The widow of Dr. Donald Low says she will continue his fight to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in Canada, after a moving video of the noted Toronto microbiologist was released following his death.
Maureen Taylor appeared Wednesday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, a day after her husband’s video rekindled the debate over end-of-life options. You can listen to her interview here.
“No one would want to stay that way for any length of time,” she told host Matt Galloway about her husband’s final days. “The tumour was taking away every enjoyment that he had. He could be surrounded by his family, but he couldn’t hear them talking to him.”
Low, a microbiologist who stood as the voice of calm while Toronto was gripped by fear during the 2003 SARS crisis, died on Sept. 18 after battling a brain tumour. He was 68.
'The tumour was taking away every enjoyment that he had. No one would want to stay that way for any length of time.' - Maureen Taylor, Dr. Donald Low's widow
The video, shot eight days before his death, was posted on YouTube on Tuesday and produced by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.
In the video, Low says he doesn’t fear the death he knows is coming, but expresses frustration at not having the option to choose when and how it will occur as his health continues to fail.
“What the end is going to look like, that’s what's bothering me the most,” he says.
Taylor, a former CBC-TV health reporter who is now a physician’s assistant, said though her husband did not die in pain, his final days were a struggle as he lost control of bodily functions and struggled to breathe.
“That was not a dignified death that he died,” she said.
Video stirs online reaction
After the video was posted online, it stirred an impassioned, immediate reaction.
By Wednesday, the video had more than 30,000 views.
A CBC.ca story about it had almost 700 comments by Wednesday.
Many of the comments praised Low’s courage and supported his call for legalized, doctor-assisted suicide. Others, equally impassioned, argued that such laws could be misused against those who are sick or have disabilities. There are also religious opponents, who argue God should decide when and how life ends.
A sampling of the online reaction is posted here.
A spokesperson from the Office of the Minister of Justice sent an email to CBC News on Tuesday, saying the government has "no intention" of reopening debate on the laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Taylor also said Low's failing health made it difficult for him to appear in the video.
“I don’t think the video could have been done even a day or two later,” she said. “God I was proud of him; I thought he did such a great job.”
Taylor said her husband was in favour of laws that allow patients to be prescribed a lethal dose of barbiturates after they’ve had a psychiatric evaluation and had their terminal illness confirmed by two doctors.
In this scenario, the medication sits at the patient’s bedside, giving them the option of a pain-free death they initiate themselves. She said that in many cases, the medication is never used.
“I won’t stop this fight. If I can do anything to bring this forward in the political sphere, then I will do that," she said.