STONY PLAIN, Alta. - Linda Jean McNall and her mother had lived most of their lives together, caring for each other, so when the senior's health worsened, the pair struck a suicide pact.
They sold everything they owned, wrote letters to their creditors and gave up their apartment in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
Then they drove north to Alberta.
Court heard Tuesday that the women decided to end their lives in a tent, pitched in a secluded mountain area near Rock Lake, about 350 kilometres west of Edmonton.
On May 8, they swallowed some sleeping pills and injected themselves — and their two dogs — with insulin, according to a prepared statement put into the record by the Crown. Next, they opened a propane tank inside the tent and went to sleep.
Shirley Vann, who was in her 70s, never woke again. The dogs also died.
But 53-year-old McNall survived, despite at least three more suicide attempts over the next two days.
Following a psychiatric assessment, McNall pleaded guilty in Stony Plain court to a charge of aiding a suicide. She is to be sentenced Jan. 7.
Crown prosecutor Robert Marr said he may ask McNall receive time served for the eight months she has spent in pretrial custody.
He believes the assisted suicide case is the first in the province. There have only been a handful of other cases in Canada, and those offenders got suspended sentences, he said.
Whatever the judge decides, McNall will be deported back to the U.S., said Marr. A doctor has also recommended she be transferred to a hospital there to receive treatment for depression.
Court heard details of how resolved McNall was to kill herself alongside her mother.
McNall woke some time after she and her mother had first closed their eyes. She discovered the propane tank was empty and opened a second container, but didn't succumb to the gas.
Unable to rouse her mother, court heard McNall drove her Jeep Wrangler into the nearby town of Hinton and bought another tank. But, back at the campsite, she discovered she was unable to open it.
"As it was now too late to return to town and it was cold outside, she dragged Shirley, who was still breathing but unconscious, into the vehicle to stay warm for the night," Marr said in a prepared statement to the court.
A determined McNall travelled back to Hinton the next day and bought a hose to release the gas from the bottle. She took more pills and drifted off to sleep.
When she woke up again, she discovered her mother was dead.
"McNall made another trip back to Hinton where she withdrew money from an ATM Machine. She purchased another bottle of propane and some food," said Marr. "She once again opened the propane bottle and took more painkillers."
About 2 a.m. on May 10, when she woke to discover she had failed again, McNall drove with her mother's body still in the Jeep to the Hinton hospital.
Marr said staff pronounced Vann dead and two propane tanks were discovered inside the vehicle, still releasing gas.
McNall received medical care and was charged by RCMP four days later.
A medical examiner determined her mother died from insulin and propane toxicity.
Vann previously had colon cancer and suffered other health issues as a result of surgery. Marr said an autopsy found no active cancer in the woman's body.
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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)