Kenneth Law, 57, of Mississauga, near Toronto, Canada, is being investigated over a series of deaths by suicide linked to poisonous substances he sent by post to people around the world.
Arrested in May, he has been charged in Canada on two counts of counselling or aiding suicide. He is also being investigated by police forces in the UK, the USA, Italy and New Zealand.
Suicide by post
Mr Law, a former chef, allegedly offered sodium nitrite, a lethal substance, and other methods of committing suicide on now-defunct websites called “Imtime Cuisine” and “Escape Mode”. Over 1,200 packages are thought to have been ordered from these websites and delivered to people in 40 countries around the world.
Mr Law first came to the attention of authorities following an investigation by The Times newspaper in April 2023. It originally linked him to four deaths, but now that number has climbed to at least 21 possible victims, the youngest of whom was 17 years old when he died.
“One of the worst things you could possibly do” – parents speak out
Many parents of the alleged victims have categorically condemned what they believe Law enabled their children to do.
It was the death of 22-year-old Tom Parfett, after ingesting sodium nitrite, that sparked The Times investigation. His father David said “You’ve got a man who’s playing God with other people’s lives, recklessly playing God”.
Parents of children who have accessed similar websites, not necessarily linked to Law, are watching his case with keen interest.
Catherine Adenekan, a British mother, spoke out about online suicide forums after the death of her child. She said “What he’s (allegedly) done is one of the worst things you could possibly do. The root cause of the problem, though, is [pro-suicide forums], which is how sellers like Law get their customers”.
Implications of the trial result
Many different groups will be watching the result of Law’s trial with close interest. Parents of his alleged victims are hoping it will set a precedent to help prevent pro-suicide forums and the sale of poisons online.
On the other side of things, Australian activist, Dr Philip Nitschke is hopeful that the trial will increase access to assisted suicide. Known as the “Elon Musk of assisted suicide”, Dr Nitschke said that “[Law’s] helped them achieve their goals. We’re watching this trial with great interest”.
Law’s next court appearance is on 25 August 2023.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada
In 2021, the number of people who ended their lives by assisted suicide and euthanasia increased by over 32% from the previous year, accounting for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada.
According to the latest report on Medical Assistance in Dying from Health Canada, 10,064 Canadians ended their lives by assisted suicide or euthanasia in 2021. This figure represents 3.3% of all deaths in Canada and is an increase of 32.4% from the 2020 figures.
A total of 31,664 people have ended their lives by assisted suicide or euthanasia in Canada since legislation making it legal was passed in 2016.
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “If Kenneth Law is found guilty of aiding and abetting suicide by posting lethal substances around the world, justice should be served and appropriate protections put in place to prevent this from happening again”.
“The alleged victims of Law deserved support and treatment rather than help to end their lives”.