The Right to Die
"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 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.