Bioethics Blogs

Luka Magnotta and Mental Health Acts

Alister Browne discusses Mental Health Acts in Canada.


In 2012 Luka Magnotta murdered a Chinese international student, dismembered his body, and sent parts to elementary schools and federal political parties. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and psychosis. He was charged with first-degree murder, and convicted in December 2014.

I want to use this case to explore Mental Health Acts (MHAs) in Canada. MHAs regulate the involuntary confinement of individuals suffering from mental disorders to protect them from themselves, and others from them. There are 12 different MHAs in Canada, one for each of its jurisdictions. (Nunavut and the Northwest Territories use the same Act.) I will explore these by asking what would happen to Mr. Magnotta in three scenarios under a sample of those Acts. This will enable us to see how the Canadian MHAs differ, and get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses.

A rake's progress

William Hogarth, A Rake’s Progress, The Madhouse (1733)

Scenario 1: Mr. Magnotta is mentally ill but has not been deemed a danger to himself or others. Surprisingly, this was Mr. Magnotta’s situation. Prior to his crime he was never deemed a danger to himself or others and, thus, not confined in a mental health facility. To fall under any MHA in Canada, individuals must be both mentally ill and pose an actual or potential risk to self or others.

Scenario 2: Mr. Magnotta is mentally ill, does not now pose a danger to himself or others, but a physician thinks his condition will deteriorate to a state in which he would.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.