By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press - Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 0 Comments
WINNIPEG – Susan Griffiths won her battle Thursday for the right to die on…
WINNIPEG – Susan Griffiths won her battle Thursday for the right to die on her own terms, with the help of a doctor, before her body could be completely taken over by multiple system atrophy.
Griffiths, 72, died peacefully with some family members by her side at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, Switzerland, a family friend confirmed. Switzerland is the only country that allows physician-assisted suicide for non-residents.
Griffiths did not go quietly, though. She went public with her story in the hope that Canada may change its laws.
“While it has been wonderful having some of my family around me, I am saddened that other close friends and family members are unable to be with me in my final days,” she wrote in an email to The Canadian Press Wednesday.
By James Keller, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 7:22 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – Forcing sick patients to suffer through painful, agonizing deaths without the ability…
VANCOUVER – Forcing sick patients to suffer through painful, agonizing deaths without the ability to ask a doctor to help them end their lives is akin to “torture,” a lawyer told the British Columbia Court of Appeal on Wednesday as he argued for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.
Joseph Arvay, who represents several plaintiffs in a case that saw the law struck down last year, said the ban on assisted suicide leads some patients with terminal illnesses to end their lives early, because they know they won’t be able to seek a doctor’s help if they become debilitated later.
He said the federal government is forcing those patients to make a cruel choice between suicide and suffering.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 9:01 AM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – The battle over doctor-assisted suicide is expected to begin in the B.C….
VANCOUVER – The battle over doctor-assisted suicide is expected to begin in the B.C. Court of Appeal, as the federal government fights a lower court order to rewrite laws governing the rights of terminally ill people to end their lives.
The fight was launched last June when a B.C. Supreme Court judge found laws against physician-assisted suicide violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The federal government was ordered to rewrite its legislation and, in the interim, Gloria Taylor, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, was granted an exemption to the assisted-suicide ban.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
QUEBEC – A panel of legal experts in Quebec is recommending that people suffering…
QUEBEC – A panel of legal experts in Quebec is recommending that people suffering from an incurable or degenerative illness be allowed to ask for medical assistance to help them die.
However, the panel says the final decision should be left up to doctors.
Today’s recommendations follow a landmark report in Quebec from last March that suggested doctors be allowed in exceptional circumstances to help the terminally ill die if that is what the patients want.
The report opened the door to euthanasia, which is specifically called medically assisted death.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code. Continue…
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 5:20 AM - 0 Comments
A lifelong activist, she became the only Canadian to win the right to get a doctor’s help to die, after a legal battle in B.C.
Gloria Jean Taylor was born in Trail, B.C., on March 30, 1948, the first of four daughters (Shirley arrived next, followed by Betty, then Patty). Her father, Fred Fomenoff, was a construction worker and a bus driver; her mother, Anne, was the anchor of the family home in Castlegar, a West Kootenay town of 7,000. “Her daddy was a hunter and a fisherman, and he taught her how to track a deer and catch a fish,” says Anne. “She was tomboyish in a sense, and definitely an outdoor person.”
It was dad who taught young Gloria another invaluable lesson: how to stick up for herself. She was still in elementary school, teased and bullied by another student, when she came home in tears. “Her dad told her what to do,” Anne says, smiling at the memory. “She never came home crying again. She cleaned their clock good.”
Gloria held so many jobs, and advocated for so many different causes, that even she had trouble remembering each one. (An avid writer and poet, she often joked about how she was going to list them all someday.) She was a receptionist. A hairdresser. A letter sorter for Canada Post. A parole supervisor. “Any job she had wasn’t exciting enough or challenging enough,” her mother says. “She was definitely a free spirit.”
Gloria met Pat Taylor in the fall of 1971. Six weeks later, on Christmas Eve, they were married. “She was tender, loving and very compassionate,” says Jason, the eldest of her two sons. “I can’t tell you how many foster kids we took in over the years. She gave of herself more than anybody I’ve ever known.” Although Gloria and her husband eventually divorced, they remained dear friends and devoted parents.
Single again, Gloria applied for a motorcycle licence and purchased her first bike, a Yamaha. A year later, she bought her beloved Harley-Davidson Super Glide, custom-painted her favourite colour—purple—and adorned with unicorns. She logged thousands of kilometres gripping those handlebars, her shoulders covered in elaborate tattoos.
In her 50s, Gloria took over as property manager of a trailer park near Kelowna, where she owned a three-bedroom mobile home. (Her son Clinton lived nearby, with his daughter Gabrielle.) Around then, Gloria began complaining about cramping in her hands and feet; by 2006, the spasms had grown so severe she could barely use a key or hold a pen. “My mom had beautiful, beautiful handwriting,” Jason says. “One day, she told me she couldn’t hold up her pinky finger anymore. It would drag along the page.” In January 2010, a specialist in Vancouver confirmed the devastating news: Gloria was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The doctor told her she would be paralyzed in six months, and likely dead by Christmas.
Ever the fighter, Gloria beat the odds. Christmas came and went—and so did the next one. But the disease took its toll, ravaging her muscles and forcing her to quit her latest job at a group home for disabled adults. Some days, Gloria couldn’t pull down her own bedsheets or brush her own teeth.
In the summer of 2011, Gloria saw a news report about the B.C. Civil Liberties Association launching a court challenge against Canada’s assisted-dying laws. Gloria phoned the association, and by the time the case reached a courtroom later that year, she was the lead plaintiff. “I live in apprehension that my death will be slow, difficult, unpleasant, painful, undignified and inconsistent with the values and principles I have tried to live by,” she wrote in an affidavit. “I want the legal right to die peacefully, at the time of my own choosing, in the embrace of my family and friends.”
In June, Gloria won her battle. In a landmark ruling, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting physician-assisted suicide violated her Charter rights to life, liberty and equality. When her lawyer phoned to share the news, Gloria broke down in tears. It had nothing to do with whether she was going to go through with an assisted suicide,” her son says. “It was all about having the choice: if it got too bad, then she would have the ability to do something on her own terms.”
In the end, Gloria did not need to make that choice. Just before Thanksgiving, she was admitted to hospital with a severe infection from a perforated colon. She died Oct. 4, surrounded by family and friends. Gloria was 64.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 13, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announces an appeal of the British Columbia Supreme Court’s ruling on assisted suicide.
“After careful consideration of the legal merits of the June 15, 2012 ruling from the British Columbia Supreme Court, the Government of Canada will appeal the decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, and will seek a stay of all aspects of the lower court decision.
“The Government is of the view that the Criminal Code provisions that prohibit medical professionals, or anyone else, from counselling or providing assistance in a suicide, are constitutionally valid.
“The Government also objects to the lower court’s decision to grant a “constitutional exemption” resembling a regulatory framework for assisted suicide.
“The laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities. The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation in Rodriguez (1993).
“In April 2010, a large majority of Parliamentarians voted not to change these laws, which is an expression of democratic will on this topic. It is an emotional and divisive issue for many Canadians.
“The Government of Canada will provide its full position before the British Columbia Court of Appeal when the matter is heard. As the matter continues to be before the court, the Government will not comment further.”
Mr. Nicholson’s mention of a vote in April 2010 is presumably a reference to Francine Lalonde’s private member’s bill, which was defeated 230-57.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 7 Comments
But despite the ambitious proposals, there are no signs Ottawa wants to have a debate. “We have no plans to propose any reforms to this area of the law,” Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said. And the opposition echoed that reluctance: “We don’t want to go down that road,” NDP MP Jack Harris said.
Of the 57 MPs who supported Francine Lalonde’s motion last year, most, owing to the Bloc’s collapse, were defeated this spring. In all, by my count, 10 members who voted for C-384 at second reading remain in the House: Mauril Belanger, Olivia Chow, Denis Coderre, Jean Crowder, Libby Davies, Megan Leslie, John McCallum, Maria Mourani, Massimo Pacetti and Louis Plamondon.
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 9:33 AM - 4 Comments
Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson discuss death and chocolate in a Swiss clinic
On Jab. 15, 2010, Kathleen (Kay) Carter of North Vancouver had a date with death, an event she’d been seeking for months. She was 89 years old and nearly paralyzed by spinal stenosis. She made a last journey to Dignitas, a Swiss clinic devoted to assisted dying, accompanied by her daughter Lee Carter, Lee’s husband, Hollis Johnson, and other family. There, she drank a lethal drug, nibbled on a Swiss chocolate and drifted off to death. Her legacy is a renewed debate on the right to die. Carter and Johnson are now part of a challenge to the law prohibiting assisted suicide. It will be heard in the B.C. Supreme Court in November.
Q: Lee, tell me about Kay Carter, your mother.
LC: She was a fiercely independent person. She was well-read. She was interested in politics, social issues. She went to university and spent one year teaching elementary school in White Rock, B.C. And then she started having children, and had seven. There was no room for a job. She was married to my dad, Ron Carter, until he died in his mid-60s.
Q: In 2008, she was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. What did it mean to her quality of life?
LC: Basically, it’s to do with the [degenerating] spinal cord. You begin to lose your extremities, the ability to use your hands, your feet and eventually your legs. When she was diagnosed, it was hard to use her arms. She knew something was wrong. She would have been around 86 or 87.
HJ: I think the prognosis was particularly horrifying for her. The doctor said at some point, “You’ll be completely paralyzed, and just be on a gurney, and all of your needs will have to be attended to by others.” For her to lose that mobility was really terrifying.
Q: At what point did she decide she wanted to end her life?
LC: She woke up in the middle of the night [in July 2009] and said, “I’ve got it. I know what I want to do. I want to go overseas. Over there they can allow me to die with dignity.”
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 16, 2011 at 12:20 PM - 1 Comment
Majority also oppose outlawing it for foreigners
Assisted suicide and “suicide tourism” have been upheld in Zurich, Switzerland, were 85 per cent of 278,000 votes cast opposed a ban on assisted suicide, and 78 per cent opposed outlawing it for foreigners, the BBC reports. About 200 people commit suicide each year in Zurich, and many of them are foreign visitors. The only assistance allowed is the passive kind, such as providing drugs, but actively assisting a suicide, such as administering a product, is forbidden. The practice has been legal in Switzerland since 1941 if it is performed by a non-physician with no vested interest in the death.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 11:44 AM - 21 Comments
Francine Lalonde’s private member’s bill on assisted suicide—previously discussed here—received its final hour of debate Tuesday evening and was then defeated last night by a count of 230-57. Lalonde was basically asking, at this point, for her bill to be sent to committee for further study and amendment.
Steven Fletcher, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, who has written about his feelings on this issue and Lalonde’s bill, abstained. She did though draw the support of two cabinet ministers—Lawrence Cannon and Josee Verner—and several Liberal and NDP members.
By Ken MacQueen - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 4:27 PM - 43 Comments
The 95-year-old on why she wants to kill herself, despite being healthy, and why she thinks a doctor should be allowed to help
Last month, as her 95th birthday approached, Bernice Levitz Packford, a one-time Victoria citizen of the year, wrote to her local newspaper, the Times Colonist. “I am tired and I am ready to die now,” began her letter, a carefully considered argument in favour of changing the Criminal Code to allow for doctor-assisted suicide. “I have decided, after much reflection, that I wish to end my life now before my mind and body deteriorate further so I am incapable of making that decision,” wrote Packford, who lives in her home with the help of caregivers. She concluded: “Can Parliament find the gumption to give me the right to assisted suicide? I could then have my family and friends around me to say goodbye as I die with dignity.” Packford’s letter has triggered a renewed debate on the issue, in the pages of the newspaper and on websites, both for and against assisted suicide.
Q: You started your letter with the sentence: “I’m tired and I’m ready to die now.” You must have expected you’d stir things up.
A: I never though it would create such a public response. Never.
One thing I do know is that people do not face their mortality. I know that because I wrote a letter to the editor about making a will. People do not generally make a will and they die without a will, leaving so much grief for their children. And that’s because of a refusal to face our mortality.
Q: You can’t be accused of that. Why did you write the letter?
A: I am in good health. I’m not suffering from an illness that will be eventually fatal. So my case is not covered [in the current death with dignity debate]. That’s why I wrote that letter. I’m tired and I do suffer from congestive heart failure [which robs her of energy and requires her to use a walker]. I can have a stroke. I’ve had a stroke, and I recovered from that. I’m facing imminent sickness or a stroke, which will leave me conscious and helpless. And that thought fills me with horror.