HINTON, Alta. - A U.S. woman charged with aiding the suicide of her mother in an Alberta mountain town has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment.
The defence lawyer for Linda Jean McNall has told court there are concerns her client may also be suicidal. Marissa Tordoff said it's possible the 53-year-old could have a mental disorder and be found not criminally responsible for the alleged crime.
"The nature of the offence is one that would trigger inquiry into her mental health," Tordoff said Wednesday in Hinton provincial court.
McNall, in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre, appeared briefly in court with her lawyer via video. A stocky woman with short hair and a flushed face, the accused stood without saying a word.
Her mother, Shirley Vann, was found dead last month inside a vehicle parked in front of the hospital in Hinton, about 300 kilometres west of Edmonton.
McNall was admitted to hospital with injuries that weren't life-threatening and charged by RCMP four days later.
Crown prosecutor Bob Marr said outside court that investigators are still trying to piece together what happened. There's some indication Vann, who was in her 70s, was poisoned by carbon monoxide, but autopsy results are not complete, he said.
Marr believes the mother and daughter had been on holiday in Canada from Arizona or Idaho for about three weeks to a month before Vann died.
"Apparently, they came up here to take in the countryside."
He said Mounties were initially so concerned for McNall's well-being that they requested a publication ban to prevent news media from identifying her or her mother. Court documents show officers feared publicity in the case would "further exacerbate McNall's suicidal resolve."
Both Crown and defence lawyers agreed Wednesday there was no reason to keep the ban in place.
"I know the police were very, very concerned initially of the well-being of the person that's accused," Marr said. "And they basically took all the steps they could to try and protect her until this thing got rolling."
A judge ordered that McNall be assessed by doctors over the next 30 days at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. She is to appear in court again July 3.
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Euthanasia In Canada
Here's a look at the state of Euthanasia laws in Canada and their history.
Suicide Not A Crime
Suicide hasn't been a crime in Canada since 1972. (Shutterstock)
Doctor-Assisted Suicide Illegal
Doctor-assisted suicide is illegal, although the ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court will force Parliament to alter the law within one year.<br><br> The <a href="http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-113.html#h-79" target="_hplink">Criminal Code of Canada states in section 241</a> that:<br><br> "Every one who (a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or (b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years." (Alamy)
Passive euthanasia involves letting a patient die instead of prolonging life with medical measures. Passive euthanasia is legal in Canada.<br><br> The decision is left in the hands of family or a designated proxy. Written wishes, including those found in living wills, do not have to be followed by family or a proxy. (Alamy)
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodriguez_v._British_Columbia_(Attorney_General)" target="_hplink">Sue Rodriguez</a>, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), launched a case asking the Supreme Court of Canada to allow her to end her own life on the grounds that the current law discriminated against her disability.<br><br> Because suicide is legal in Canada and Rodriguez was unable to end her life because of a lack of mobility, she argued it was discriminatory to prevent her from ending her own life with the aid of another.<br><br> The court refused her request in 1993, but one year later she ended her life anyway with the help of an unnamed doctor. (CP)
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Latimer" target="_hplink">Robert Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 death of his severely disabled daughter Tracy</a>. A lack of oxygen during Tracy's birth led to cerebral palsy and serious mental and physical disabilities, including seizures and the inability to walk or talk. Her father ended Tracy's life by placing her in his truck and connecting a hose to the vehicle's exhaust.<br><br>The case led to a heated debate over euthanasia in Canada and two Supreme Court challenges. <br><br>Latimer was granted day parole in 2008 and full parole in 2010. (CP)
Bills To Legalize
Former Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde tried repeatedly to get legislation legalizing euthanasia in Canada passed. Bill C-407 and Bill C-384 were both aimed at making assisted suicide legal. C-384 was defeated in the House 228 to 59, with many Bloc MPs and a handful of members from all other parties voting for the legislation.<br><br> Tetraplegic Tory MP Steven Fletcher, pictured, made the following statement after C-384 was defeated: <br><br> "I would like to be recorded as abstaining on this bill. The reason is I believe end of life issues need to be debated more in our country. I believe that life should be the first choice but not the only choice and that we have to ensure that resources and supports are provided to Canadians so that choice is free. I believe, when all is said and done, the individual is ultimately responsible. I want to make this decision for myself, and if I cannot, I want my family to make the decision. I believe most Canadians, or many Canadians, feel the same. As William Henley said in his poem Invictus, "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."<br><br>(CP)