The country’s euthanasia debate grew even murkier Feb. 27 with a judge’s decision to drop first-degree murder charges against Halifax respirologist Dr. Nancy Morrison.

Morrison was charged with first-degree murder last spring after it was alleged she administered potassium chloride to Paul Mills, 66, a Moncton, N.B. man being treated for cancer of the esophagus.

Acting on information from a colleague who described Morrison’s role as “active euthanasia,” police arrested Morrison on May 6, 1997 and filed first-degree murder charges.

A publication ban has inhibited pro-life response to the acquittal. Still, some groups believe the move could lead to greater public acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“If indeed this physician hastened the death of her patient, we are heading for perilous times,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer with the pro-life group, Campaign Life Coalition.

Douglas said the Morrison case shows the need for Canadian legislators and justice officials to enforce existing laws against euthanasia.

“The law must protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Douglas said. “And those who wold kill them must be told that such actions are not tolerated.”

Douglas expressed fear right-to-die advocates will exploit the Morrison decision to lobby for a change in the Criminal Code with respect to assisted suicide.

Cynthia Clarke, director of Campaign Life Coalition Nova Scotia, said Morrison should not be viewed as a Canadian version of U.S. suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian.

“Morrison is not a euthanasia rights activist, though both she and her actions are being used by those who wish mercy killing to be legal,” Clarke said.

“Although the laws on the books are necessary to protect us from those who might choose our time of death for us, perhaps the physicians’ concerns must be listened to as well,” Clarke suggested.