Case Summary: R V Latimer

Author: Divya Bargava


AIR 2001 S.C.C 3


Larner C.J , Justice Noble , La Forest , Gonthier , Cory , McLachlin , Iacobucci , Major J.J , L’Heureux –Dube , Sophinka .


R v Latimer was a case which was held by the Supreme court of Canada. The full name of the name is Robert Latimer. This case is not all about the public debate and trial related to Robert Latimer, this is about the legality and mercy killing. The case is all about the defense of necessity, jury nullification that is the right of law to impose restriction on someone . What this case is all about the two narrower issues:- firstly the admissibility of the certain issues related to Mr. . Robert Latimer arrest and second is the what is the causes that bring the all the media and press in this case .First , I would like to start with the meaning of Mercy Killing :- The mercy killing means to kill the person who is suffering from the painful disease or who is suffering a lot physically and mentally too . After this case , all the people have one question in mind that the young teenager girl Tracy Latimer set a dangerous precedent that would endanger the life and the rights of the people especially who are suffering from painful disease or a disabled person .


A girl named Tracy Latimer, daughter of Mr. Robert Latimer was suffering from a painful disease name Cerebral palsy. Due to this disease she was always on bed and she could never stand on her own as a result her physical condition was not so well. Eating on her own was difficult so he was a feed by the spoon. Due to the lack of nutrients in her body, she was suffering from weight loss. Later, the doctor consult the parents of Tracy that feeding tube could help her with the help, but the parents refused it. After this a lot of surgeries held and in 1992 another surgery was going to perform to reduce the abnormal curvature in the back, though the surgery went successful but it later to the dislocation of her right hip which caused considerable discomfort and later she held 5-6 seizures every day . Later , Mr. Latimer couldn’t see her daughter suffering so much , so he thought that her “living is not much of worth”. He poisoned her with the huge amount of Carbon Monoxide. He was pleaded for the second degree murder . He appealed for the “defense of necessity” before the trial of the jury.


When must the defense of necessity be charged to a jury?

Was the appellant arbitrary in sec. 9 of the Charter?


In this case , the rule of law states that in defense of necessity all the three elements that is a) there should be a significant harm to the person. b) no adequate lawful means could have been used to escape the harm . c) the harm caused should be greater than the breaking the law .


  • The judgment was held that, Yes in the case of defense of necessity all the above elements should be mentioned but in case of the Mr. Latimer there was no emergency, so the above rule of law should not be held adequate.
  • In the case, Mr. Latimer asked the court for the Jury Nullification so the court held that the jury nullification should be rejected because the jury was not a valid factor in analyzing the  trial factor.
  • So the court held that Mr. Latimer should be held responsible for the homicide and stated that it was not a necessity to kill her ill daughter, he cannot think that she will survive or not. Also the court held that the, if he or his wife agreed to the doctor’s point of view, she could survive and make her health better.
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