Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada: Chronology to 2010
Published Saturday, October 15, 2011 6:42PM EDT
From the report: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada (Background Paper, National Library of Canada)
The Law Reform Commission of Canada recommended against legalizing or decriminalizing voluntary active euthanasia. It also recommended that aiding suicide not be decriminalized where assistance has been rendered to a terminally ill person.
The Law Reform Commission of Canada released proposals for amending the Criminal Code. These included the recommendation that mercy killing be treated as second-degree murder ("ordinary murder") rather than as first-degree murder ("premeditated murder"). Second-degree murder would carry no fixed or minimum jail term.
Private member's Bill C-351, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (terminally ill persons), passed first reading in the House of Commons. The bill died with the prorogation of Parliament.
Private member's Bill C-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (terminally ill persons), passed first reading in the House of Commons.
Private member's Bill C-261, An Act to legalize the administration of euthanasia under certain conditions, passed first reading in the House of Commons.
Bill C-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (terminally ill persons) received second reading and was referred to Legislative Committee H for consideration. The Committee began hearings on the bill on 29 October 1991.
Bill C-261, An Act to legalize the administration of euthanasia under certain conditions to persons who request it and who are suffering from an irremediable condition and respecting the withholding and cessation of treatment and to amend the Criminal Code, was debated at second reading and dropped from the Order Paper.
The Quebec Superior Court ruled in the case of Nancy B., a woman suffering from an incurable disease, that turning off her respirator at her request and letting nature take its course would not be a criminal offence.
An Ontario surgeon was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a seriously ill cancer patient. The patient is alleged to have died of a cardiac arrest after having been administered morphine and potassium chloride.
Legislative Committee H on Bill C 203 adjourned sine die.
Scott Mataya, a Toronto nurse who had originally been charged with first-degree murder in the mercy killing of a terminally ill patient, entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of administering a noxious substance. He received a suspended sentence and was ordered to surrender his nursing licence.
Private member's Bill C-385, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (aiding suicide), passed first reading in the House of Commons. The bill died with the prorogation of Parliament.
Members of the House of Commons defeated a motion that called upon the government to consider the advisability of introducing legislation on the subject of euthanasia and ensuring that those assisting terminally ill persons who wish to die will not be subject to criminal liability.
An Ontario physician who gave a lethal injection to a seriously ill cancer patient was given a three-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of administering a noxious substance to endanger life. The physician was originally charged with second-degree murder, but this charge was withdrawn.
In a five-to-four decision, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by Sue Rodriguez in which she challenged the validity of the Criminal Code prohibition on assisted suicide under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General issued guidelines for Crown Counsel with respect to charging persons involved in cases of active euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Sue Rodriguez committed suicide with the assistance of a physician. The death was investigated by police, but no criminal charge was laid.
Justice Minister Allan Rock stated that the issues of cessation of treatment and assisted suicide should be considered by Parliament.
Prime Minister Chrétien stated that members of Parliament would have a free vote on whether to legalize doctor-assisted suicide.
Private member's Bill C 215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (aiding suicide), passed first reading in the House of Commons. This bill was debated and dropped from the Order Paper on 21 September 1994.
A Special Senate Committee was established to examine and report on the legal, social and ethical issues relating to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Robert Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the asphyxiation death of his severely disabled 12-year-old daughter Tracy and sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 10 years.
The Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide issued its report entitled Of Life and Death.
Bill S-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of health care providers), was introduced in the Senate by the Honourable Senator Sharon Carstairs. The bill died with the prorogation of Parliament.
The Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for Robert Latimer.
Dr. Nancy Morrison was charged with the first-degree murder of a terminally ill patient who had been removed from active life support.
Robert Latimer, having again been convicted of second-degree murder, was sentenced to two years less a day, notwithstanding that the minimum sentence under the Criminal Code is life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years.
A Nova Scotia judge found that there was not sufficient evidence for a jury to convict Dr. Nancy Morrison, and refused to commit her to trial.
Dr. Maurice Généreux was sentenced to two years less a day and three years' probation for providing drugs to two non-terminal patients so that they might commit suicide. The next year, that sentence was confirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal confirmed the conviction of Robert Latimer and imposed a sentence of life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole for 10 years.
Bill S-29, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Protection of Patients and Health Care Providers), was introduced in the Senate by Senator Thérèse Lavoie-Roux. The bill died with the prorogation of Parliament.
Bill S-2, An Act to facilitate the making of legitimate medical decisions regarding life-sustaining treatments and the controlling of pain, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Sharon Carstairs. It was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in February 2000.
The Senate Subcommittee studying developments with respect to the unanimous recommendations made in Of Life and Death in 1995 submitted its report, entitled Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian.
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal with regard to Robert Latimer.
Marielle Houle was charged with aiding and abetting the suicide of her 36-year-old son, Charles Fariala.
Evelyn Martens was acquitted of aiding and abetting the suicides of two women that took place in 2002.
Bill C-407, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity) was introduced by Francine Lalonde, MP.
André Bergeron was charged with the attempted murder of his spouse, Marielle Gagnon, who had Friedreich's ataxia.
Bill C-407 was given one hour of debate in the House of Commons. It died on the Order Paper in November 2005 with the dissolution of Parliament.
Marielle Houle pled guilty to aiding and abetting the suicide of her son, and was sentenced to three years' probation.
Raymond Kirk pled guilty to aiding the suicide of his ailing wife. The Ontario Court of Justice sentenced him to three years' probation.
André Bergeron was sentenced to three years' probation for aggravated assault in relation to the death of his wife.
A Health Psychology study found that 6% of patients in palliative care surveyed (22 out of a total of 379) said that they would request physician-assisted suicide if such a procedure were legally available.
The Canadian Medical Association's Committee on Ethics found it unnecessary to radically alter the association's position on euthanasia and assisted suicide. The CMA's policy therefore still prohibits physician participation in either of these acts.
Dr. Ramesh Kumar Sharma was sentenced for aiding the suicide of Ruth Wolfe, a 93-year-old woman who suffered from heart problems. The court imposed a sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community.
An Ipsos Reid survey of 1,005 Canadians found that 76% of respondents supported the right to die for patients with an incurable disease (this figure has remained unchanged for 14 years). The strongest support was in Quebec with 87%, while Alberta had the lowest, with 66%.
The RCMP decided not to lay charges in the assisted suicide case of Elizabeth MacDonald, a Canadian with multiple sclerosis who died in Switzerland with the assistance of the organization Dignitas.
The Appeal Division of the National Parole Board granted Robert Latimer day parole.
MP Francine Lalonde introduced Bill C-562, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity).
Bill C-562 died on the Order Paper with the dissolution of Parliament.
Stéphan Dufour was acquitted by a jury of assisting his uncle to commit suicide, due to Mr. Dufour's limited mental capacity. That verdict is under appeal.
Ms. Lalonde introduced Bill C-384, which is identical to Bill C 562. It was negatived on 21 April 2010 by a vote of 228 to 59.
The Quebec legislature mandated a Select Committee on Dying with Dignity to consult the public in that province on the topic of dying with dignity.
Peter Fonteece pled guilty of criminal negligence causing death because he did not seek assistance for his wife when she killed herself as part of their suicide pact. He was not found guilty of assisting in her suicide.
Senator Sharon Carstairs authored a report on the subject of palliative care, Raising the Bar: A Roadmap for the Future of Palliative Care in Canada.
Robert Latimer was granted full parole.