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Canada woman pursues doctor-assisted suicide

November 30, 2011
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VANCOUVER—One of Gloria Taylor's greatest fears is suffocating before she dies. It's part of the reason the 63-year-old grandmother has "gritted her teeth" to appear before a British Columbia Supreme Court judge on Thursday in her quest for the right to a doctor-assisted suicide.

Taylor has Lou Gehrig's disease, which damages the neuromuscular system. She is the reason the hearing on assisted suicide has been accelerated.

The right-to-die challenge has been hearing expert evidence for two weeks, and the plaintiffs' case will open Thursday.

Taylor won't testify, but she told reporters Wednesday she wants to be present so the judge can put a face to the court affidavit she filed that requests assistance in her death.

"I must make this very clear: I do not want to die," she said. "I want to live every day that I can to the fullest, one day at a time. What I do not want is to die an agonizing, slow, difficult, unpleasant, undignified death."

Peter Fenker, who also had Lou Gehrig's disease, also filed an affidavit with the court asking for the right to die without pain and with a doctor's help. He died just weeks before the hearing began in what Fenker's wife, Grace, described to the court as a horror-filled four days in the hospital where he pleaded with her to help him die.

The court has already heard from expert witnesses on both sides of the argument.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is one of the other five plaintiffs in the case. The association's lawyer Joe Arvay has told the judge that the association hopes the lawsuit will prevent Taylor from suffering the same fate as Fenker.

The lawyer for the federal government told the court that if assisted suicide were allowed, there would be no system of safeguards that could guarantee there wouldn't be wrongful deaths.

It's been 18 years since Sue Rodriguez challenged assisted suicide laws and lost in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Taylor said the beliefs of Canadians have changed since then and it's way past time for the "archaic" laws to change.

"The majority of Canadians want this. For the few people that don't, they don't have to do it," she said.

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