Winnipeg's Susan Griffiths dies by assisted suicide in Zurich

Susan Griffiths, the Winnipeg woman who went to Switzerland to take advantage of the country's assisted-suicide law, has died.

Winnipeg woman went to Switzerland to end her life legally

Griffiths dies by assisted suicide

10 years ago
Duration 4:11
Susan Griffiths went to Switzerland to take advantage of the country's assisted-suicide law

Susan Griffiths, the Winnipeg woman who went to Switzerland to take advantage of the country's assisted-suicide law, has died.

She was declared dead shortly before 7 a.m. CST.

Griffiths, 72, had multiple system atrophy, a rare disease that was robbing her of the ability to perform the most basic bodily functions. There is no cure or even hope for remission.

Susan Griffiths spends a moment with her daughter leading up to her death in Switzerland on Thursday. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

Assisted suicide is against the law in Canada, but it is legal in Switzerland.

Griffiths had an appointment Thursday with Dignitas, a non-profit organization that administers assisted suicides to both locals and foreigners.

In the moments before she died, Griffiths walked, talked and sang with family members in a sunny, warm garden on the Dignitas property just outside Zurich.

According to CBC's Donna Carreiro, the family sang rounds of the nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and Griffiths was smiling, "delighted" with the setting.

Then Griffiths settled in and took the first of two drinks that would end her life. The first was bitter, so she ate chocolate to temper the taste.

About 30 minutes later she took the second drink. According to family members, it took another 20 minutes and Griffiths was gone.

"It was beautiful," Griffiths' daughter Natasha told CBC, adding that her mom would have been pleased with how it all went.

Cindy Rublee, a close friend of Griffiths, was with her in her last moments and said the "it is absolutely the way she wanted to go. This is how she imagined it would happen and it's exactly how it happened."

The day before, Griffiths spoke exclusively with Donna Carreiro:

"This is my last day to be able to give the message. Tomorrow is my last day, where I'll be taking the drink, and so there's not much time to spread the message.

"I do have to say that I have spent over a week here with members of my family and a friend, and had the most fantastic few days.

"I am very lucky that I've managed to gather them together [and] that they can afford to be here — for heaven's sake, this has been the most expensive trip.

"I am just hoping so much that people are going to inform their members of Parliament that they wish for a law to be made that they can make a decision about the end of life …. Soon, I would like to think that they don't have to wait until they're in a bad place to make such a decision.

"I guess my family worried that perhaps I've made the decision because I was not well and maybe not of sound mind as well. I just want the members of Parliament to respond to the requests that people will be sending them, hopefully.

"I've had the most amazing response from friends, [and] from people that I have not seen for ages and ages, to say it's what they would like to see happen as well. And I would like to think that they will pester their member of Parliament to get a debate started.

"Although we were told last week there wouldn't be [a debate], you can change your mind, just as I can change my mind.

"It's very important that people feel in the future that they have control of their life and their death. And I have not felt that control in the last year or so, and it's been very distressing for me.

"I just don't want to see people uproot themselves to come such a long way. The worry about getting here was major for weeks. Could I make it? Could I not make it? And thank goodness, I did make it.

"Just please, members of Parliament, get going on discussing making the end of people's lives a lot easier than mine has been."