Quebec Case of Assisted Suicide Being Used by Media to Push for Legalization of Euthanasia

By John Jalsevac

  MONTREAL, Quebec, May 17, 2007 ( – In the third such case to make headlines in Quebec in the last several years, a 29 year old man is being accused of assisting his chronically ill uncle to commit suicide.

  Chantal Maltais was found hanging in his apartment in September of last year. Stephan Dufour, his nephew, was arrested this past week after a lengthy investigation by the police led them to the conclusion that Dufour may have helped his uncle to commit suicide.

  According to the Globe and Mail, Dufour’s lawyer has said that Maltais suffered from polio. The death notice that followed after Maltais’ suicide, however, asked mourners to donate to a muscular dystrophy fund. Other news sources have reported that Maltais in fact suffered from muscular dystrophy.

  Maltais’ condition rendered him severely weak, and confined him to a wheelchair. His nephew visited him often, helping him with the day-to-day tasks that Maltais was unable to do for himself.

“The nephew was taking care of the uncle. He did a lot of work taking care of him,” said Sgt. Pierre Lavoie, from the Quebec provincial police. 

  According to Dufour’s lawyer, Maltais had been asking for help to commit suicide for somewhere between 10 and 15 years. 

  This newest case is already being used to reignite the effort by euthanasia activists to modify Canadian law to allow government-regulated assisted suicide.

  The Canadian Press report on the Maltais/Dufour case quoted the pro-euthanasia activist and author, Yvon Bureau, who is pushing for a system in Canada—similar to those that already exist in Belgium and the Netherlands—by which individuals who no longer wish to live can commit suicide with the assistance of Canadian physicians. “The assistance must be medical, practised in a strict, secure framework,” said Bureau.

  The author went on to claim that most Canadians want to see such a system in place, but that it is only a select group of pro-life “extremists” who “believe in life at all costs” that are keeping it from coming about.

  Alex Schadenberg, the Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told, however, that mainstream media reporting—particularly the Canadian Press’ reports—on Maltais’ suicide has been almost universally biased.

 “The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is dismayed by the coverage of the charge of assisted suicide in Quebec by the Canadian Press,” Schadenberg told “The Canadian Press made no attempt to present the issue in a fair and  unbiased manner. The news item appears to be about the supposed ‘need to change the law’ rather than the alleged assisted suicide death of Chantal Maltais.”

“Nowhere in the article do they attempt to explain that the law is intended to protect vulnerable people who are often pressured into assisted suicide or whose life may be taken without their consent. No comment is made in the article concerning the failure of safeguards to protect vulnerable people.”

  Schadenberg also pointed out that the charges of assisted suicide that have been laid against Dufour are possibly inaccurate.

“The police should have been questioned by the media concerning the charge of assisted suicide,” said Schadenberg. “Family members and the neighbours of Chantal Maltais reported that Maltais was physically unable to kill himself by hanging. Since assisted suicide represents a case whereby one person assists the other to commit suicide, Stephan Dufour would have had to do more than just assist Maltais and has possibly been inappropriately charged with assisted suicide when the crime was possibly homicide.”

  Dufour’s lawyer claims that his client was not present when Maltais killed himself. It is not clear how Maltais, however, who is said to have not had enough strength to lift a cigarette to his mouth, would have been able to hang himself.

  The crime of assisting in someone else’s suicide is punishable with a maximum 14-year sentence. Recent cases of assisted suicide in Quebec, however, have seen the guilty parties receive sentences far below the maximum.

  In October of last year Andre Bergson received a sentence of 3 years probation for helping his wife commit suicide. In January of 2006, another Quebec resident, Marielle Houle, received a similar sentence for killing her chronically ill son by administering a cock-tail of drugs, and then asphyxiating him with a plastic bag.

  See related coverage:

  Montreal Woman gets Three Years Probation for Euthanasia of Son

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