Monday, April 20, 2015

Questionable judicial reasoning in Canadian assisted suicide case.

Alex Schadenberg
By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Hamilton Spectator reported that Herbert Dilts, who pled guilty to assisted suicide in the death of Brian Nelson (71) was given a suspended sentence by Superior Court Justice Patrick Flynn 
on April 17, 2015.

Whether or not it was reasonable to give Dilts a  suspended sentence, I am concerned about the reasons given for the suspended sentence. According to the Hamilton Spectator report Justice Flynn stated:

the court had "sympathy" with Dilts' decision when handing the 57-year-old Hamilton man a suspended sentence and two years of probation. He also cited a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down Canada's law against assisted suicide.
The spectator article stated that Dilts unsuccessfully assisted in Nelson's suicide and then refused to continue participating. Justice Flynn found this to be an important factor but the law does not require that the act be sucessful. Section 241 of the Criminal Code states:
"whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence"
My primary concern relates to Flynn's reference to the Supreme Court of Canada assisted dying decision. On February 6, 2015 the Supreme Court struck down the assisted suicide law, but held the decision for 12 months. Further to that, the Supreme Court stated that assisted suicide must only be restricted to certain circumstances and done by a physician. Dilts is not a physician.

The Supreme Court decision should not have affected the sentencing of Dilts. Based on Flynn's reasoning, Justices already appear willing to expand the Supreme Court of Canada assisted dying decision.

Dilts pled guilty in January to assisting the suicide of his friend on February 19, 2012.

The Hamilton Spectator stated Dilts reacted to the decision by:

wiping his brow afterward and saying, "Whew" to his adult son, who was in court to support him. 
"I think it's a fair outcome," said Dilts. "The fact is I did assist him."
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