If Gloria Taylor has her way, Canadians may soon be able to choose doctor-assisted suicide rather than a prolonged and agonizing death. The Kelowna, British Columbia woman is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She is gradually losing her ability to walk, use her hands, swallow and even breathe.
In a CBC interview on June 29, 2011, Ms. Taylor talked about her decision to join the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s suit challenging laws that criminalize assisted suicide. She has discussed her wishes with her family. Having watched Ms. Taylor’s slow, inexorable decline, they support her decision to request the option to legally commit suicide. She said, “No one in my family wants to see me suffer….I have the blessings of my family and all my closest friends.”
Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the group is asking for the right for “mentally competent adults who are suffering from serious and incurable illnesses the right to receive medical assistance to hasten death under certain specific safeguards.” She said Canadians are overwhelmingly in favor of assisted suicide and that in places where it is allowed, the right is not abused because of the requirements in place.
Case to receive a speedy hearing
On August 3, 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court agreed to speed up the hearing because of Ms. Taylor’s condition. Instead of spring 2012, the case will be heard starting this November 15th.
In discussing the issue, Dr. Brian Goldman referred to the Senate report on the future of palliative care in Canada. “[T]he Honourable Sharon Carstairs wrote that currently, 90% of Canadians could benefit from palliative care, but 70% do not have access. If we can’t handle a trickle of patients today, you’d have to be an extraordinary optimist to believe we’ll be able to provide palliative care to a tsunami of people with neurodegenerative diseases in the decades to come.”
Physician-assisted suicide is legal in parts of the world, including Washington and Oregon in the U.S. and The Netherlands and Belgium. Whether or not it should become legal in Canada will be the subject for considerable debate in the months to come.
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Photo credit: Gloria Taylor in undated handout
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