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Reaction from the ALS community

"Whose body is this?" With those four words Sue Rodriguez single-handedly catapulted the right-to-die debate onto the public stage. After being diagnosed with the terminal disease ALS in 1991, Rodriguez took her fight all the way to the highest court in the land. She failed to get euthanasia and assisted suicide legalized in Canada. But Rodriguez's battle and her death in 1994 forced a crucial debate on this controversial topic.

Erwin Krickhahn is disappointed at the Supreme Court ruling. Krickhahn -- who also has ALS  (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)-- wants the legal right, like Sue Rodriguez, to plan his death. The court decision on Rodriguez's case means that Krickhahn must now plan his suicide earlier than later. Because, Krickhahn tells CBC Television, he needs to do it before ALS physically robs him of the capability. But others such as Jean Legace disagree with Krickhahn and Rodriguez. Legace, also an ALS patient, says he still enjoys life and has no intention of ending it prematurely.
. The stance taken by the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (COPOH) best exemplified the complex issues surrounding euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide. The national umbrella organization which represents 162 groups, intervened against Rodriguez in the Supreme Court of Canada. But the group actually ended up supporting Rodriguez because it agreed that the law violated her rights by discriminating against disabled people.

. On Nov. 2, 1993 Erwin Krickhahn made headlines when he invited the media to watch him commit suicide. But when reporters refused to attend, partly because it wasn't clear whether they would be breaking the law, Krickhahn vetoed his plan. He then cut off all contact with the media. He later died of natural causes on Feb. 8, 1994 in Toronto. He was 51.

. The complex and divisive debate over the right to die was highlighted by the 5-4 Supreme Court of Canada decision. Medical ethicist and lawyer Dr. Margaret Somerville told Michael Enright on CBC's As It Happens that this narrow split reflected society's ambiguity on the issue.

. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops along with Evangelical Fellowship of Canada intervened against Rodriguez on two grounds. The first was religious, that God, not Rodriguez, owned her life. The second was that granting the right to die could lead the elderly, handicapped and chronically ill to feel that they had a duty to die. 
Medium: Television
Program: CBC at Six
Broadcast Date: Sept. 30, 1993
Guest(s): Erwin Krickhahn, Jean Legace
Host: Bill Cameron
Reporter: Jeffrey Kofman
Duration: 2:12

Last updated: August 31, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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