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Assisted suicide advocate honours 'trailblazer' for high court victory

Sue Rodriguez is supported by MP Svend Robinson as he helps her out of a car on the way to a press conference in Victoria, B.C., Sept. 30, 1993. An advocate for doctor-assisted suicide is celebrating the Supreme Court of Canada decision on doctor-assisted suicide by remembering the British Columbia woman whose cause he championed more than 20 years ago, when she took her dying breath.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ward Perrin
February 06, 2015 - 4:30 PM

VANCOUVER - An advocate for doctor-assisted suicide is celebrating the Supreme Court of Canada decision on doctor-assisted suicide by remembering the British Columbia woman whose cause he championed more than 20 years ago, when she took her dying breath.

Terminally ill Victoria-area resident Sue Rodriguez chose Feb. 12, 1994 to end her life with the help of an anonymous physician.

Then-federal New Democrat Svend Robinson joined her fight for assisted suicide and was with Rodriguez when she died.

Robinson says today's high court decision granting all severely suffering Canadians the legal right to make the same decision is a chance to honour Rodriguez for her trailblazing efforts.

Rodriguez began her legal battles for assisted suicide in 1991, saying she wanted to make her own decision about her body, which was slowly shutting down because she had ALS.

Robinson, who introduced a private members' bill on physician-assisted suicide in December 1992 and now lives in Geneva, says the court decision makes him proud to be Canadian.

— The Canadian Press

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From left to right, Gloria Taylor's sister Patty Ferguson, of Edmonton, Alta., her 85-year-old mother Anne Fomenoff, of Castlegar, B.C., and B.C. Civil Liberties Association litigation director Grace Pastine attend a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday March 3, 2013.
From left to right, Gloria Taylor's sister Patty Ferguson, of Edmonton, Alta., her 85-year-old mother Anne Fomenoff, of Castlegar, B.C., and B.C. Civil Liberties Association litigation director Grace Pastine attend a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday March 3, 2013.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

WEST KELOWNA - One of the roots in the fight for the right to die in Canada was planted firmly in West Kelowna by Gloria Taylor, a terminally ill woman with ALS. 

Taylor's case was before the B.C. Supreme Court in 2012 when Justice Lynn Smith ruled the exisiting law banning assisted suicide unconstitutional. However, Smith delayed her ruling for a year to give the federal government the opportunity to rewrite the statute.

Though Taylor was granted a constitutional exemption allowing her to seek an assisted death, she didn't use it. Her mother Anne Fomenoff continued the fight after Taylor died in October, 2012.

Another B.C. woman, Kay Carter also launched an appeal in 2011, however the 89-year-old died before the statute was rewritten, travelling to Switzerland to end her life. The decision to end the ban on assisted suicide was a victory for Carter v. Canada.

With the Supreme Court of Canada's unanimous decision to strike down the ban on providing doctor assisted death for mentally competent yet suffering and "irremediable" patients Canada could eventually join four countries and five U.S. states by drafting legislation. The task must be completed by parliament within a year of today's decision.

Gloria Taylor of West Kelowna, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease and won a doctor-assisted suicide challenge in B.C. Supreme Court, smiles during a news conference at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in Vancouver on Monday June 18, 2012. She died of an infection in October 2012.
Gloria Taylor of West Kelowna, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease and won a doctor-assisted suicide challenge in B.C. Supreme Court, smiles during a news conference at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in Vancouver on Monday June 18, 2012. She died of an infection in October 2012.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

LINKS:

A LOOK AT RIGHT-TO-DIE LAWS AROUND THE WORLD

A CHRONOLOGY OF MAJOR EVENTS IN CANADA'S DEBATE ABOUT THE RIGHT TO DIE

CANADIAN MDs, MANY HESITANT ABOUT ASSISTED DEATH, ASSESSING SUPREME COURT RULING

QUEBEC GOVERNMENT APPLAUDS SUPREME COURT DECISION ON DOCTOR-ASSISTED DEATH

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at aproskiw@infonews.ca or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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