Assisted Suicide Campaigner Goes On Trial
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 20, 2004
DUNCAN, BRITISH COLUMBIA--A trial began Monday in a Duncan courtroom for an assisted-suicide campaigner accused of helping two women to kill themselves.
Evelyn Martens, 74, faces charges over the January 7, 2002 death of former nun Monique Charest, 64, and the June 26, 2002 death of Vancouver school teacher Leyanne Burchell, 52. Both women reportedly had terminal illnesses.
Under Canadian law, someone "who counsels a person to commit suicide, or aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years."
According to a Web site supporting Martens, she is a founding member and former membership director for the Right to Die Society, an organization that challenges laws making assisted suicide legal in Canada.
The pro-life magazine The Interim, reported that Martens is also responsible for producing and distributing the "exit bag - suicide bag". The plastic bag, which features an elastic opening to provide an airtight seal around a person's neck, has caused the death of people in Canada and elsewhere. Irish authorities have indicated interest in extraditing Evelyn Martens over the death of a Dublin woman who used an "exit bag".
Martins has indicated that she plans to challenge the law all the way to the Canada's Supreme Court.
Her supporters have already donated $137,000 for her defense.
The trial is expected to last six weeks. A jury is scheduled to be chosen October 12.
The court has imposed a news ban for the first three weeks of the trial.
Disability rights groups have long opposed efforts to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia. They argue that doing so would further endanger the lives of people with certain disabilities who are already considered undesirable or a "burden" on society, particularly at a time when the cost of health care is high.
Groups that oppose assisted suicide are meeting in Vancouver later this week to "educate, inform and prepare people and to implement an effective strategy to influence public opinion in relation to the Martens case."
"Court challenge imperils Canadian law against assisted suicide" (The Interim)