Winnipeg guitar player Ron Siwicki was granted bail on Monday after being charged with criminal negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life after he cared for his mother on the floor of their house for several days instead of seeking proper medical attention.
His mother, 89-year-old Betty Siwicki, was immobilized after falling out of bed in late November. According to Ron Siwicki's lawyer, Mike Cook, Betty Siwicki categorically refused any form of medical care and his client was only respecting his mother's wishes when he left her on the kitchen floor, gave her a blanket and fed her Boost meal supplements until she died at some point in mid-December. Only then did he call 911.
Dozens of the guitarist's supporters attended the bail hearing at Manitoba Provincial Court, and they even managed to pool their money to pay the $5,000 required to secure his release. "Why the Crown was trying to keep this man incarcerated made no sense to any of us," said supporter Glenn MacRae.
Members of Winnipeg's music community have also agreed to take turns supervising the distraught guitarist, who cried numerous times in court and is reportedly still in a state of shock. Additional bail conditions include grief counselling, a psychiatric evaluation, and being confined to the home where the alleged offence took place.
A publication ban was imposed by Manitoba Provincial Court Judge Lynn Stannard, who presided over the bail hearing. As a result, media cannot report any of the evidence revealed in court, but what has emerged in the weeks following Siwicki's arrest are numerous accounts of a caring, dutiful son.
"Ron is a lovely man. His whole life has been his music and his support of his mother," said Siwicki's friend Michael Gillespie. "He was often the first who would have to leave a group or a gathering, perhaps after a gig at [popular restaurant and bar] the Pony, and he would order extra food and leave early because he had to take it home to his mom. He took his responsibilities with her extremely seriously."
While refusing life-saving medical care is a basic right in Canada, the Crown is of the opinion that Ron Siwicki was reckless and that as his mother's caretaker, he was legally obligated to do more than leave her on the kitchen floor to wither away. Even assisted death advocates have suggested that he could have resorted to a more humane course of treatment than leaving her on the floor, like putting her in bed with a morphine drip to alleviate pain.
According to Dying With Dignity CEO Wanda Morris, "It seems like it must have been a misunderstanding. Did she really want to lie there in pain for five days, or was it a fear that if you called someone, they would force her to be resuscitated or have care?"
Cook told reporters outside the courtroom that his client has already suffered enough.
"To lose a parent is a horrendous thing at any point in your life," said Cook. "Then to be accused of being at fault for the passing of your parent—and then to be detained in the remand centre—is just the most horrendous thing that could happen to an individual."