Gloria Taylor died today. ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, was gradually robbing her of control over her own body. She wanted to be able to choose her death should life become untenable.
Along with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Taylor fought for that right, not just for herself but for anyone suffering a terminal illness. She gained that option thanks to the decision of Justice Jo-Ann Prowse of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, but the fight continues for others.
In the end, the 64-year-old woman did not ask for her doctor’s help. A perforated colon and accompanying infection brought on her death.
She inspired me from the time I learned of her court struggle to legalize physician-assisted suicide. I wrote three pieces about her for Care2 Causes:
- B.C. Supreme Court Legalizes Assisted Suicide
- Update: Government of Canada Condemns Gloria Taylor to Slow Death
- Gloria Taylor Regains Right to Die in Peace
Although I am saddened by the death of this feisty woman I never met, I am also grateful to her. The Canadian government is still fighting against physician-assisted suicide, but Taylor’s willingness to stand firm for her right to a humane and dignified death has moved the issue forward.
I am well aware that for many the idea is abhorrent, and I agree it is complex and troublesome. I love this life and will cling tenaciously to it as long as I can. But the prospect of a prolonged, painful death seems in many ways more barbaric to me than the option of assisted suicide.
So I am grateful to Gloria Taylor for forcing us to face the issue squarely, grapple with it thoroughly and come to a more informed approach as a country.