Cecilia Bernadette Chmura committed suicide after being denied a medically assisted death. Her husband David Dunn was taken into custody and could now face criminal charges.
She chose to live then chose to die. After suffering from unbearable pain for more than 20 years, Cecilia Bernadette Chmura took her own life but only after being denied a medically assisted death.
While the 59-year-old met most of the criteria for life-ending drugs administered by a doctor, her death wasn’t naturally foreseeable and therefore her request wasn’t granted.
The story has sparked reaction from Canadians across the country and perhaps the most stunning part of this story to some will be what happened to her husband, David Dunn, immediately after her death.
“It was a crime scene, I was the prime suspect,” Dunn said.
It took two hours and 15 minutes for his wife to stop breathing. Dunn clung to her lifeless body, waited 10 minutes then called 911.
It’s what Cecilia wanted, to die with him by her side and with some semblance of dignity.
Dunn didn’t help his wife finalize the details of her death leading up to the day of Jan. 18, 2018, but because he was with her when it happened this introduced a criminal element to the case and he may end up paying the price for his actions in court.
“The sergeant that interviewed me said in 30 some years of being a police officer this is the first case he had ever seen.”
Cecilia had three do not resuscitate orders in the apartment and a suicide letter for first responders to find.
“It was declared a crime scene, I was arrested for failing to provide the necessities of life,” Dunn said.
“I was taken down to the police station, questioned and they were professional about the whole thing, they were very caring people.”
He was processed, put in a holding cell, a mug shot was taken and his clothes confiscated.
At one point, the sergeant lent Dunn his phone to call his children. He wasn’t allowed to return to the couples’ home until it was completely processed for evidence.
The Saskatoon Police Service declined a request for an interview, out of respect for the family.
In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson said officers must always treat cases like this as a sudden death until it is proven to be a suicide, accident or something criminal in nature.
Dunn says because of the government’s vague criteria surrounding doctor assisted death, his wife had to worry about whether her plan would work and if she would die swiftly.
He says she was robbed of a dignified death and he wasn’t able to be with his children when they needed him the most.
“I’m at the police station instead of at home with my kids grieving.”
Police have now turned this case over to the Crown who have a little over a month left to decide what to do and if Dunn should face charges.
“We as citizens are called upon to protect our spouses and our children if they’re in need of immediate medically treatment,” said Saskatoon criminal defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle.
“In peculiar situations where someone has overdosed intentionally – what is the obligation on the private citizen, what is the obligation on the parent or the spouse to contact authorities?” Pfefferle explained.
“Clearly, the safer bet is to contact authorities in these situations because if you fail to do you’re arguably committing a criminal offence by failing to provide the necessities of life.”
The Crown has it’s own internal policies that govern what they do; two key things they will examine in David Dunn’s case are what is the likelihood of conviction and whether it’s in the public’s interest to prosecute him.
“I wish these difficult cases didn’t arise, where one can completely sympathize with someone who watches their loved one day in and day out suffer from intolerable pain it’s something we as citizens should all have compassion for,” Pfefferle said.
“At the same time, there needs to be some assurances that there isn’t just an unfounded claim being made in some circumstances.