By Michael Cook
At the end of this month a Toronto man will appear in court charged with abetting suicide. This is not, as you might think, a case of mercy killing — a grieving husband who wants to stop the suffering of his cancer-riddled wife or a devoted son who has exhausted himself in nursing his aged mother.
Such crimes are still murders, for no one has a right to take the life of an innocent human being. But a mistaken belief that a loved one will be spared suffering extenuates the murderer’s guilt.
The case of Kenneth Law is altogether different. The 57-year-old chef supplied 1,200 suicide kits with lethal poisons to customers all over the world. Mr Law came to the attention of Canadian police after investigative reporters from The Times of London exposed him in April. It had linked him to at least four deaths, although it appears that he had mailed 1200 packages to people in 40 countries. Police are investigating deaths in UK, Canada, the United States, Italy and New Zealand.
Law’s conversation with an undercover reporter was chilling. He believed that “many, many, many, many” people had died. But he denied being a killer: “I’m not assisting anything; I’m selling a product.”
According to The Times, a number of the people who died after buying his product were young. “The oldest person we found who had died after taking his product was 38, the youngest was 17 and three were in their 20s.”
A British man, whose 22-year-old son died after buying the poison from Law’s website, told The Times: “I think he’s the man that effectively handed a loaded gun to my son. I believe my son would still be alive if it wasn’t for this man and this substance.”
“People might not consider what I do as being very favourable or in fact even criminal,” Law told The Times. “But I think it is helpful for a small, very narrow group of people who really need an avenue like this, because simply the laws of our society don’t permit it.” He was gratified by positive feedback from his customers. “They often say that I do God’s work, which is really way too much. I’m much more humble and modest than that.”
Canada has become the most liberal euthanasia regime in the world. More people die at the hands of doctors and nurses there than in any other country. But even in Canada there are limits. A doctor’s permission is needed. People need to be suffering. There is burdensome paperwork.
Mr Law apparently believed that anyone, anywhere, anytime, of any age, of any state of mental health should be able to commit suicide.
Anthony Jones, a 17-year-old from Michigan who suffered from depression, autism and ADHD, was one of Law’s victims. One night in February last year, he ran into his mother’s room desperate for an ambulance after ingesting the lethal powder. “I want to live,” he was shouting. It was too late.
Does Canada’s progressive stand on euthanasia provide a breeding ground for the kind of murderous sadism represented by Kenneth Law?
It’s possible, because the same thing happened in the Netherlands, another country where euthanasia is legal.