'Right-to-die' activist Gloria Taylor dies
Published Friday, October 5, 2012 7:56PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 5, 2012 9:41PM EDT
A British Columbia woman who won a personal exemption from Canada's ban on doctor-assisted suicide has died.
Gloria Taylor, who had Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS, was among the plaintiffs in a landmark case that saw the B.C. Supreme Court strike down Canada's ban on doctor-assisted suicide earlier this year.
The 64-year-old died Friday from a severe infection resulting from a perforated colon.
Due to the acute nature and brevity of her illness, Taylor did not need to seek the assistance of a physician to end her life, according to a statement released Friday by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
It had been 20 years since Canada's laws on assisted suicide had been challenged by a terminally ill person when Taylor thrust the issue back into the spotlight in late 2011.
Taylor was diagnosed with ALS in December 2009. The incurable disease gradually weakens and degenerates muscles to the point of paralysis.
Although Taylor lived longer than doctors predicted she would, she said her condition deteriorated every day and that one of her greatest fears was suffocating to death.
She joined four other plaintiffs to argue against doctor-assisted suicide laws, which make it illegal to counsel, aid or abet a person to commit suicide. The offence carries a maximum punishment of 14 years in prison.
Taylor said that “suicide” was not an accurate word to describe what she was fighting for, saying the term "physician-assisted death” more accurately described her choice to end her life in a peaceful way.
"I think people everywhere need to get the word ‘suicide’ right out of their brain. It is not suicide. It is absolutely not suicide. There is a total difference," she told CTV News earlier this year.
The B.C. Supreme Court struck down the laws in June, calling them unconstitutional and discriminatory.
The court suspended its decision for one year, but also granted Taylor an immediate exemption allowing her to seek doctor-assisted suicide under certain conditions.
The federal government launched an appeal and also asked the Appeal Court to overturn Taylor's exemption, but the court rejected that request.
In a statement, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, one of the plaintiff’s in the case, said it will proceed with the lawsuit with the remaining plaintiffs.
A hearing before the B.C. Court of Appeal is scheduled for March 2013.
“Gloria will be dearly missed by her devoted family and friends, but we are grateful that Gloria was given the solace of knowing that she had a choice about how and when she would die,” Taylor’s mother Anne Fomenoff said in the statement.
“Thanks to the ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court, Gloria was able to live her final days free from the fear that she would be sentenced to suffer cruelly in a failing body. The exemption she was granted allowed her to face her illness and death with dignity and grace.”