybe coming from someone who might have used the defense of "mercy killing" will influence them to seriously consider what a mockery of justice that would be for children who just happen to not be 'perfect'. Even with our laws as they are, children with disabilities are completely vulnerable. In death, they are dismissed by courts and society as being better off dead, what does that say about our humanity? There is nothing you can do to bring Ian back, but I believe there is something more can be done to honor his short life and remind people that he was a precious gift - and that he had every right to life and protection as any other child. ... We must not continue to allow society to dehumanize children with disabilities. But a 3rd degree penalty, or so-called compassionate - mercy killing law will do exactly that.
Here ends my presentation. I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that those who believe in euthanasia and PAS are working feverishly in harmony throughout the globe towards their goal to change the laws to favor euthanasia. We can not and must not do less to protect the vulnerable and educate the masses of all the dangers associated with the culture of death. Thank you for listening. If we have time I can take a couple of questions.
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