The right to choose death

I have difficulty imagining the level of courage it takes to say to friends and family that you want to die

I have difficulty imagining the level of courage it takes to say to friends and family that the best way for them to show how much they love you is to let you die.

Then again, I’ve never had to live with a fatal illness that strips an individual of all dignity before delivering an agonizing end.

Gloria Taylor, a 63-year-old grandmother, isn’t so fortunate. Suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, a fatal neurological affliction, Taylor is — to paraphrase Dylan Thomas — not going quietly into that good night. But unlike the poet, her rage is not against the dying of the light, but aimed instead at Canada’s ban on assisted suicide, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Taylor told reporters outside the B.C. Supreme Court last week that she can no longer wash herself unaided and called it “an assault not only on my privacy, but on my dignity and self-esteem.” Her argument for being legally allowed to end her own life is a difficult one to disagree with. As she told Associated Press: “It is my life and my body and it should be my choice as to when and how I die.”

Personally, I find this particular Canadian law to be hypocritical. How can it be legal to end the life of an unborn child, yet be illegal to make the same decision for yourself?

And, yes, it opens a huge can of worms that can be messy and slippery to deal with, but the bottom line should be individual choice. If, like Taylor, you are still able to make your free and informed consent known to a doctor, he or she should be legally allowed to help you die in as comfortable a manner as possible.

For those individuals who are no longer able to effectively communicate consent, their predetermined wishes should be allowed in the form of an attachment to their living will, akin to a do-not-resuscitate notice. Every individual has their own limits to what they find to be an acceptable level of life. For some, it could be the complete absence of brain activity. For others, it could be when dementia robs them of the ability to recognize their spouse or when their body deteriorates to the point that pain is more prevelant than joy.

Not every case will be cut and dry. Nothing in human history ever is. But when you have women as courageous as Taylor and Sue Rodriguez (who lost her own court battle for the right to assisted suicide in 1994, and later took her own life with the help of an anonymous doctor) who stand up to say they want the right to choose how and when they die, how can we ignore that?

Taylor has also let it be known that she isn’t suicidal. In fact, she hopes to hang on for as long as she can, but when the time comes and her options are reduced to an agonizing and undignified death or a peaceful end with the aid of a doctor, she wants to have that choice.

Wouldn’t you? M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island Symphony conductor Pierre Simard is releasing his new synthwave album ‘Plandemic’ on March 5. (Photo courtesy Olivia Simard)
Vancouver Island Symphony conductor releasing side-project EP of electronic music

Pierre Simard, recording as Plan Omega, presents ‘Plandemic’

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
Vancouver Island children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

This image released by SYFY shows Meredith Garretson, left, and Alan Tudyk in the new series "Resident Alien." (James Dittinger/SYFY via AP)
B.C.-shot ‘Resident Alien’ invader gets lift-off with viewers

New Syfy series catching on, proving TV doesn’t have to come from premium cable

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

Vancouver Island Symphony principal violinist and concertmaster Calvin Dyck is among the musicians performing in the upcoming Salmon and Trout concert. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Vancouver Island Symphony will make a splash with fish-themed quintets concert

Performance was to take place in November but was rescheduled due to COVID-19

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Nadia Rieger restocks some of the art supplies at the Crows Nest Artist Collective. Their move to stocking more art supplies over the course of the pandemic was a response to increased demand, which she thinks shows people have been turning to creating art to cope with mental health struggles due to lockdowns and restrictions on other activities. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Vancouver Islanders using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Chris Bullock, Parksville artist, stands next to his ‘Mermother’ series, on display at the McMillan Arts Centre until Feb. 29. Bullock himself will be at the MAC from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday until the end of the month. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Chris Bullock’s unique illustrations on display

‘I’m heavily influenced by old comic book styles from the 1950s’

Most Read