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Gloria Taylor, Heroic Westbank Woman With ALS, Dies

Gloria Taylor, the 64 year-old Westbank, B.C. woman with ALS who fought courageously to change Canada’s law on assisted dying, died on Thursday, October 4.

Gloria was the lead plaintiff in the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s death with dignity lawsuit.

Gloria’s dream of legal change for herself and all Canadians was realized in June when the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the right to die with dignity is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and granted Gloria a personal exemption allowing her the right to seek a physician-assisted death. The case was a major victory for choice and individual rights at the end of life. The BCCLA will continue with the lawsuit, arguing to uphold the Supreme Court decision in appeal proceedings brought by government.

Gloria’s death was sudden and unexpected; the cause of death was a severe infection resulting from a perforated colon. Due to the acute nature and brief course of her illness from the infection, Gloria did not need to seek the assistance of a physician to end her life. In the end, Gloria’s death was quick and peaceful and she was spared from the prolonged death from ALS that she dreaded and which inspired her participation in the lawsuit.  Gloria died in hospital, surrounded by her friends and family members.

The BC Supreme Court determined that Gloria and others like her should be able to decide how much suffering to endure at the end of life, based on their own values and beliefs. The federal government appealed the B.C. Supreme Court decision and a hearing before the B.C. Court of Appeal is scheduled for March 2013. The BCCLA will carry on with the case along with the remaining individual plaintiffs. The BCCLA and individual plaintiffs are represented by lawyers Sheila Tucker of Davis LLP and Joseph Arvay, Q.C. and Alison Latimer of Arvay Finlay.

Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association states: “Gloria was a heroic woman. Even as her own body failed her, she fought for all Canadians to have choice and dignity at the end of life. Gloria was terrified that she would become trapped in her body as her ALS progressed and she was incensed that other Canadians with serious illnesses were facing the same cruel predicament. She spent the last days of her life tirelessly advocating to  change the law. The BCCLA will continue with the lawsuit, fighting to protect Gloria’s victory against government appeals. Gloria lit the torch, now we will carry it. This case is her legacy.”

Anne Fomenoff, Gloria’s mother states: “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. 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. In the end, Gloria was spared a long and painful death from ALS — she was able to die peacefully surrounded by her friends and family. Until the moment she died, Gloria firmly believed that all Canadians should have choice in dying, and we, her family, completely supported her in that belief. I am so proud of my feisty, determined daughter – she struggled to make the world better for Canadians. I speak on behalf of my entire family when I say we are so proud of her legacy. We are blessed to have known and loved this special woman.”

Further Resources

The BCCLA has a number of resources related to this case.

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