Man in custody for murder of local Right to Die Society president

Edmonton Right to Die Society president Bruce Hutchinson, 41, got his wish last April. Firemen responded to a 911 call found his lifeless body slumped in an easy chair, with a single bullet hole in his forehead. Police initially assumed suicide; but the death-weapon was missing. So they upgraded the case to homicide- a category including assisted suicide.

Now, over seven months later, Edmonton City Police have charged Philip Michael of Edmonton, with Mr. Hutchinson’s murder, plus possession of a restricted weapon and two other firearms charges. Robert Budinsky of Barrhead was also charged as an accessory after the fact. Police confirm that both men were acquaintances of Mr. Hutchinson, but will not discuss the motive.

The details of the case are suggestive. Mr. Hutchinson had inexplicably withdrawn $1,000 from a bank on the Wednesday, two days before his death.  That Friday, he told Ontario talk-radio interviewer Roy Green that he was being harassed by “pro-life extremists” and “religious fanatics;” but police later denied knowledge of any threats.

At 7:55 that evening, he had a telephone conversation with Edmonton resident Catherine Adam (who was seeking euthanasia for her Parkinson’s-stricken father). And he told her that he was “expecting a guest at eight.” Then later that night, a mumbling 911 caller twice requested an ambulance to “that guy’s place that has the right to die society.”

At the scene of the crime, there was no sign of a struggle. The key to Mr. Hutchinson’s gun locker was in his pocket, and one pistol remained in it. His four other pistols- including the murder weapon- were missing, as was the $1,000. Right to Die Canada president John Hofsess in Victoria, claiming inside knowledge of the case, was quick to charge that “right to life extremists” had stolen the guns for future assassinations.

This writer spoke to Mr. Hutchinson a week before his death; he had gained some notoriety in the local press, for his plan to develop a database of pro-euthanasia doctors. His mother had died a year earlier in an Edmonton hospital, after prolonged emphysema, and he charged the hospital staff with denying her palliative care. He was incensed by the fact that the palliative care doctor had told him, “don’t be so gloomy.”

An oppressive Christian culture was responsible for the multiplication of suffering in the world, by encouraging people like his mother to continue living. And palliative care was no answer, because “not everybody gets it.” What was necessary was an exclusion of Christian principles from public policy and public life.

The hospital palliative care director reported that Mr. Hutchinson’s mother had in fact died a peaceful death; but in the process, he’d been extremely disturbed by her laboured breathing. He refused the hospital’s offer of bereavement counselling, and he later had to be barred from the building.

Dr. Woodard is Senior Religion Editor for Alberta/Western Report.