I just posted this in another forum, which some of you also visit, but it seems relevant to this discussion so I'll post it here as well. I've been doing some thinking and research about the various categories of killing people as Canadian law defines them, and how they might apply.
Homicide is the general term for any killing of another person. Murder is the killing of a person with intent and without justification. Killing someone in self-defense is thus a homicide, but not a murder, and in fact isn't even an offense. First degree murder is one that's planned and deliberate, or contracted, or committed during the course of some other criminal activity like a robbery, or committed against a peace officer. Second degree murder is any murder that isn't first degree murder, which I take to mean deliberate but not planned, and then manslaughter is defined as a homicide that isn't first or second degree murder.
By those categories, homicide in a moment of extreme anger, the old "crime of passion" thing, would be second degree murder, accidentally causing a death would be manslaughter. But there are other things people can be charged with in a homicide case, like "criminal negligence causing death," and I don't know where those fit into the homicide categories, or even if they do.
What really caught my attention was the phrase "without justification" in the definition of murder. That seems to me the core of the euthanasia issue: what constitutes justification, and who gets to decide? The law has always recognized certain justifications, like self defense and combat situations, and a few countries have gone some way toward trying to answer it more broadly. The Netherlands has some legislation about euthanasia, for instance. I don't know much about it (not yet anyway), but it seems to involve careful deliberations among doctors, legal authorities, next of kin, and the potential target of the euthanasia, assuming he or she is lucid enough to take part.
It's obvious from the discussion in here that some people think Tracy Latimer's condition justified what her father did, and some people don't. Perfectly understandable, it's not an easy question, and it's deeply complicated by religious values like the notion of playing God and the sanctity of any human life regardless of its quality. We put down animals for lesser reasons than what was wrong with Tracy Latimer though, and call it mercy. Surely human beings deserve at least the same respect and a chance at a dignified exit from this life that we give to our pets and livestock when things are hopeless.
But what really gripes me right now is that a psycho like Robert Pickton and a courageous, compassionate man like Robert Latimer, however misguided one might think he was, can be found guilty of the same offense, second degree murder.