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ISBN: 9781459411166

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The Right to Die

The courageous Canadians who gave us the right to a dignified death

"Who owns my life?" Sue Rodriguez was dying of a form of ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) when she asked this question of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1993. She was fighting for the right to a physician-assisted death before she became fully paralyzed. At the time, assisted suicide could result in jail time for the participating physician. In a narrow decision, Rodriguez lost her case. She died in 1994.

In a historic reversal, in 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada changed its mind. The court ruled that Canadians suffering unbearably from illness or disease do not have a duty to live. The landmark, unanimous decision was the culmination of two decades during which public opinion came to favour assisted suicide. The shift was the result of the efforts of courageous Canadians who asked for the right to a dignified death. In this book, Gary Bauslaugh tells their stories.

Among those whose stories are told are:

Sue Rodriguez, whose experience led to a split decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to retain laws against assisted suicide

Robert Latimer, convicted of second-degree murder for ending the life of his daughter who lived with debilitating cerebral palsy

John Hofsess and Evelyn Martens, who spent years giving practical assistance to those seeking help in dying

Donald Low, a renowned doctor who battled Toronto’s SARS outbreak, yet was denied control over his end-of-life when diagnosed with a brain tumour

Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, the Vancouver women whose end-of-life struggles were at the heart of the 2015 Supreme Court case


Gary Bauslaugh

GARY BAUSLAUGH is the author of The Secret Power of Juries and Robert Latimer: A Story of Justice and Mercy. His writing has appeared in many publications and he has served as the president of the Humanist Association of Canada and editor of Humanist Perspectives. Gary, who holds a PhD in chemistry from McGill University, was a teacher and administrator in Canadian colleges and universities for many years. He lives in Victoria, B.C.

Chapter Title Abstract Contributors Pages Year Price


Examines different types of assisted death and lays out the purpose of this book 8 $0.80


In all of the examples in this chapter we see deaths caused by acts of mercy, and we see mercy shown to those who caused the deaths. In none of these cases was the full force of the law applied … 28 $2.80


The Robert Latimer story was one of the most widely covered news stories in Canadian history. It is a story, unlike some of the previous ones, where the justice system found no way of mitigating … 17 $1.70


A landmark event in the history of the movement to legalize assisted death in Canada began with a videotaped statement issued to a parliamentary committee in 1992. In November of that year, a … 18 $1.80


John Hofsess, who founded the Right to Die Society of Canada in 1991, is an intriguing and controversial figure. He was a friend of artists and intellectuals such as Margaret Atwood, Claude Jutra … 33 $3.30


Evelyn Martens, a seventy-four-yearold grandmother, was facing the prospect of as much as twenty-eight years in prison.This chapter examins Martens trial which took place on September 20, 2004. 40 $4.00


By 2011 the public interest in a change in the law on assisted suicide again started to gain momentum. Parole Board slights to Robert Latimer continued to gain public attention. The experience of … 18 $1.80


The medical community has long had mixed feelings about assisted death. Some doctors claim that helping a patient die is a violation of the Hippocratic injunction to “do no harm,” … 17 $1.70


Is assisted death a health care matter or is it a criminal one? This may seem an odd question, but in the contentious and confusing world of federal-provincial jurisdictional responsibilities, it … 14 $1.40


At noon on August 18, 2014, eighty-three-year-old Gillian Bennett, of Bowen Island in British Columbia, took her own life. In the next several days her story was carried in the news media across … 20 $2.00


Examines the Supreme Court of Canada Hearing from October 15, 2014 34 $3.40


The ruling appeared on February 6, 2015. It was a historic vindication of Justice Smith and of the opinions of the many people who have felt that Section 241(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada was … 19 $1.90


Conclusions and final thoughts which examines the question: What should we do about laws we perceive to be unjust? 10 $1.00