Right to Die: Gloria Taylor’s family heads to Court of Appeal for death with dignity case

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Vancouver – Family members of Gloria Taylor, the 64 year old Kelowna woman who died last year of ALS after a courageous legal battle to change the laws that criminalize doctor assisted dying, will head to court on Monday for arguments in the “death with dignity” case. The BC Court of Appeal will hear arguments in the case March 4-8, 2013.

Gloria Taylor was the lead plaintiff in the case. “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.” Gloria died peacefully on October 4, 2012. The BCCLA represented Gloria in her lawsuit.

The federal government appealed the June 2012 ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court after that court struck down the laws that makes physician-assisted dying illegal in Canada. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith ruled that the laws violated the constitutional rights of Gloria and the other two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson.

“We’re extremely disappointed by the federal government’s decision to appeal this case,” said Grace Pastine, Litigation Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “The court recognized that the government has no place at the bedside of seriously ill Canadians who are suffering intolerably. Seriously ill Canadians – not the federal government – should be the ones to decide how much suffering they will endure at the end of life and the level of care they will receive in their final days. It’s tragic that the government is wasting limited public resources on preventing people who are trapped in an unbearably dying process from receiving help in dying.“

Anne Fomenoff, Gloria’s 85 year-old mother of Castlegar, B.C. and Patty Ferguson, Gloria’s youngest sister, of Edmonton, Alberta, will attend the Court of Appeal hearings.

Anne Fomenoff said: “My family and I supported Gloria one hundred percent in her battle for compassion and choice at the end of life. Gloria lived her life with passion and determination. She insisted that she’d have choice and control over how she’d leave this world, and she wanted other people who were suffering to have the same choice. I’m so proud of my daughter’s legacy. I’m here to help continue that legacy.”

Gloria’s mother was a founding member of the Castlegar Hospice Society in 1985, and sat on the board of directors until recently. She still volunteers one-on-one when she is called to do so. “As a former hospice coordinator, I’ve seen firsthand the suffering of the dying. When a person has already suffered so much with their disease, like my daughter suffered with ALS, it’s cruel to make them suffer even more in dying,” says Fomenoff.

The BCCLA is represented by Joseph Arvay, Q.C. and Alison Latimer of Arvay Finlay and Sheila Tucker of Davis LLP.

The BCCLA’s argument in the case is available here >>

The judgment of the BC Supreme Court is available here >>

The proceeding in Carter v. Attorney General of Canada will be webcast by the Court of Appeal. The hyperlink to the feed will be posted in advance of the hearing on the Court of Appeal website.

What: BC Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments in Carter v. Canada

When:Oral arguments before the court begin on Monday, March 4 and continue through Friday, March 8. It is anticipated that the plaintiffs will begin their argument Wednesday, March 6.

Where: BC Court of Appeal

Who: BCCLA representative available for comment