Terminally ill man kills himself

78-year-old Marcel Tremblay of Kanata, Ont. fulfills pledge to commit suicide Friday, ending decades of physical suffering.

A 78-year-old Ottawa-area man has fulfilled his pledge to commit suicide to end decades of physical suffering.

Paramedics and police say Marcel Tremblay died at his home in Kanata just before midnight Friday.

Tremblay planned to kill himself by pulling a helium-filled bag over his head.

Earlier in the evening, he had invited friends and family members to join him at a "living wake" at a restaurant.

His final meal consisted of two shrimp, a crabcake and a couple of beers.

Tremblay said he would be surrounded by his wife and adult children at the time of his death.

Tremblay suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe.

Tremblay said he went public with his suicide plans to spark a nationwide debate on the right-to-die issue.

"I feel very strongly that the law should be changed [with respect to assisted suicide], to help those who can't do what I am doing."

"I understand that the government might be talking about this very shortly ... I want people to talk about it. This'll make people talk, and think about it – and, by doing that, bring it out in the open."

Tremblay's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said the police have satisfied themselves that his client "does not have any mental difficulties."

"As long as there's no assistance being provided, family members or otherwise, then the police's intention is not to intervene in the self-administered death this evening," Greenspon said at a news conference with Tremblay on Friday afternoon.

Greenspon added the police are in no position to stop what in Canada is a legal act.

When asked earlier why he was doing this, Tremblay said, "I just don't want one more day living the way I've been living for the last three months. There is no quality to this life."

Tremblay said he hopes politicians will change the law to allow assisted suicide, and he wants to encourage people to think about the issue.

"I have two very good friends," he said, "close to my own age, who didn't even know it was legal to commit suicide."

Tremblay hired Greenspon to protect his family's interests after he's gone.

"After speaking to Mr. Tremblay a few times, it became clear to me that this is a person who's in a lot of pain," Greenspon says.

"He's given this a lot of thought, and this is truly what he wishes to do, and wants to do it in a way that nobody else was put into jeopardy as a result of a decision he's made."

Tremblay said he wants Greenspon to ensure his family isn't charged with assisting the suicide.

Committing suicide and attempting to commit suicide were decriminalized in 1972. But the debate over assisted suicide, and the right to die, continues.