The B.C. woman who fought to change Canada’s law on physician-assisted suicide has died from a severe infection, according to a group that helped her with a landmark court case, which gave her the right to seek a doctor to help her die at a time of her choosing.
Gloria Taylor, who suffered from the degenerative illness ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, died Thursday from a perforated colon, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said in a release Friday. Taylor was 64.
Taylor, of Westbank, B.C., was the lead plaintiff in the BCCLA’s death with dignity lawsuit before the B.C. Supreme Court, which ruled in June that the law was unconstitutional.
The judge in the case also granted Taylor a personal exemption allowing her the right to seek a physician-assisted death.
"I'm so grateful to know that if I choose to do so I will be allowed to seek a doctor's help to a peaceful and dignified death. This brings me great solace and comfort," Taylor said after the court's June decision.
BCCLA litigation director Grace Pastine said Taylor’s death was sudden and unexpected and due to a severe infection.
"Gloria’s death was quick and peaceful and she was spared from the prolonged death from ALS that she dreaded and which inspired her participation in the lawsuit," Pastine said.
The release did not say where Taylor died.
Lawsuit will continue
The federal government launched an appeal in August and also asked the B.C. Appeal Court to overturn Taylor's exemption, but Justice Jo-Ann Prowse rejected that request.
In a written decision, Prowse said revoking Taylor's exemption would cause irreparable harm to Taylor, something that would outweigh the federal government's interests.
Prowse acknowledged Taylor has become a symbol in the right-to-die case, but the judge said that Taylor is also a person who shouldn't be sacrificed for the "greater good."
Taylor's mother, Anne Fomenoff, said in a statement issued by the civil liberties association that her daughter will be missed.
"But we are grateful that Gloria was given the solace of knowing that she had a choice about how and when she would die … Gloria was able to live her final days free from the fear that she would be sentenced to suffer cruelly in a failing body."
Fomenoff said she was immensely proud of her "feisty and determined daughter."
Pastine called Taylor a "heroic woman."
"Even as her own body failed her, she fought for all Canadians to have choice and dignity at the end of life.
"She spent the last days of her life tirelessly advocating to change the law."
Pastine said the lawsuit that Taylor was involved with will continue.