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First ever jury trial for "assisted suicide" ends in acquittal

Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Wonderful news - history is made - and Canada moves a step closer to a compassionate society:

Quote:
A Quebec man charged with helping his ailing uncle hang himself two years ago has been found not guilty of assisted suicide.

A jury acquitted Stéphan Dufour, 30, on a single charge of assisted suicide Friday morning, after three days of deliberation in the landmark case.

Dufour is the first Canadian to ever stand trial by jury for assisted suicide.

He was accused of assisting his uncle, Chantal Maltais, kill himself in his Alma home in September 2006.

Dufour admitted to installing rope, chain and a dog collar in a closet, which Maltais later used to kill himself. ...

Dufour was tearful while recalling while on stand how his uncle often begged him to help him die.

"He asked me every day to help him commit suicide," Dufour told the court.

"I didn't want to do it, but I wasn't able to take it anymore. I felt like I was in prison."

Dufour's mother, aunts and cousins broke into tears and shouted out as the jury read out its verdict in Alma's courthouse Friday morning.

Stéphan Dufour's cousin, Yannick Dufour, said he was relieved, but called on the government to review assisted suicide.

"The government needs to get its act together," he said in French. "Life doesn't belong to anyone but ourselves."

"We don't let animals suffer," Nicole Maltais added. "Why do we let people suffer?"

Source.

 

 

 


Comments

Agent 204
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Joined: Nov 19 2003
It is a good outcome. I wish the article went into more detail about the reasons for the jury's verdict; was it the defense of necessity, perhaps?

Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Agent 204 wrote:
It is a good outcome. I wish the article went into more detail about the reasons for the jury's verdict; was it the defense of necessity, perhaps?

I don't think juries give reasons. I'm not sure what the defence was - that might give a clue.

It's unfortunate that all the old babble threads appear to have been discarded, but this one survives somewhat in Google's cache.

And in that thread, I referred to BQ MP Francine Lalonde's attempt to pilot a private member's bill on assisted suicide in 2005 - as well as the 14 years that have passed since the Sue Rodriguez story and the courageous role played by Svend Robinson.

Sadly, governments and Parliament have done nothing to improve the situation since then. We should be thankful to the courts - and in this case, to a jury of ordinary citizens - for starting to remedy the problem.

ETA: Here's a working link to the above-referenced babble thread.


martin dufresne
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Joined: Dec 24 2005

Stephan Dufour's defense was "mental incapacity". The defense painted the slightly incapacitated youth as browbeaten by his uncle into strangling him. I can understand assisted suicide advocates trying to spin this unprecedented decision their way, but anyone eager to jump on that bandwagon should take a look at recent cases* of women's murders at the hands of their spouse, that were presented by the media - taking their cue from the murderers - as "compassionate killings". The distinction between both situations becomes rather hard to maintain when the killer is the main witness and describes his act as something he felt compelled to do, either because a) his victim "no longer had sufficient quality of life"; or b) had begged him to do it; or c) he could no longer bear the weight of caring for her; or d) he was being tyrannized by the victim. Stephan Dufour's lawyer pressed levers a) and d) in his defense. In a society that would rather gush about a "right to die" than support the right to be decently cared for, I find that juncture problematic. _______________________________

* From my database of spousal murders in Quebec:

Rollande Liboiron, 50, was killed in the Montreal suburb of Repentigny on October 20, 2008 by her husband Yvan Samson, 53. Samson had instructed his neighbours not to speak to his wife, claiming she suffered from Alzheimer's disease. He described himself as his "natural caregiver".

Anita Roy, 72, killed at her Tring-Junction home with hatchet blows to the head on November 21, 2007, by her husband, Jean-Guy Bosa, 71. As the victim had received a cancer victim a few months earlier, and the killer committed suicide after the murder (as did Samson), the media immediately described the murder as a "suicide pact". We are witnessing a growing number of such "double suicides" of elderly people in Quebec, with little indication that wives will them.. 


lagatta
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Joined: Apr 17 2002
Martin, it disturbs me that you put the right to die in quotes. Providing the right to die, and "living wills", can do much to eliminate the ambiguous situations you describe where the person who killed the ailing person is a) too emotionally connected, too all-powerful and burdened by caregiving and b) the only surviving witness. Decent care is important, but people still have the right to decide that their life is not worth living and be provided painless means of doing so, if they are not capable of ending it themselves - and painless aids even if they can. And I don't want to live with dementia, so it requires some kind of provision in that sense while the person is still of sound mind. Anything else ir religious crap.

martin dufresne
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Joined: Dec 24 2005

And I am disturbed by the construction "Decent care is important, but...", confirming that both these rights are presently being played one against the other, indeed with the right to die being given more vibrant attention than the more costly and embarrassing right to decent living. I appreciate your concern about your end of life. Yet, a friend commented that he expected such highly mediatized stories and discourse to translate into additional pressure to "bow out" on people perceived/described as having expended their "quality lifetime".


lagatta
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That is nothing to the fact that under current laws, we do not have the right to assisted suicide or to (pre-chosen) euthanasia. My "decent care is important, but" was by no means a way of playing down the need for decent and compassionate care, but for cleaning out the religious crap that has prevented people from having a dignified ending to their lives.

Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

To the shock of the family and many others, the Crown has announced that it will appeal the not-guilty verdict. They are apparently focusing on the judge's instructions, saying (for instance) that the judge should not have reminded the jury about the evidence that Dufour had diminished mental capacity.

I guess the powers that be couldn't afford to leave this unprecedented verdict sitting out there unchallenged.

martin dufresne wrote:
In a society that would rather gush about a "right to die" than support the right to be decently cared for, ...

Which society is that?


George Victor
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Joined: Oct 28 2007

 

Looking around at the need for more and newer Long Term Care facilities after two decades of  Conservative appeals for "lower taxes" (and Liberal acquiesence)...I guess this society.  It does not cost as much.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Your comment is based on what evidence?

Assisted suicide is still a criminal offence, and there has been no significant push from any party to change that in the slightest, despite the many years that have passed since the high-profile Sue Rodriguez case. Even the Bloc's bill seems to be gone. Name one politician calling for decriminalization, please.

Unless you think Svend Robinson's motive was cost-cutting and killing off old and sick people?


Unionist
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Four assisted suicide activists arrested in US

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Four members of an assisted suicide network have been arrested in Georgia on charges that they helped a man end his life. The arrests came after an undercover agent posing as a terminally ill man was taken through the steps that would lead to his death by Ted Goodwin, president of the Final Exit Network.


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

That is good new, Unionist.  But, unfortunately, it may simply be a case of jury nullification (which is great for the individual defendant but does little systemically to address the issue).

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

What's actually needed is more of this: Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!


Unionist
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Terminally ill Québec man seeks right to assisted suicide

Quote:

A terminally ill Quebec City man made a public plea Thursday asking the Quebec government to pressure Ottawa to change the federal law on assisted suicide so he can end his life with dignity.

Andre Dion, 67, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and bone cancer, sent an open letter to French-language newspapers across Quebec.

The letter was addressed to Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc. [...]

"Mr. Minister, I need your help to die with dignity.

"I need compassion and respect of my free choice to end my life."

Of course, it's a Criminal Code issue, so he's asking the provincial minister to put pressure on Ottawa.

 

 

 


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

That poor man in Quebec will probably not get any relief.  But, hopefully, his story, and others like his, will cause people to rethink assisted suicide.

There is a likelihood that any one of us is going to end up in that same condition and, if people thought about that even briefly, I would think that most would see the wisdom in letting people die under their own terms.

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

More on this story...

Quote:

"I need your help so that I can best terminate my life, to die free with dignity and pride," Mr. Dion wrote in the letter, addressed to Quebec's Minister of Health and Social Services, Yves Bolduc.

"On the final moment, at the beginning of my intense agony, I want a doctor to help me die with dignity, by bringing me the medication for the grand departure, on the day and place of my choosing accompanied with gentle and respectful compassion. By ending my life in this way, I will leave, my heart fulfilled, my spirit in peace and my life content." [...]

Dr. Bolduc is familiar with the issue. Just before entering politics last June, Dr. Bolduc, who had practised medicine for 25 years, co-wrote a book entitled Mourir dans la dignité (Dying With Dignity), in which he argued the "door should be left open in some particular cases which could justify a positive response" for assisted suicide.

A spokesperson for his office said yesterday that the issue is under federal jurisdiction and that the provinces alone could not change the law. However, the minister was said to be open to Mr. Bureau's idea of launching a public debate on the issue and will look at encouraging other provinces to do the same.

 

 


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Unionist, are there any provinces in Canada which are like Oregon and permit doctor-assisted suicide?

_______________________________________

Eleutherophobics of the World...Unite!!!


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Just noticed Sven's post - I think criminal law is state jurisdiction in the U.S. and federal in Canada, so it can't happen here.

Now some news:

Euthanasia doctor allowed into UK

Quote:
An Australian doctor detained at Heathrow Airport when he arrived to hold workshops on euthanasia has been granted leave to stay in UK. [...]

Dr [Philip] Nitschke, who runs Exit International, told the BBC he had been searched, fingerprinted and formally interviewed after being told his workshops could be in breach of British law. [...]

Dr Nitschke, from Darwin, administered lethal injections to end four patients' lives after voluntary euthanasia was made legal in Australia's Northern Territory in 1996.

The Australian federal government overturned the law nine months later.


Unionist
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First lawful assisted suicide in Washington state

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A 66-year-old US woman with advanced cancer has become the first person to die under a new assisted suicide law in Washington State.

The woman, Linda Fleming, died on Thursday night after taking drugs prescribed by her doctor.

The "Death with Dignity" law was approved by 60% of Washington State voters in a referendum last year.

It is based on a law in neighbouring Oregon, where 400 people have chosen to die over the last 12 years.

The advocacy group, Compassion and Choices of Washington, said Ms Fleming died with her family, her dog and her physician at her side.

In a statement, Ms Fleming, who lived in the town of Sequim, said: "I had only recently learned to live in the world as I had always wanted to, and now I will no longer be here.

"The pain became unbearable, and it was only going to get worse. I am a very spiritual person, and it was very important to me to be conscious, clear-minded and alert at the time of my death."


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

The right to die is scary in societies that do not support a right to life. For people who have chronic illnesses and fear for what the burden will have on their families a choice to die is one with a deep and horrible conflict of interest. A society that encourages the right to die without providing the means for life for those needing support is just as inhuman as one that denies the right to die.

It is an unfair burden to place on the vulnerable that they can now be faced with a so-called choice to relieve the burden of suffering placed on their families by "choosing" to die. This can be as much of a burden as living in pain or incapacitated etc.

It is essential that full support be given to those individuals and their families who choose to live in diminished health and this must be a part of any extension of a right to die otherwise the right to die is just as cruel as the witholding of that right.

 


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

I never thought of that. Good point, Sean.

 


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

We have had other ironies before that I find have a similar theme. When I was in high-school we debated a woman's right to choose. I was very political even as a youngster and even then I could see the irony. The NDP championed the right to choice. But by this I mean real choice. The NDP also advocated support for children, healthcare, daycare, social assitance and jobs. The conservatives opposed public support for all of these and opposed abortion. At that young age I understood that the Conservatives really care about you, with all their teeny, tiny little hearts... until you are born. Then screw you. Most of my life, I have known the Conservatives as the people who care about you until you are born.

With the elderly and the ill, the choice of life or not is different of course. These are not fetuses-- potential people, they are people. These are real people forced to make the decision themselves, with or without pressure from their families, the state, creditors and realities. They make this decision with or without a real choice because of a lack of support for the vulnerable in this country.

There are other burdens of having an ill family member but if the material costs could be removed we could at least hope people would not die to bring mercy to their familes for the wrong reasons. I am sorry to say but without this I cannot support legalizing euthanasia even though I am aware of the tragedies of some wanting to die. There would be many more who don't want to die wanting it for all the wrong reasons.

This is of course seperate from the other important issue of being sure that the choice is truly coming from the person and that this person has the full capacity to make such a decision.


Noise
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Joined: May 16 2006

Quote:
At that young age I understood that the Conservatives really care about you, with all their teeny, tiny little hearts... until you are born. Then screw you. Most of my life, I have known the Conservatives as the people who care about you until you are born.

 

Not quite true...they suddenly start caring if you're a vegitable too.

 

 

 

Martin:

Quote:
We are witnessing a growing number of such "double suicides" of elderly people in Quebec, with little indication that wives will them..
Is this in comment in favor of assisted suicide? It would seem to me that if there was a more 'official' process, women would have the ability to make sure their descision in the matter was heard. Am I seeing that wrong?  

Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Unionist wrote:

I never thought of that. Good point, Sean.

 

Thank you Unionist for being so open minded on this. It is a complicated issue and it will need to be decided by people like you who have an openness to compassion on both sides of an issue.


Unionist
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Suicide class for terminally ill cancelled by Vancouver public library

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The Vancouver Public Library has told an Australian group that it can't use the library's public meeting rooms to hold a suicide workshop for the terminally ill.

Exit International founder Dr. Phillip Nitschke admits his group's workshops are controversial, but says his organization wants to help the terminally ill decide when and how they die.

"What we do at these gatherings is to, first of all, explain to people why we think it's a good idea to know how to kill yourself peacefully and reliably," said Nitschke.

The second part of the workshop that looks at specific ways to commit suicide is restricted to those older than 50 years of age who are terminally ill. [...]

The group had booked a room at the Vancouver Public Library for a workshop in early November, but the booking was later cancelled by city librarian Paul Whitney, after the library sought legal advice.

"We were told in all likelihood this program would be in contravention of Section 241 of the Criminal Code and that states that it is an indictable offence to counsel or aid or abet any person to commit suicide, and this seems sort of, fairly clear to us," said Whitney.

The maximum sentence if convicted is 14 years, whether a suicide takes place or not.

 


Unionist
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Decriminalize euthanasia, Quebec MDs urge

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Gaetan Barrette, head of the province's association of medical specialists, said Monday at a national assembly committee hearing on the right to die with dignity that the province and Ottawa should come up with clear policies on when doctors can facilitate a patient's death.

He said that, like it or not, euthanasia is already widely practised, and governments should stop ignoring it. He said the public is ready to accept guidelines on hastening death for incurably ill people.

Barrette suggested Quebec could move to protect doctors who practise euthanasia from prosecution, as it did in the past with doctors carrying out abortions.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

What a magnificent woman and a powerful story:

At 95, trailblazer Bernice Levitz Packford wants the power to end her life

Quote:

She turned 95 yesterday, a landmark birthday in a life of activism. Soon after arriving in Victoria in 1953, she could be found on a downtown street wearing a sandwich-board sign seeking foster parents for needy children. She became more sophisticated in her protests over the years, but has never wavered from a desire to improve the world, little bit by little bit. She has championed clean water, old-age pensions, and the importance of voting.

She demanded a CBC Radio station in Victoria, which finally arrived a decade ago. In 1983, the taxman seized $549.21 from the pensioner's chequing account because she had diverted payments in opposition to military spending.

She protests against Canadian participation in the war in Afghanistan.

A local politician once greeted her in public with a hearty, "Bernice, my rabble-rousing friend!"

She recently announced her final issue, her last cause, by writing a letter to the editor of the local daily newspaper. In it, she made a shocking confession.

"I am tired," she wrote to the Times Colonist, "and I am ready to die now."

Ms. Packford wishes not only to die, but to kill herself.

Or, more accurately, to have herself killed.


Unionist
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Assisted suicide voted down by MPs

Quote:

The House of Commons has rejected a Bloc Québécois MP’s legislation to permit assisted suicide in Canada under strict conditions.

Bill C-384 was defeated Wednesday afternoon on second reading by a 228-59 margin.

The bill would have allowed doctors to avoid murder and manslaughter charges for helping terminally ill people or those in severe chronic pain to die.

Francine Lalonde, an east Montreal member of Parliament, introduced the measure. It was supported by most of her caucus and a sprinkling of MPs from the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP, because party leaders allowed a free vote.

The bill stipulated that a physician could help someone to "die with dignity" provided nine conditions were met, including that the person was 18 or older, suffered from a terminal illness or unrelenting physical or mental pain, had made two written requests to die at least 10 days apart, and had their diagnosis confirmed by a second doctor.

How shameful that doctors whose profession and conscience dictate that they relieve suffering at their patient's request, must still face criminal charges and prison. We need more courageous MPs like Francine Lalonde - and where is Svend Robinson?

 


Sven
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

Unionist wrote:

The bill stipulated that a physician could help someone to "die with dignity" provided nine conditions were met, including that the person was 18 or older, suffered from a terminal illness or unrelenting physical or mental pain, had made two written requests to die at least 10 days apart, and had their diagnosis confirmed by a second doctor.

The bill's authors appear to have gone out of their way to build in plenty of protections (possibly too many) ...and it still couldn't pass!

I am somewhat surprised that the bill was defeated by such a significant margin.

Still, the concept of legalizing physician-assisted suicide is relatively new.  I expect that over time, as we continue (hopefully) to evolve more and more towards secularism in society, physician-assisted suicide will continue to gain traction.


Unionist
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Right-to-die debate takes centre stage in Québec

Quote:

The national debate on euthanasia and helping end the life of someone who wants to die is about to be rekindled by public hearings kicking off this week in Quebec.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under the Criminal Code, a federal statute that provinces cannot change.

But Quebec is determined to weigh in on the issue and has set up a commission that will travel to about 10 cities, starting Tuesday in Montreal. [...]

There is a strong push in Quebec in favour of decriminalizing assisted suicide, notably by the Quebec College of Physicians, the province’s medical regulatory body, and the Federation of Medical Specialists. They are calling for guidelines for euthanasia in cases when a patient’s death is imminent and inevitable.

And according to a recent Leger Marketing poll, more than 70 per cent of Quebecers agree with and are in favour of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

[Winnipeg ethicist Arthur] Schafer is not surprised by the results.

“I think the debate is far more advanced in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada, although there is a significant debate as well in British Columbia,” he said.

“I think the Quebecois are more in the tradition that each individual should be allowed, at least if they are competent adults, to make the important decisions for their own life,” added Schafer, an advocate of a more liberal law on end-of-life issues.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Assisted suicide now being discussed on The Sunday Edition, CBC Radio One, by a five-person panel. The bias of the panel is roughly 4 to 1 against - very balanced! And the professional anti-human fraudulent "ethicist" Margaret Somerville is leading the charge.

 


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