A CANADIAN doctor who was recently named professor of the year at Dalhousie Medical School has been charged with murder. Nancy Morrison, 41, was arrested this month at Halifax's Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre (QEII), a teaching hospital where she works as a respirologist, writes Philip Fine.
She has been accused of killing a patient by injection.
Paul Mills, 65, died last November in the intensive care unit of the QEII and had been suffering from advanced cancer of the oesophagus. Dr Morrison had earlier been suspended for three months from practising in the intensive care unit of the hospital, following an internal investigation of Mr Mills's death. It was reported that police were subsequently notified by a member of the medical staff, who was dissatisfied with the internal investigation.
The crown and the police in this investigation have refrained from using the terms "mercy killing" or "doctor-assisted suicide" to describe Dr Morrison's alleged crime.
Crown attorney Craig Botterill said: "She's charged with first-degree murder. Euthanasia and mercy killing are not terms known in Canadian law." Canadian law, in most provinces, empowers doctors to withdraw life support at the request of a terminally ill patient but not to hasten death.
Dr Morrison pleaded not guilty at her arraignment and was released on Can$10,000 (Pounds 4,900) bail.
In a published interview she recounted how stunned she was by the arrest. "I have done nothing wrong," she said.
"I was looking through some lab results and getting ready to make my rounds. I didn't have any idea what this was about." It was her second day back at work after a two-week honeymoon. Sixty-five police officers descended on the hospital and she was then taken into custody.
The third-year class at Dalhousie Medical School, where 1,100 faculty teach 350 undergraduates, voted Dr Morrison 1996 professor of the year last December. Neither the medical school nor Dalhousie itself has issued a public statement on the case.