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Coming Together in Memory and Hope

This is a defining moment in the epic legal battle the BC Civil Liberties Association has been waging for over four years to decriminalize physician assisted dying.

Tomorrow, on October 15, 2014, the BCCLA will argue its landmark death with dignity case before the Supreme Court of Canada. We are excited, apprehensive, hopeful and relieved to finally have the opportunity to argue our case before the highest court in the land.

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The Carter and Taylor families gather on Parliament Hill before today’s press conference

Family members have travelled across the country to attend the hearing. Anne Fomenoff, the 86 year-old mother of Gloria Taylor, Patty Ferguson, Gloria’s youngest sister, and plaintiffs Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson, arrived in Ottawa yesterday.

They want to remind Canadians that seriously and incurably ill Canadians will continue to suffer against their wishes at the end of life until the laws are changed. They are also honouring the memories of Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor.

Kay Carter was a vibrant, intelligent, independent woman, who at the end of life, suffered from spinal stenosis, a degenerative condition that confined her to a wheelchair, unable to feed herself or go to the bathroom without assistance and suffering from chronic pain. She lived with resolve and refused to suffer needlessly. She travelled to Switzerland with Lee and Hollis in order to peacefully end her life.

Gloria Taylor was a postal worker, residential care worker, motorcycle enthusiast, mother and grandmother. At age 61 she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. Even as her own body failed her, Gloria, who was also a plaintiff in the case, fought tirelessly to change the laws so that all Canadians would have choice and compassion at the end of life.

What is at Stake is Real People’s Suffering

When Gloria passed away in 2012, Elayne Shapray took a brave step into the public spotlight. Even as Elayne struggled with her MS (multiple sclerosis), Elayne was determined to let Canadians know that she, and other Canadians like her, should not be forced to endure painful and cruel deaths. Elayne participated in this case at trial by providing powerful evidence of the unacceptable position that she has been placed into by the law.Elayne, and the Carter family, speak powerfully about the struggle for dignity and choice in this short video about our journey to Ottawa.

Our great thanks go out to filmmaker Kevin Eastwood and his team who worked on this piece, and will be putting together a longer film in the coming months.

We Know That We Are Now Their Voice

Tomorrow, our thoughts will turn to the people who are no longer with us, people who contributed their time and heart to this case, for whom a challenge to laws did not come soon enough. Many of these brave individuals suffered cruelly at the end of life and were not afforded the painless and peaceful deaths they dearly wanted.

We take this case, and this hearing, very seriously, because we know that we are now their voice.

The government has no place at the bedsides of sick and dying Canadians

Like Kay, Gloria and Elayne, we think the federal government has no place at the bedsides of sick and dying Canadians. We think profound decisions about how much suffering to endure at the end of life, how to be remembered, and how to say goodbye should be made by the individuals whose lives are at stake.

As the Supreme Court of Canada listens to arguments and carefully weighs the constitutional rights at issue, the world will be watching with hope. Will Canada adopt a new approach to dying that promotes compassion and choice?

Now is the time for Canada to decriminalize physician-assisted dying and give seriously ill patients the compassion and dignity they deserve.

Read more about the BCCLA’s work on Carter v. Canada case and the death with dignity case.


Questions about physician-assisted dying? Our FAQs may have the answers.