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BC Suicide

Make a comment about Suicide in BC

LAST UPDATE January 26, 2015

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Blue Divider Line

The Farewell Foundation is taking the right to die to civil court in British Columbia to allow assisted suicide.

You can find their claim on their home page.

How would you like to suffer in pain, and not be able to do something about it? feels it is unethical to be permitted to put your pet out of its misery, but not yourself! wants the right to die.  Our life should not be in the hands of unscrupulous law!

It is not fair or ethical that other people decide our life for us!

Ogden v. British Columbia Registrar of Companies, 2011 BCSC 1151 (CanLII)
Date: 2011-08-17
Docket: S112305;S112304

Blue Divider Line Poll - August 4, 2011 - 1696 votes

Should terminally ill people have the right to end their lives?

Yes: 1538
No: 158

Blue Divider Line

Suicide fast facts

• In BC, 346 people took their own life in 2006; that’s almost one person every day.

• In 2006, British Columbians were at least 14 times more likely to die from suicide than to be the victim of a homicide.

• In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years (both sexes); these figures do not include suicide attempts which are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.

• Both the stigma attached to suicide and the likelihood that some deaths classified as “accidents” are actually suicides contribute to an overall underestimate of the true number of suicides each year.

Blue Divider Line

Kims choice - how one family confronts a genetic time bomb
The Globe and Mail - July 19, 2014

Get your tissues out :(

Huntingtons image
VIDEO In the Teske family, three siblings suffer from Huntington’s and they're all handling the disease in their own way. Ever-independent Kim Teske has chosen to starve herself to death before she’s too ill to look after herself. ‘It’s ridiculous to have a law so you can’t die,’ she says. ‘They’ll put our animals down, not the human beings.’PART 1
‘I have a plan’

For 10 days, Kim Teske has been refusing to eat or drink. Her speech is garbled; she can still smoke, but her inhalations are shallow; she is struggling to walk and she is withdrawing into herself, as though she is moving ahead to a place where we can’t follow, at least not yet.

At one point, she lies down for a nap in the sprawling split-level house on the edge of Orangeville, Ont., where her family has gathered from halfway across the country to say their goodbyes. One of her sisters crawls into bed and snuggles under the duvet with her. A few hours later, when Kim is driven back across town to her own apartment, a brother has to carry her up the stairs.

Kim, one of six siblings and always seeming the most vulnerable, the most childlike, wants to die. She has Huntington’s, an incurable genetic disease that combines aspects of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. At 52, she is still living on her own, but fears that, if she doesn’t act now, she will end her days in an institution with strangers pushing mush into her mouth and hosing her down after she defecates.

“I love life and I love me, but I don’t want to live like that,” the slight, lean woman with short dark hair and impeccably sculpted fingernails said a few months earlier. “And I have a plan.”

Huntingtons image
PHOTO Kim, centre, is supported by sister Marlene, left, and sister-in-law Lynn at Dawn's house in Orangeville, Ont., Kim stopped eating a week earlier. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
We were sitting at the table in Kim’s sunny yellow kitchen on a winter weekday morning. Her sisters Dawn and Marlene nodded in agreement. Her mother, Gwen, watched warily from the couch.

Kim’s black camisole peeked out from an unbuttoned pink and black checked shirt tucked into her jeans, but the effect was more boyish than voluptuous. “I wore this to the Huntington’s fundraiser two weeks ago and I had two fizzy drinks. They told me not to get drunk,” she explained, in an unbridled style that I came to recognize as Kim-speak.

The four of us could have been sitting down to a game of euchre; instead, we were talking about the right to die. This was new territory for the Teskes and all of them were struggling to keep their equilibrium while navigating its emotional, medical and legal shoals. Kim couldn’t afford to fly to Dignitas, an assisted-suicide clinic in Switzerland that accepts foreigners; her doctors wouldn’t help her die; she had no legal access to lethal drugs; and she didn’t want her family to face criminal charges for assisting a suicide. Her only option, as she saw it, was to starve to death, even if most experts predicted it would take two full weeks.

“I don’t want to get anybody into trouble, but it is my right to die.”

Under the watchful eyes of her family, I asked if she felt any pressure from others. “No, I am pressuring myself,” she said. “It’s my life and that is how I am going to die. Sorry to miss Mom’s birthday, but that is not going to happen.”

Gwen was soon to turn 80, and wished she could somehow take her daughter’s place. “But I can’t,” she admitted, bolstered by a lifetime of stoicism. Kim’s sisters had pledged to support her by taking turns being with her during her deadly fast. “She can stop any time she wants,” said Marlene, an admissions specialist at a community college. Dawn, a nurse at a nearby hospital, finished the sentence: “But this is her choice.”

Huntingtons image
PHOTO Kim’s mom, Gwen, tends to her brother Brian who also suffers from Huntington’s while Kim sits in the background. ‘It makes me feel terrible,’ says Gwen. ‘It should not be my children that have this, it should be me. But we all stick together and carry on from there.’ (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
Nobody really expected Kim to succeed. It would be too hard, too awful a death – especially for somebody like Kim, who loved to eat and never seemed to gain an ounce, no matter how many helpings she consumed. She was the sibling who didn’t make it in the academic stream in high school and trained instead to be a barber; she was the family jokester who delighted in sneaking up and snapping the bra straps of her adolescent nieces; she was the single auntie who greeted any man under 50 by asking, “Are you married?” No matter the response, she demanded a hug. “Give me a squeeze,” she would entreat complete strangers.

“I cried when Marlene told me what Kim was planning – I couldn’t fathom it,” her brother Stuart, 54, told me in a telephone conversation from Saskatchewan, where he works in construction. “Kim will not do this.”

Going without nourishment when you are terminally ill and your body is already shutting down is difficult enough. Donald Low, the Toronto microbiologist with a terminal brain tumour who made a video plea last year for legalizing medically assisted dying, stopped eating and drinking in the last stages of his life, but he was deeply sedated and under the care of a top-notch palliative team. Even so, he lasted nearly a week, six days of which he couldn’t communicate with his grieving family.

Kim’s task was infinitely harder because she was not dying, at least not imminently. Patients with Huntington’s typically live with a disintegrating mind and body up to 25 years from diagnosis. There are early– and late-onset variants of the disease, which affects one in every 7,000 Canadians, but most people are diagnosed between 30 and 50.

Because Kim refused to wait for the inevitable, she was planning her death while still of “sound mind,” as the clinical description has it, and had the capacity to live independently. But that didn’t mean she would go quietly. She wanted to leave a final message supporting the work of Dying with Dignity, a nonprofit organization lobbying for the right to medically assisted death and an end to the Criminal Code prohibition against assisting a suicide.

That’s how I had heard about Kim. But this is more than a right-to-die story. This is a story about family: how it copes with a devastating illness that has targeted some members and spared others, filling some with despair, others with resignation and making someone like Kim suicidal. It could be your family, it could be mine.

A family

PHOTO Kim gives a nephew a kiss. The Teskes are a warm and unpretentious family in which hugging is endemic and nobody is a stranger for more than a minute. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
Even before Kim’s death wish, life was hard for the Teskes. Gwen and her husband, Larry, were from hard-working stock – she from Saskatchewan, he from Ontario. Larry was 42 when he died of testicular cancer, leaving a genetic secret that lay buried for 25 years: Huntington’s disease. Because Larry’s symptoms were masked by cancer, nobody suspected that he may have passed on a neurological time bomb to his children.

Back then, Gwen was more concerned about the present than the future. “I looked into the coffin and said, ‘How do I go on from here?’ ” she remembered thinking. “But the good Lord gives you strength,” she said. “I had to be there for my kids.” At 39, she had six children to support. The eldest, Brian, was 16. The youngest, Deanna, was 9. Gwen put in long hours running a restaurant at a truck stop to put food on the table. As soon as they were old enough, the kids worked there on weekends and after school.

Adversity was only part of the glue bonding the family, whose warmth and unpretentiousness remain obvious today. Hugging is endemic, humour is rarely barbed, no visit is intrusive and nobody is a stranger for more than a minute. “It’s all about my mother,” Stuart explained. “She’s the one who held us together. She’s a rock.”

None of the kids gave Gwen any trouble. “Not real trouble,” said Lynn Teske, who married Brian in 1978, when he was 21 and she was 19.

They had met a few years earlier at a high-school dance, but he had disappeared with a pal when the music stopped. “A girlfriend and I used to drive around Orangeville looking for him, until I found him,” she said, laughing at her sweet-sixteen boldness. Nearly 40 years later, she still won’t let him go.

Brian had gone to high school in nearby Mayfield, but he switched to Orangeville District Secondary School for Grade 12, “and then we were in the same school.” For nearly 20 years, life was busy but good. They had two children – a son, Jason, and a daughter, Sarah – and eventually Brian ran his own construction company with brother Stuart, digging basements and installing septic systems.

VIDEO Brian’s family describes how he began to change. His hands started to shake, he became belligerent and would make strange decisions. He was the first in the family to be diagnosed with Huntington’s.
Everything changed as Brian approached 40. The easygoing, laid-back guy who never swore, who never spoke harshly or critically of others, became unpredictably belligerent. “There was no filter,” his wife said. “If he was thinking it, it came out.” Brian developed strange tics, like repeatedly shrugging his shoulders, and opening and closing his hands. One day, when he was sitting at the kitchen table, he picked up a glass and banged it down. After a few crashes on the tabletop, his wife asked him to stop. Bewildered, he asked, “Stop what?”

He also began making strange decisions, according to Stuart, a taciturn guy who fails to hide his tender heart and strong emotions. After 10 years in business with his brother, Stuart quit and moved to Florida to work with standard-bred horses. That’s where he met his wife, Rebecca, and their teenaged daughters, Victoria and Gabriella, were born.

Brian’s daughter tells much more graphic tales of the changes in her funny and generous father. As a teenager, Sarah lost count of the number of times he backed his Dodge Ram pickup into her Mazda, a car she was buying with her own money. “He’d put a hole right through the hood and I would be on my knees crying and he had no empathy at all.”

Eventually, things got so bad that the once-profitable business went broke, the Teskes lost their home and had to move in with relatives. Lynn finally persuaded her husband to go to a doctor, who prescribed antidepressants. “He walked around like he was drunk,” she said. “It was awful.” After repeated trips to the doctor, Brian was finally referred to a neurologist. Having checked his reflexes and asked him to do simple things like stick out his tongue, the specialist looked at Brian and said, “I think you have Huntington’s disease. I want you to consider going for a DNA test.”

Of course, Lynn immediately searched the Internet. “The more I read, the more I knew in my heart that that was what he had.” But denial came easily because nobody else in the family had Huntington’s – his mother was robust, and all his younger siblings seemed fine. Brian finally agreed to go for DNA testing in 1997, when he was 40. But it was another five years before he was willing to ask for the results of the simple blood test that would explain his increasingly bizarre physical and emotional behaviour.

“He didn’t want to know,” Lynn said.

This is a common reaction. At best, one in five of those at risk for Huntington’s are tested, because knowing doesn’t help when you have an incurable and largely untreatable disease. Lynn, nevertheless, tried to persuade him. “We can’t deal with what we don’t know,” she told Brian.

Huntingtons image
PHOTO The clan gathers, from left: Kim, brother Stuart, sisters Marlene and Deanna, mother Gwen, brother Brian and sister Dawn. Gwen wanted all her children across the country to get together one last time before Kim was gone. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
The entire family went to hear the results in July, 2002. By then, Brian was 45, Lynn was 43, Jason was 25 and Sarah was 22. Lynn said she remembers the doctor saying: “You know, Brian, when I open this envelope, I could be handing you a death sentence.” Even before the doctor read the diagnosis, Lynn knew that it would be positive because Brian had become that much worse.

Still, the confirmation was a shock. It took a year for everyone in the Teske clan to accept the news and to suspect that the disease had probably come from their long-dead father. Five of the six Teskes already had children; if they had Huntington’s, there was a 50-50 chance they had unwittingly passed it on – a horrifying thought for any parent. Brian’s daughter spent years obsessing about the disease, but refused to be tested. “I didn’t want a death sentence. I didn’t want to know at 24, 25 or 26 that I was going to be dying of Huntington’s,” Sarah said.

But that didn’t mean she didn’t worry: “If my arm had a twitch, I would think that was it.” She reached a point where the tension was so grinding that she realized knowing was better than not knowing. By then, she had decided that, if she were positive, she wouldn’t have children, although there is now a complicated and costly in vitro fertilization procedure that tests embryos and implants only those that are free of Huntington’s. Finally, in July, 2008, on a day Sarah could only describe in superlatives as “the best of her life,” she learned she was negative. Now, she is married and the mother of two small children.


How Huntington’s has passed through the Teske family

Family tree
GRAPHIC There is a 50-50 chance of passing on Huntington’s. After Brian was diagnosed, the family suspected that the disease had probably been passed through Larry, their long dead father whose symptoms would have been masked by cancer. Their mother, Gwen, has never been tested but at 80 shows no symptoms. (Carrie Cockburn/The Globe and Mail)
On the same day Sarah found out she had won the genetic lottery, her aunt phoned home from Regina to say she had lost. Deanna, the youngest of the Teske siblings, had tested positive. Her daughters, Chantelle and Shelby, were in Ontario visiting their grandmother and extended family. But before they even had a chance to celebrate with their older cousin, they had to grapple with the horror of their mother’s diagnosis, which was potentially their own. That is how Huntington’s works: It is a capricious disease, sparing some and skewering others, like a fickle finger of fate.

Deanna will tell you now that she wasn’t surprised to learn she had it. The year before, when she had gone back to Ontario to celebrate Brian’s 50th birthday, she already had a strange tingling in her fingers and toes, and some jerky movements.

Her brother pressed her to find out for certain, so she went for testing after she returned to Saskatchewan. The process was gruelling, partly because her marriage was going through a rough patch. Her husband, Mike Smith, another salt-of-the-earth type who’s a carpenter and a partner in a small construction firm, was “grumpy,” she confided to me on speaker phone from her kitchen in Regina. “I didn’t need that when I was going through getting the results.” So she kicked him out. They went for marriage counselling and eventually reconciled. “He is very supportive and he loves me a lot,” she said. “I am happy.”

Deanna can no longer work as a hairdresser, manage simple tasks like holding a telephone receiver or speak without slurring some of her words. Yet, she radiates cheerfulness, even as her arms flail about like an aberrant windmill. It’s as though she got an overdose of chorea (the involuntary movements that typically accompany Huntington’s) and escaped the depression and belligerence that are also characteristics of the disease.

She’s “good” with older sister Kim wanting to end her life, but that’s not for her. “I want to live till my dying day,” she said, even if that means being incapacitated in a nursing home. “I am happy and I am in love with my husband and I could never imagine ending my life, ever.”

Most of the Teskes long suspected that Kim also had Huntington’s. Deanna said that Brian kept “bugging Kim to get tested” because there were doctors and programs that could monitor the symptoms and ease some of them. But Kim was in denial and, Deanna added, may have gone west a decade ago to escape family pressure. After working for close to 20 years as a barber not far from Orangeville in Alton, she settled near an aunt in Invermere, B.C.

Huntingtons image
PHOTO Kim and her sister Deanna in bed at Dawn's home in Orangeville, Ont. Both have Huntington’s but while Kim wants to die before it advances, Deanna is set on living. Their family is supportive of both their approaches to dealing with the disease. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
A few years later, though, Kim could no longer cut hair and was working behind the counter in a delicatessen – until even that job became too stressful. “There were times when she was overhearing customers say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I think she is drunk,’ ” younger sister Marlene recalled.

“Brian had it and so did Deanna, and I was hoping and praying I didn’t have it, too,” Kim told me the first time we met. She was finally tested in 2008, the summer of reckoning for the Teske family. She was 47. Sisters Dawn and Marlene flew out to B.C. to bring her back to Ontario. A year later, she could no longer drive or handle simple tasks. Though she technically lived independently, her mother and Ontario sisters hovered lovingly.

Of the six siblings, only Dawn and Marlene haven’t been tested. They believe they have been spared because, in their 50s, they are still symptom-free. Stuart was at risk of losing his workplace life insurance until he tested negative. “I knew I didn’t have it because I had no symptoms, but I did the test for my kids.” Does he feel bad that he and his family are safe, while three of his siblings are doomed? “No,” he said. “It bothers me that they’ve go it, but I’m glad that I don’t.” As for Dawn and Marlene, they don’t have time to feel guilty. Besides full-time jobs and their own families, they are at ground zero, helping to care for their afflicted siblings, including Brian.

At 57, Brian lives in a long-term-care facility. He can’t walk or feed himself, his speech is almost incomprehensible and he frequently chokes on his puréed food. Lynn drives to the nursing home on her way from work, bringing him an Iced Capp from Tim Hortons as a treat before she spoonfeeds him dinner.

Kim, who visits once a week, has watched her brother deteriorate. “I don’t want to live like that. It is very important for me not to do that,” she said on the second day of her fast. “I’ve never married, so I am making the decision for myself. It would be harder if I had children.”

A cruel

VIDEO Deanna’s daughter Chantelle, right, tested positive for Huntington’s and, although she wanted children, she ultimately decided against having any. ‘I don’t know if I could willingly’ pass the disease on, she said.
No matter what Kim does, the disease won’t stop with this generation of Teskes. Deanna’s daughter Chantelle tested positive last year, at 24. “I think deep down inside herself, she knew,” her mother said. “At least that is what she told the counsellor.” Deanna felt worse for her daughter than she does for herself. “I cried and I cried and I cried and I felt guilty,” she admitted. “And then I decided that’s not fair,” she said, her sunny disposition rising to the surface. “I shouldn’t feel that way. It is a fifty-fifty situation. I hope she can be like me, or maybe there will be something to stop the movements or cure the disease when her signs show up.”

Chantelle tried for a brave face when I met her and younger sister Shelby at the Smiths’ bungalow in Regina. The two girls were nestled like cats on their parents’ chesterfield. Outside the picture window, a city crew was cleaning up fallen trees from a brutal winter.

“When you don’t know,” Chantelle said, “it is always on your mind.” At the time of her diagnosis, she was married and debating whether to have children. “He really wanted kids,” she recalled, as tears began to flow. While they were trying, she tried to rationalize the decision: “If I do have a kid and he has Huntington’s,” she told herself, “there will be a cure by then.” Ultimately, she realized she could not knowingly pass the disease on to a child; she went for testing. Her husband supported her decision, she said, insisting that Huntington’s didn’t break up her marriage, which ended earlier this year. Now, she is between jobs and living at home. “My life is kind of upside down.”

Bizarrely, a municipal wood chopper began to devour a downed tree outside the window, and we all started to laugh. The tension broken, Chantelle summoned her bravado. “I just want to be happy more than anything else in the whole entire world,” she said, her chin rising. “In my family, it has been around 40 when people start showing signs. I’m 25 now, so I figure I have about 15 years.” That’s not to say she was giving up. “I hope and pray every day that they can find something to stop it, so at least I can have a chance to live.”

Huntingtons image
PHOTO Art work is displayed on Kim's fridge. She has no children but the disease has already reached the next generation of Teskes. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
Both young women look to their mother for inspiration. “The best person in the world as a role model,” Chantelle said. “My mother is dealing with it amazingly,” Shelby added. “She is always happy and ready to throw optimism your way.”

By contrast, Shelby said, her aunt took the diagnosis “really hard.” She understands Kim’s choice and said she “would probably do the same thing.” That may be why Shelby has refused so far to be tested. “I would dwell on it a lot more than I do not knowing,” she predicted. “I don’t want to feel sorry for myself, right?”

Brian’s son, Jason, hasn’t been tested, either. He is married and living in Calgary, but has no children. Some family members – all of them adept at recognizing telltale signs – fear he has inherited the genetic short straw. His mother is waiting it out. “It preys on my mind a lot,” she said. “He is 36 years old and, in four years, I am going to know just by looking at him.”

The pain in her voice was almost audible as she described the possibility of her son having the same disease as his father. For anyone whose family has been plagued by Huntington’s, watching for symptoms is almost as harrowing as the fate they herald.

“Between 10 and 20 years to complete the course,” novelist Ian McEwan writes of the disease’s inexorable march in Saturday, “from the first small alterations of character, tremors in the hands and face, emotional disturbance, including – most notably – sudden, uncontrollable alterations of mood, the helpless jerky dance-like movements, intellectual dilapidation, memory failure, agnosia, apraxia, dementia, total loss of muscular control rigidity sometimes, nightmarish hallucinations and a meaningless end. This is how the brilliant machinery of being is undone by the tiniest of faulty cogs, the insidious whisper of ruin, a single bad idea lodged in every cell, on every chromosome four.”

Brian’s way

PHOTO Kim gives Brian a kiss. He now lives in a nursing home, a fate that she is determined to avoid. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
There was a time when Brian wanted to end his life. “He always said he was not going to live in a nursing home,” Lynn said, “that when it got to the point where he needed someone to wipe his bum, he didn’t want to be here.” But somehow, he never found the means or the opportunity. He waited too long, some of his siblings will say quietly.

“I’m here to help you through the disease but not to end your life,” Lynn remembered the doctor saying in response to Brian’s entreaties. Although grateful for the medical care, the treatment programs and the help from family – for years, Gwen spent one day a week with Brian, feeding him lunch, taking him for drives and doing the family laundry – she wishes there was more home care available. “If you have lots of money to pay somebody to come in, you are fine. But if you don’t, you are euchred,” she said.

There was a crisis in the summer of 2012. They had a hospital bed in the kitchen, but the bathroom was upstairs and Brian was falling a lot. Sometimes, so was Lynn, trying to keep him balanced as she propelled him up and down the stairs. That October, Brian moved to the nursing home, where he is by far the youngest male patient. Eventually, he won’t be able to swallow mush and he will either choke to death or he will be put on a feeding tube. Lynn doesn’t think he wants that, but she isn’t certain. “He has a son and a daughter and he has grandchildren,” she said. “And then there is his mom and his sisters. He has a lot of family around him.” What she doesn’t say, but which is obvious to anybody who has seen them together, is that he is still gobsmacked in love with the girl he met at a high-school dance.

Kim’s way

PHOTO Kim is comforted by sister Marlene. After not eating for over a week, she struggles to walk and seems as though she is withdrawing into herself. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
Kim picked April 25 to start her fast. She figured that spring would have arrived, not a certainty given the hard Ontario winter, and that she would be done by her birthday, May 9. “I will take the movement drugs,” she told me in February. The medication helps to ease her chorea, allowing her to sleep at night. “So we will take them and I will sleep and we are going to have fun at 18 Faulkner,” she said, referring to her apartment. “Marlene and Dawn are going to be here, and I told God I would jump out of the window and meet him.”

Two months later, she sits on the edge of her bed, smoking cigarettes – the Teskes are like chimneys when it comes to nicotine – and looks out the second-floor window at the oak tree in the front yard. It is her talisman. Kim believes she will be resurrected after her ordeal and come back as part of the tree’s towering presence. Whether she is saying that to reassure herself or her family is moot. It is the mantra that sustains her day after day of refusing food and sipping only enough water to swallow her medication.

Both Ontario sisters have taken time off work, made sure that Kim’s do-not-resuscitate form is prominently displayed on the refrigerator, gone with her to a local general practitioner (who has refused to help Kim die) and applied for palliative and personal care for their sister.

Then Gwen, the matriarch, who has been watching and smoking for months, intervenes. She can’t stop Kim from killing herself, but she can gather all her children together one last time. She summons her younger son first. “It was an awful expense, but it was worth it,” she tells me later. Stuart is the catalyst who makes the reunion happen. He comes twice from Saskatchewan, once by himself and again with Deanna. Nobody has told Lynn or Brian what Kim is doing because they fear it may upset him, but Stuart breaks that well-meaning code soon after he and Deanna land in Toronto, on day seven of Kim’s fast. Lynn is glad he did, saying her husband knew something was up. “He has Huntington’s, but he’s not stupid.”

For the first time since they celebrated their mother’s 75th birthday five years earlier, the Teske clan, including Brian in his chair, congregate at Dawn’s house on the outskirts of Orangeville. The place is a multi-generational jumble of kids, friends, food, instant coffee (with an occasional shot of Bailey’s) and frequent trips to the garage, where the smokers gather around an old wood stove to trade anecdotes and josh Dawn’s partner, Paul Omrode, about the two gleaming Harleys parked in front of the door, patiently anticipating a summer romp.

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PHOTO Dawn wets Kim’s lips as Marlene looks on. Kim has been drinking nothing except enough water to take her medications. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
The fast could stop if Kim changes her mind, or if the authorities step in. But nobody makes a move, waiting like bystanders at a traffic accident. It is horrible to watch, especially seeing the suffering in Gwen’s face as she chain smokes in the garage.

Before Stuart and Deanna head back to the airport, knowing they will probably not see their sister again, the siblings gather to plant a burning bush outside Kim’s apartment. She is now too weak to walk to the window. A visiting palliative-care nurse thinks it will be several more days, but Kim has other plans. She dies peacefully, with none of the delirium or agitation that some watchers had anticipated, around noon on day 12 of the fast, with Dawn by her side. When the police are summoned, along with emergency services, they decline to lay charges. It is three days before Kim’s target date.


PHOTO Gwen says goodbye to Kim at an Orangeville funeral home on her daughter's 53rd birthday. She died three days earlier. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
Half of Orangeville seems to have gathered for Kim’s memorial celebration on May 9, her 53rd birthday. There is food, caffeine, flowers and a slide show documenting her life, from baby pictures to horsing around with nieces and nephews. Nothing has been air-brushed, including a picture taken the day before she died, looking gaunt and focused on the camera as a niece gives her a hug.

There are lots of extemporaneous speakers, but Marlene’s husband, Marty Olson, a big, tough former cop, is the closest to an official eulogist. He cheers the mourners with the familiar story about Kim demanding a squeeze from anybody in trousers and short back and sides. Then his voice cracks as he describes her at Easter, the weekend before beginning her fast. Knowing how much Kim loved to eat, he was making her a hearty breakfast while she sat outside on the deck having a smoke. The window was open and he could hear Kim speaking to herself. Instead of calling her a dork – one of her own favourite putdowns – he listened and heard her say: “God, I am ready to go. Do you have a bed for me?”

That was the moment he knew she was serious, a realization that had come to all of them at different moments. “I don’t know how she did it,” Lynn Teske said after the funeral. “I still can’t get over that she followed through and for 12 days she didn’t touch anything: food, drink, nothing. It was amazing.”

Huntingtons image
PHOTO A photo of Kim on the fridge at sister Dawn's home. The oak in the photo was Kim’s special tree. (Kevin Van Paassen for The Globe and Mail)
Kim, the most childlike Teske, has given them all a lesson in courage. She achieved her goal: to die on her own terms. That is a legacy nobody can deny. Whether it will help change the law, however, is beyond her control.

The only certainty is that family has prevailed. “It hasn’t been easy, but you have to stick together and carry on from there,” her mother concludes. When the Teskes gather in July to celebrate Gwen’s 80th birthday, Kim is not forgotten. They mourn again.

– Toronto author Sandra Martin is currently working on a book for HarperCollins about the right-to-die movement in Canada and around the world. She was a Globe and Mail staff member for 16 years, known both for her reporting on the publishing industry and as a noted obituary writer. Her most recent book, Great Canadian Lives: A Cultural History of Modern Canada through the Art of the Obit (House of Anansi), has just appeared in paperback.

– An acclaimed photographer, Kevin Van Paassen also spent a decade on The Globe and Mail staff, covering everything from Canada’s health-care system and the 2012 Summer Games in London to the war in Afghanistan, before launching his freelance career in Toronto.

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This came by email so there is no link:

Greetings Farewell Members and Supporters,

Best wishes for 2013! Here are three items of interest:

1. Farewell Foundation Factum Filed in BC Court of Appeal

The federal government’s appeal of Carter v. Attorney General of Canada is scheduled to be heard March 4th to 8th in Vancouver. Among the intervener groups, Farewell Foundation is the only right-to-die organization to participate. Our factum was filed on December 24, 2012. The factum argues that the government’s interest in protecting vulnerable persons is compatible with the freedom to choose how and when to die. We contend that there is no reason that police, prosecutors, and judges cannot reliably distinguish whether a decision to end one’s life is informed and free from undue influence and coercion. Farewell Foundation says that an absolute prohibition of assisted suicide is not necessary and that an exception should be permitted for those who are capable of informed decision and who are not unduly influenced or coerced. The full factum is available at this link:

2. Plans for a Rally in March at BC Court of Appeal

One of our supporters is wishing to organize a rally to support end of life choices. Many of us will recall the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s demonstration at the courthouse steps at the start of the Carter trial. Galina Coffey-Lewis is requesting ideas and help with organizing a rally in support of the right to choose. Please contact Galina at 1-250-386-7772 or jglewis "at"

3. New Study on Scottish Organization, Friends at the End (FATE)

Sociologist Naomi Richards of Edinburgh has authored a new academic paper the right-to-die movement in the U.K.. The article is published in the International Journal of Aging and Later Life and is available at this link:

Title: The Fight to Die: Older People and Death Activism, by Naomi Richards

Abstract: This article explores the activities and convictions of older right-to-die activists who belong to a small but very active interest group based in Scotland, UK, called Friends at the End (FATE). The analysis presented here is based on knowledge gained through seventeen months of ethnographic research with the organisation. While FATE activists currently campaign for a legal right to a medically assisted death, many are also open to taking matters into their own hands, either by travelling to the Swiss organisation Dignitas or by opting for what is known as ‘‘self-deliverance’’. FATE members’ openness to different means of securing a hastened death contrasts sharply with the more limited demands of the UK’s main right-to-die organisation, Dignity in Dying, and highlights their specific orientation to freedom, which, it is argued here, results from the organisation’s older demographic.

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110

Email: info "at"

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December 10, 2012

There is no link because this came by email:

Greetings Farewell Members and Supporters,

Today we report three items of interest.

1. Farewell Foundation’s Winter Newsletter is online:


Page 1 Constitutional Challenge in Ireland

Page 2 What’s the Law in Montana?

Las Vegas Man Sentenced for Importing Barbiturates from Mexico

Page 3 EXIT International Workshop in Vancouver

Page 4 Book Review of Dick Côté’s In Search of Gentle Death

Page 5 In Memorium, Gloria Taylor

Page 6 Film Review of A Good Death (Dutch)

The Suicide Plan (PBS)

Page 7 Gabriola Islanders Welcome Farewell Foundation

Page 8 Farewell House Update

History: 1905, Canada’s 1st Aiding Suicide Charge

2. Farewell Foundation Granted Intervenor Standing in Appeal of Carter v. Attorney General of Canada

Today, Farewell Foundation was granted intervenor standing in the Attorney General of Canada’s appeal of a BC court ruling that Canada’s prohibition against aiding suicide is unconstitutional. The Appeal is scheduled for March, 2013. Farewell Foundation is the only right to die organization to participate in the BC Court of Appeal case. Farewell was also an intervener at the previous trial in the Supreme Court.

In her ruling today, Madam Justice Neilson allowed seven of eight applicants leave to intervene in Carter v. Attorney General of Canada. The intervenors who were allowed standing are: the Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die, Alliance of People with Disabilities Who are Supportive of Legal-Assisted Dying Society, Canadian Unitarian Council, Christian Legal Fellowship, Evangelical Fellowship Of Canada, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – British Columbia, and Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living.

Margaret Dore, an American lawyer, was dismissed on grounds that she had an insufficient representative base and her proposed submissions would not be of assistance to the Court.

Documents of interest to the case can be read here:

Farewell Foundation Memorandum of Argument and Affidavit of Russel Ogden for Application to Intervene 8_2012.pdf

The BC Court of Appeal Ruling on the Intervenor Applications

3. Québec Update: Leblanc v. Attorney General

The case of Ginette Leblanc from Trois-Riviéres, Québec, was originally scheduled to start December 12th. It is now postponed to March 25, 2013 for 4 days. Reporting on behalf of Association Quebecoise Pour le Droit Mourir dans Dignite, Robert Senet says the change in schedule came about as a result of a late intervention by the Québec Bar Association and the need to accommodate the Bar’s pleadings. It is said that Ms Leblanc’s counsel was also in favour of the postponement.

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110

Email: info "at"

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Assisted suicide crusader Gloria Taylor dies in B.C.
CBC News - Oct 5, 2012

Taylor’s death was sudden and unexpected and due to a severe infection

Gloria Taylor, 64, died Thursday from a severe infection, reports say. (CBC)

The 64 year-old B.C. woman who fought to change Canada’s law on physician-assisted suicide has died from a severe infection, according to an advocacy group that helped her with a landmark court case.

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, 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.

BCCLA spokeswoman 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.

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Judge upholds woman's right to die - by The Canadian Press - Story: 78958 - Aug 10, 2012

Gloria Taylor

Photo: The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Gloria Taylor is shown in Vancouver, on Monday June 18, 2012. Taylor who won a personal exemption from Canada's ban on doctor-assisted suicide will keep that right as the case makes its way through the province's Appeal Court. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Gloria Taylor's right to avoid a "frightening and repugnant" death in the clutches of Lou Gehrig's disease shouldn't be sacrificed because the courts have yet to decide the fate of Canada's doctor-assisted suicide ban, a judge ruled Friday as she upheld the British Columbia woman's personal exemption from the law.

The woman from West Kelowna, who was diagnosed with ALS three years ago and whose health continues to deteriorate, was among the plaintiffs in a landmark case that saw the B.C. Supreme Court strike down Canada's ban on doctor-assisted suicide as unconstitutional.

While the court suspended its decision, Taylor was granted an immediate exemption, making her the only person in Canada who can legally die with the help of a doctor.

The federal government launched an appeal of that decision and also asked the Appeal Court to revoke Taylor's exemption until the case is heard.

However, Justice Jo-Ann Prowse ruled Friday that taking away Taylor's exemption would cause her irreparable harm, outweighing the interests of the federal government and the public in preventing a single case of doctor-assisted suicide.

"I accept that the exemption has important symbolic and, perhaps, psychological, value, which extends beyond Ms. Taylor to those who are similarly situated, whether or not they agree with the decision under appeal," Justice Jo-Ann Prowse wrote in a decision released Friday.

"She may be a symbol, but she is also a person," the judge continued later, "and I do not find that it is necessary for the individual to be sacrificed to a concept of the 'greater good,' which may, or may not, be fully informed."

In June, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the current law violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The judge in the case concluded the law must allow physician-assisted suicide in cases involving patients who are diagnosed with a serious illness or disability and who are experiencing "intolerable" physical or psychological suffering with no chance of improvement.

Taylor has said she's made no decisions about ending her life. She has yet to take any formal steps to use her exemption, which would require an application to the B.C. Supreme Court, her lawyer, Sheila Tucker, confirmed Friday.

"She will be delighted" with the decision, Tucker said in an interview.

"We're particularly pleased with the fact that the court was very cognisant of the fact that, for Gloria, it really is a case of irreparable harm, because she'll either get to use that exemption and have the value of that exemption now or she never will."

In the Appeal Court ruling, Prowse noted Taylor, who in January 2010 was told she had one year to live, may not survive to see the end of the case, which is almost certainly destined for the Supreme Court of Canada.

If the exemption were removed and Taylor's health continued to decline, "all of her worst fears would be realized and she would be forced to endure the very death which she has fought so assiduously to avoid," wrote Prowse.

The B.C. Supreme Court decision was suspended for one year to give Parliament time to fix the law, but the Appeal Court has extended that suspension until after it renders its decision.

The appeal is expected to be heard next spring.

If the case ends up before the Supreme Court of Canada, it won't be the first time the country's highest court has tackled the issue of assisted suicide.

The court heard a case two decades ago involving Sue Rodriguez, who also had ALS and wanted help from a doctor to end her life. The court ruled against her in 1993, though she killed herself anyway with the help of an unidentified physician the following year.

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Assisted suicide decision - by The Canadian Press - Story: 76605 - Jun 15, 2012

A B.C. Supreme Court has ruled the laws banning doctor-assisted suicide are unconstitutional.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith declared the laws invalid, but also suspended her ruling for one year to give Parliament time to draft legislation with her ruling in mind.

Smith also granted Gloria Taylor an exemption in her ruling, allowing the ailing West Kelowna, B.C., woman to seek a physician-assisted suicide during the period her ruling is suspended if she wants.

In a 395-page ruling, Smith says the provisions in the Charter of Rights unjustifiably infringe on Taylor's rights to life, liberty and security of persons.

She says the laws are discriminatory for those who are grievously ill or physically disabled who want to have some control over their circumstances at the end of their lives.

While Smith says risks exist to allowing doctor-assisted suicide, but they can be largely avoided through carefully-designed and well-monitored safeguards.

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Suicide - by Contributed - Story: 74847 - May 9, 2012

Did you know we kill ourselves far more often than we kill each other? It’s true. Suicide rates in Canada are approximately 10 times higher than homicide rates – and the numbers are similar in the US.

This is often surprising since we don’t hear much about suicide. News agencies don’t cover many deaths by suicide unless they occur as part of a crime and even families affected by suicide often cover it up from shame or grief.

Suicide kills roughly 12 in every 100,000 people in Canada and a much larger number attempt it unsuccessfully. Still, most Canadians live without much awareness of this killer in our midst.

Psychiatric researchers and practitioners do know the vast majority of suicides occur as a result of untreated or improperly managed mental illness. As such, many tragic deaths could be prevented if proper care were available, accessible and sought after by those experiencing mental illness.

Two studies published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggest treatment of depression either with therapy or drugs reduces the risk of suicide in all age groups and especially during the first months of treatment.

Both studies showed a decrease in suicide attempts after beginning treatment – regardless of the individual’s age.

Treatment does save lives when it is used. Unfortunately, the ongoing stigma surrounding mental illness prevents many people from seeking help and also often stops family members of suicide victims from speaking out about their loved one’s death.

When suicide remains an unaddressed taboo subject, it can become a cycle. People who lose a loved one to suicide are at five times the risk of committing suicide themselves. Bringing suicide out of the shadows and talking about it openly will increase awareness and support from the community, which in turn could save lives

Since the World Health Organization predicts depression will be the second most common disabling condition in the world by the year 2020, now is the time to make sure we know how to detect it and seek help.

Depression is more than feeling sad. Symptoms do include a depressed mood, but also include feelings of helplessness and hopelessness; a loss of interest in things that were once enjoyable; social withdrawal; appetite changes; sleep disturbance; and increased irritability.

Signs that a loved one may be at risk of suicide include: previous suicide attempt(s); mental health conditions, in particular mood disorders; combined mental health and substance abuse issues; family history of suicide; hopelessness or helplessness; impulsive or aggressive tendencies; barriers to accessing mental health services; loss; stressful life event; access to lethal methods; unwillingness to seek help because of stigma; exposure to suicide (family, peers, significant others); physical, emotional or sexual abuse; legal issues, arrests or incarceration; or sexual identity conflict.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above risk factors, are feeling overwhelming helplessness or despair or are feeling suicidal for any reason, seek help. Talk to someone you trust and enlist the aid of a professional. Don’t wait.

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This came by email so there is not link to where this information came from, but it did come from the Farewell Foundation.


Greetings Farewell Foundation members and supporters. Here is a short update to keep you informed:

Carter Case Back in BC Supreme Court, April 16, 2012

The parties in the Carter et al are back in BC Supreme Court on Monday April 16th. The purpose is to provide Madam Justice Smith with submissions about the impact of the appeal decision concerning the Bedford case in Ontario. The Bedford decision addressed the constitutionality of Canada’s laws against bawdy houses and communicating for the purposes of prostitution. The Bedford decision considered matters of exploitation and harm, which are also considerations in the context of assisted death decisions. Therefore, Madam Justice Smith has asked that the parties in Carter provide her with submissions to help her consider how the Bedford ruling may impact her pending ruling in Carter.

Quebec Parliamentary Commission Report on Dying with Dignity

On March 22nd the Quebec National Assembly’s delivered its long-awaited report, Mourir dans la dignité (Dying with Dignity). News headlines and many commentators said that the report recommended legalizing assisted suicide, but that was not the case at all. In fact, the Quebec report recommended that doctors should be permitted to perform euthanasia or “medical aid in dying” in exceptional circumstances, and it was expressly against assisted suicide. At a press conference, committee member Mme Hivon clarified why the report came out against assisted suicide: “[W]e reject (assisted suicide) because we feel that the society put so much effort and so much emphasis on the importance to fight for life and to fight against suicide that we cannot send contradictory messages.”

The Quebec report was presented as a progressive and important “first” provincial initiative in Canada. The full report in French and an English summary of the recommendations is available at the Quebec National Assembly website:

Interestingly, both the Quebec report and commentators on it appeared to forget that more than 20 years ago a BC Royal Commission approved of what it believed was widespread support for the right to die with dignity. The 1991 report, Closer to Home, was the work of a BC Royal Commission on Health Care and Costs, chaired by Justice Peter Seaton. Under the heading of “Requested Mercy Killing” the Royal Commission recommended that the BC government ask the federal government to amend the Criminal Code so that physicians could prescribe, and health care workers could administer, pain relief medication in a fatal dose. Under the heading of “Assisted Suicide” the Royal Commission recommended that the BC government ask the federal government to amend the Criminal Code so that s.241(b) would not apply to situations where health care workers assist in the suicides of terminally patients, as long as such assistance complied with professional ethical standards.

The BC Royal Commission recommendations were shelved. It is an open question whether the Quebec recommendations will have a similar outcome.

Debates on “Medically Assisted Dying” Sponsored by Centre For Inquiry

The Centre for Inquiry is supporting a series of debates on the topic, “Should Medical Assisted Dying be Legal?” Farewell Foundation believes that assistance to die is not necessarily something that only doctors can do, and it advocates the de-medicalized approach used in Switzerland. Tonight, April 12 at 7:00 p.m., Wanda Morris of Dying with Dignity Canada debates Dr. Will Johnston of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at SFU Harbourside Campus (Room 1900). Additional debates this month are in Kamloops (April 18), Kelowna (April 19) and Calgary (April 21). Contact info "at" for details.

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Woman pleads for the legal right to die - by The Canadian Press - Story: 67941 - Nov 30, 2011

Gloria Taylor is pushed in a wheel chair by her sister Patty Ferguson as they arrive for a news conference in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

An emotional plea has been made by an ailing West Kelowna woman who's gone to court seeking the right to a doctor-assisted suicide.

Gloria Taylor, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, told reporters in Vancouver she doesn't want to die, but she also doesn't want to die an agonizing and horrible death.

The right-to-die challenge in B.C. Supreme Court has been hearing expert evidence for two weeks and the plaintiffs case will open tomorrow.

Taylor was near tears as she talked of a friend's recent gruesome death, saying it wasn't peaceful nor dignified, and she doesn't want to die that way.

In the 18 years since Sue Rodriguez challenged the laws, Taylor says the beliefs of Canadians have changed and it's way past time for the law to change.

Taylor says she's fighting so that all the people of Canada will have the choice in the way they want to die.

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This came by email, so there is no link

Greetings Farewell Foundation Members and Supporters.

National Post, Tom Blackwell reporting December 29, 2011,

67 Percent of Canadians Support Legalizing Assisted Suicide: Poll

More than two-thirds of Canadians support making it legal for doctors to help the terminally ill kill themselves, a new poll suggests as the assisted-suicide issue once again provokes heated debate across the country. Advocates on both sides of the question say the findings from a Forum Research survey are no surprise, but argue public opinion should not be the guiding force in deciding whether to change the current law, now under scrutiny in a closely watched B.C. court case.

Supporters of legalizing the practice maintain it is a matter of basic human rights that transcends popular attitudes; opponents say Canadians' beliefs would change if care at the end of life were improved and death made more comfortable. The poll of 1,160 adults, conducted Dec. 13, indicated that 67% of respondents favoured legalizing physician-assisted suicide of terminally ill patients.

Support varied from 60% in the Prairie provinces to 81% in Quebec.

"It's a pretty high number," Lorne Boznikoff, president of Toronto-based Forum, said Thursday. "You don't often find that many Canadians agreeing on anything…. The public seems to be way ahead [of government] on this issue."

The question was asked just after the start of a B.C. Supreme Court challenge of the law by Gloria Taylor, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease. She says she is unable to look after even her most basic bodily functions and wants the right to end her life with a doctor’s help.

The case revisits a question famously adjudicated by the courts almost 20 years ago, when Sue Rodriguez, another Lou Gehrig’s sufferer, made a similar constitutional assault on the legislation. She eventually lost at the Supreme Court of Canada, but later did commit suicide with the aid of an unidentified physician.

Further stirring the pot is the report issued last month by a panel of bio-ethicists and other experts appointed by the Royal Society of Canada, the nation's premier scholarly academy. That group recommended the Criminal Code be amended to allow assisted suicide, as is already the case in countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland and in three U.S. states.

The Forum poll's results mirror those of similar surveys in the last two or three years, said Russel Ogden of the Farewell Foundation, which advocates for the right to get help in ending life.

"Twenty years ago Sue Rodriguez asked 'Who owns my life?' And most Canadians would answer that question with 'I do,' " he said. "It's as simple as that."

In the B.C. case, federal lawyers spoke in defence of the current "absolute prohibition" against all forms of assisted suicide, but the government should not change its stance based solely on the weight of public opinion, said Mr. Ogden. Polls generally show that Canadians favour capital punishment, too, but that does not justify bringing back the death penalty, he argued.

"We maintain it's a basic human right," Mr. Ogden said about assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said his organization's own polling has come up with similar results, but noted that more detailed surveys show that the bulk of those who favour assisted suicide only "somewhat" support the idea, rather than strongly back it.

Plus, even those who favour the practice express concerns about it being abused, with vulnerable people essentially killed against their will, he said.

The whole debate would be changed if the quality of services provided to people at the end of their lives - from palliative care to nursing homes - was improved and those final days were more often made less painful, uncomfortable and undignified, said Mr. Schadenberg.

"Canadians really do fear dying in painful situations, or having an unacceptable death experience," he said. "Guess what? I don’t want to die that way either. And I don't think it's a necessary way to die in our culture today."

The assisted-suicide question was part of an omnibus poll conducted by Forum, considered accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


A pdf file with the survey results by Canada’s regions can be read at the Farewell Foundation’s blog:

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This came by email so there is no link.


This Farewell Foundation Report covers the Carter Trial December 8 - 13, 2011

Day 16-19: Thursday December 8 – 13, 2011: The Defendant’s Arguments


Donnaree Nygard presented Canada’s position over the course of three and a half days. When she was finished, George Copley presented the argument for the Attorney General of BC on the afternoon of December 13th.

Ms Nygard explained to the court that she did not have time to write a short argument, so she was providing a long one -- 198 pages. She said that the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia is an “incredibly difficult policy issue” and expressed shock at the previous day’s submissions by the interveners, in particular the Farewell Foundation. She said that while Canada appreciated that the Farewell Foundations rights-based analysis of autonomy was a principled position, the Carter plaintiffs were not seeking an autonomy right. Rather, Carter was asking for a policy change for people suffering grievous and irremediable illness. Such a policy, she said, was the responsibility of parliament and not the courts.

Nygard’s first argument was that the doctrine of stare decisis does not permit the Court to reconsider the prohibition against assisted suicide since the Supreme Court of Canada found that the prohibition is constitutional and in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. In Rodriguez the SCC rejected the claim that a terminally ill person has a right to assistance to suicide, even when the person is suffering and cannot do so without assistance. Canada says the Rodriguez ruling is binding on the Court and that should be the end of the matter.

The Attorney General of Canada also says that the blanket prohibition on assisted suicide and euthanasia is still the norm in Western democracies and while the plaintiffs say there is a trend toward the decriminalization or legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia, this is not actually the case. While some jurisdictions have allowed assisted suicide or euthanasia since the Rodriguez ruling, Canada says that “many more Western jurisdictions have rejected attempts to legalise assisted suicide or euthanasia or have actually enacted legislation to strengthen or re-affirm the existing prohibitions on these practices.”

Ms Nygard reviewed the history of the criminal law against assistance with suicide, since Canada’s first Criminal Code took effect on July 1, 1893. She said the prohibition of assisted suicide and euthanasia expresses the fundamental value of preserving human life and “the state’s interest in preserving life by not condoning the taking of another’s life. It reflects the policy of the state that the value of human life should not be depreciated by allowing life to be taken by another.”

Justice Smith asked Nygard how, if the state does not condone the taking of life, we explain killing in self-defence, or sending people to war? Nygard said that those situations are different, they are not about condoning the taking of life but about exceptions to the taking of life with a different set of rules. For example, said Nygard, self-defence is a narrow excuse for killing in a situation where there would be a loss of life anyway.

Nygard said Canada’s parliament has repeatedly rejected legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Since 1991 nine private members bills at the House of Commons have either been defeated or were not debated. Last year Bill C-384, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Right to Die with Dignity) was defeated by a vote of 228 – 59. She noted that one reason Canada had rejected capital punishment was because even the best justice systems make mistakes and this results in wrongful executions, and that legalizing assisted death would have the same risks.

Nygard said that courts in the USA, England, and Europe have upheld the prohibition of assisted death, and that the BC Supreme Court should do the same. She also argued that medical associations around the world opposed physician assistance in dying, and emphasized that the New Zealand Medical Association held that even if the law were to change in that country, the NZMA would continue to regard the practice as unethical.

With regard to people with physical disabilities, Nygard said persons with “complete disability are in a different situation than individuals without physical disabilities with respect to their ability to end their lives without contravening the criminal law.” However, even a person with severe disabilities can still end his or her own life without assistance, either by refusing medical treatment or stopping eating and drinking.

Canada’s position is that the absolute prohibition against assistance in suicide is “based on the understanding that all people who are considering suicide, with or without physical disability, are vulnerable and in need of protection from the interventions of others. In enacting a blanket prohibition, Parliament has adjudged that all persons who might wish to end their lives are vulnerable to abuses, coercion, and subtle pressures and has legislated accordingly.” The law, said Nygard, may be paternalistic but in that respect it is “equally paternalistic to the able-bodied and the disabled.”

In closing, Canada’s position was that “the taking of a life represents the most serious crime in Canadian law.” Prohibition is “consistent with Canadian values and the state’s interest in preserving life by not condoning the taking of another’s life.”


On December 13th George Copley presented the argument for the BC Attorney General, as he did in the case of Sue Rodriguez nearly 20 years ago. Mr. Copley reviewed the record for the Rodriguez case and compared it to the case presented by the plaintiffs. He said the arguments for Gloria Taylor are essentially the same as those for Sue Rodriguez, therefore the principle of stare decisis applied and the court should reject her claim.

Copley rejected the claimant’s case that things had changed since Rodriguez. He said that the blanket prohibition against assisted death was still the norm around the world. Just because a new law had been enacted in Oregon, Washington, and Belgium, and that the Netherlands had codified what was previously a policy for doctors, this did not change the fact that the norm around the world is still prohibition.

Copley submitted that the plaintiff’s claim that there is no ethical distinction between withdrawal of treatment that causes death and a positive act to hasten death is no different than the one put forward in Rodriguez. The Supreme Court of Canada rejected that argument in 1993 and Copley believed it would do so today.

The spectre of a “made in Canada slippery slope” was raised. Copley said the Canadian Medical Association had expressed concern that if euthanasia or assisted suicide were permitted for “competent, suffering, terminally ill patients,” then courts might extend this to people who are not competent, not suffering, and not terminally ill. Copley warned that “reliance on the autonomy principle alone leads logically and inevitably to physician assisted death on demand.”

Picking up on Canada’s argument that severely disabled people can still end their lives, Copley said “the able bodied and the disabled can equally commit suicide by refusing to eat or drink or by refusing provision of artificial nutrition or hydration. Decriminalization of suicide does not in purpose or effect make a distinction between the able-bodied and the disabled. All that s. 241(b) does is remove one means of committing suicide … (an) able-bodied person may have more possible choices as to means of committing suicide but the means of committing suicide is not a benefit conferred by government.”

Justice Smith commented that refusal of food and drink as method of suicide seemed “harsh.” Copley replied that a doctor could ethically treat the suffering of a patient who chooses to die that way [see note below **].

Similar to the position presented by Canada, British Columbia said legalization is an “exceedingly complex social issue” that would be better left to parliament to decide, because it could choose from a wider range of alternatives than the courts. “(A) blanket prohibition on assisting suicide, and … euthanasia, is necessary to achieve the objective of protecting vulnerable persons in a real and substantial manner. Nothing less will suffice.”

[** Farewell Foundation notes that Canadian courts have not considered the refusal of life-support and artificial nutrition/hydration to constitute suicide, as is now suggested by both Canada and British Columbia. Case law, Zsiros (2003) and Martens (2004), has said that aiding suicide includes actions that “move the process of suicide along.” If, as suggested by the Attorney General for BC, a doctor can treat the suffering of a patient who has stopped eating or drinking, then it would seem that the government is saying that the doctor can ethically move the process of some forms of suicide along.]

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110

Email: info "at"

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This report came by email so there is no link.


This Report covers the Carter Trial December 1, 2011

Day 11: Thursday, December 01, 2011

Counsel for the plaintiffs, Joe Arvay, began the first day of what will be several days of argument. He told the court that the case involves the rights of unfortunate Canadians who have irremediable medical conditions that cause intolerable suffering, such as “ALS, Huntington’s, ravaging cancer … but also those with rarer conditions, like the bluntly but aptly named “Locked-In Syndrome” - a condition capable of transforming the body into the breathing equivalent of a medieval dungeon.” He said that there are those who “believe there are states of being that are literally worse than death, and who wish to embrace the latter in the time, manner and circumstances of their own choosing.”

The first legal point to address was the 1993 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that denied Sue Rodriguez the right to assistance to die. Arvay argued that the Rodriguez ruling was not binding on the BC Supreme Court because the facts in this case differ from those in Rodriguez, there are new developments in law that undermine any precedent, and foundational principles of human rights are involved.

Section 7 of the Charter of Rights—the right to life, liberty, and security of the person—comprised the bulk of the day’s argument. The Court was told that the right to life was deprived when individuals are denied the “right to make and carry out the decision to end one’s own life.” The right to liberty is harmed by “state interference with the right of the individual to a protected sphere of autonomy over decisions of fundamental personal importance.” And, security of the person is harmed “by state-imposed restrictions on the right and ability of an individual to make and act upon decisions concerning his or her own body, to exercise control over matters fundamental to his or her physical, emotional and psychological integrity, and by the resultant impairment to his or her human dignity.”

The Court was also informed physician assisted dying can be safely regulated and that other end-of-life medical decisions such as refusal, withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment are subject to much less rigorous oversight. Currently, these decisions are not subject to any formal review process: “In the context of refusal or withdrawal, there is not only no process for vetting the patient’s decision, the life-ending act need not even be reported as such. The practice of terminal sedation, which on the evidence can also hasten death, is also carried on in the absence of regulation and oversight. Further, in both of these contexts, the decision may be made by a substituted decision-maker - adding yet another significant level of risk.”

Gloria Taylor was in court to hear the evidence. From Taylor’s affidavit, the Court heard Taylor express her concern about a double standard with regard to choosing to die from withdrawal of treatment versus physician assistance:

“I also cannot understand why it is permissible for my friend, who is on kidney dialysis, to say ‘enough is enough’ and make the decision to die. I cannot understand why the law respects his wish and decision to die, but does not do the same for me. We are equally competent. I do not understand how or why it is the role of government to say that his choice results in a “natural” death, but my choice would not.”

The Court was also told that while palliative care is an option for many, it is paternalistic for Canada and British Columbia to insist that it knows what kind of care is good for patients, and to say that palliative sedation is the answer to assisted death. Quoting from her affidavit, the Court heard what Gloria Taylor thinks of palliative sedation:

“While I appreciate that others may feel differently about it, personally, I find the idea of terminal sedation repugnant. I do not understand how anyone could assert that it is a viable alternative to physician-assisted dying. I cannot believe that any rational person would want that end for themselves or anyone they care about. I can understand that, if you allow a person’s suffering to become completely overwhelming, there will be a point where terminal sedation is better than soldiering on, but I cannot see how anyone, approaching death rationally and while still able to evaluate their options, could choose to die that way. It is not rational to choose to waste away slowly while unconscious, but still alive. There is no closure in that, no dignity.

The idea that I might, even though in an induced coma, be able to hear people and things going on around me as I lay wasting is a terrifying thought to me. And if it is correct to say that I would not have any sensation at all of being alive while in that coma, then I do not see why I cannot instead have the dignity and closure of actually being dead.

I do not want my last conscious thought to be worrying about what will happen - to my body and my family - once I am in the coma. I believe terminal sedation would horrify and traumatize my 11 year old granddaughter. We are extremely close and I believe that if I was not dead but rather sedated, she would insist on visiting and staying with me and, if denied the right to do so, would feel guilty about not staying and resentful of those who prevented her from doing so. Either way, her mind would be filled with visions of my body wasting away while I was “alive.” I cannot stand the idea of putting her through that. I believe that would be cruel to my granddaughter. I could not feel at peace knowing that that was what I was leaving her, and my other family members, to go through.”

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110

Email: info "at"

Blue Divider Line

Dying West Kelowna woman in court
by The Canadian Press - Story: 67261 - Nov 14, 2011

Photo: The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Gloria Taylor is pictured in this undated handout photo. On Monday, lawyers for Taylor will be in B.C. Supreme Court to argue against laws that make it a criminal offence to help seriously ill people end their lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO

It's been nearly 20 years since Canada's laws on assisted suicide have been challenged by a terminally ill person, and now a similar right-to-die case has thrust the issue back into the spotlight.

On Monday, lawyers for Gloria Taylor, 63, will be in B.C. Supreme Court to argue against laws that make it a criminal offence to help seriously ill people end their lives.

In August, the Farewell Foundation lost its court battle to have the laws changed because its plaintiffs were anonymous, but in a separate case, Judge Lynn Smith agreed to fast track a trial for Taylor, who wants a doctor-assisted suicide.

She suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, an incurable illness that gradually weakens and degenerates muscles to the point of paralysis.

Taylor is one of five plaintiffs in the case, which also includes family physician Dr. William Shoichet, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Lee Carter and her husband Hollis Johnson. The couple took Carter's mother to Switzerland two years ago so she could die with the help of a doctor.

"Lee and Hollis feel they could be criminally prosecuted for assisting her mother and that's why they are challenging the laws," said B.C. Civil Liberties lawyer Grace Pastine, adding Kay Carter suffered from spinal stenosis, which involves a narrowing of the spine.

"She was essentially going to end up lying in a hospital bed, flat like an ironing board."

While advocates for doctor-assisted suicide say it's time for Canada to amend the laws, opponents argue the issue raises serious concerns about abuse by people who stand to gain from the death of someone who may not be in a position to provide consent to assisted suicide.

The right-to-die, or euthanasia, debate last arose in 1993 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-4 against Victoria resident Sue Rodriguez's battle to change the law. She also had ALS and died illegally the following year with the help of an anonymous doctor.

Sheila Tucker, one of the lawyers involved in Taylor's case, said the Kelowna, B.C., woman is relatively mobile and uses a scooter to get around but recently fell and hurt her ribs, and that could worsen her condition.

Tucker said that since the Rodriguez case, other jurisdictions, including Oregon, Washington and Belgium, have adopted laws to protect people from being influenced or pushed into planning their own deaths.

"An absolute prohibition is no longer constitutionally feasible now that there's evidence of workable systems," Tucker said.

She said studies in Oregon have suggested that people who want to die with the help of a doctor aren't likely to be victimized.

"The studies indicate that the very kind of personality type that is most likely to seek physician-assisted dying is, in fact, the independent, strong-willed personality. And I think that Gloria just happens to be an excellent example of that," she said.

"If we were not able to get some sort of timely resolution that benefited Gloria personally then I think it's very important for her to nonetheless know that that case is going to the Supreme Court of Canada and that potentially she's changed the law for others."

But Dr. Will Johnston, the B.C. spokesman for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada, said the Taylor case is troubling because it proposes that doctors would not be required to administer the lethal dose or even witness the death.

A new right-to-die law may give people another tool to abuse the elderly, especially when money is involved, he said.

"We simply don't know how to get a handle on the abuse right now, and what's being proposed simply opens up an entirely new avenue for potential victimization and abuse," said Johnston, a family doctor.

"We're in the middle of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. So there is simply an excessive motivation, it seems, for often family members to do things that aren't really in the best interest of the elderly."

Along with delivering babies and providing palliative care for dying patients, Johnston is also hired by lawyers to do competency or capability assessments on elderly or ill people.

He said he can think of at least 10 elder abuse cases involving people whose family members were trying to get their wills changed or bilk them of their savings by suggesting their elderly relatives weren't capable of making such decisions.

"There's nothing in the Carter-Taylor case which would prevent people who would benefit from the death of the person from proposing the suicide to them, arranging it or facilitating it, being there at the time of death. There's no requirement for third-party witnesses."

Blue Divider Line

This is an email from the Farewell Foundation:

The Carter trial is scheduled from November 14th to December 16, 2011. Farewell Foundation will send regular updates to keep you informed.

Day 1: Monday, November 14, 2011

The first day of the Carter trial began before a packed courtroom at 09:45, with the Sherriff holding about 10 people back in a corridor until seats were available. After the opening arguments, there was cross-examination of Dr. Linda Ganzini, staff psychiatrist at Oregon Health Sciences University. Dr. Ganzini is an expert witness for the plaintiffs. Her affidavit is 28 pages long , plus another 324 pages of material about her many scientific papers.

Dr. Ganzini testified about her research conducted before and after implementation of the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. Much time was spent discussing the characteristics of people who request assisted dying and go on to die by ingesting a lethal prescription. Oregon’s experience in 525 assisted deaths from 1998 – 2010 shows that the vast majority of patients do not show symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder. Regarding the worry about undue influence to pressure people to die, Dr. Ganzini noted that families usually more likely to oppose loved ones who wish to end their lives. She said that people who ask for the lethal prescription are very often “rugged individuals” who resist being cared for by others—they would rather die their own way than by their disease.

The Attorney General of Canada and Attorney General of British Columbia focused on what they considered to be weaknesses in the Oregon approach, particularly with regard to screening patients for mental disorders. For example, it was speculated that a patient might not have a mental disorder at the time of application for a lethal prescription but might develop mental disorder a few weeks later. Dr. Ganzini agreed that this was a distant possibility, but terminally ill patients are seen several times a week by various professionals who have many opportunities to see the onset of diminished mental capacity.

At the end of the day Madam Justice Lynn Smith asked Dr. Ganzini if the Oregon Death With Dignity Act could be improved. Dr. Ganzini noted that the system does not pretend to be perfect and that its practices have evolved over the years. She told the court that when a problem is identified, that’s an opportunity to improve the system, not to scrap the law.

Day 2: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday’s expert witness was Dr. Douglas McGregor, Regional Director of Palliative Care for Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. Dr. McGregor was a witness for the AG of British Columbia and his affidavit was 14 pages long, plus another 192 pages of material that mostly covered palliative care policies and procedures.

A primary issue in Dr. McGregor’s evidence was “palliative sedation,” which is a final resort practice where a terminally ill patient with complex suffering is sedated for several days until they die. In palliative sedation, a patient is not normally given fluid or food, and they die after a few days. In theory, a patient in deep palliative sedation does not experience awareness and therefore does not suffer. Dr. McGregor said that he promises his patients that if their suffering becomes severe, he will not give them assisted death but he will offer palliative sedation. Dr. McGregor opined that assisted death is not the right thing for society.

Counsel for the plaintiffs introduced Dr. McGregor to two papers that question the effectiveness of palliative sedation. One study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine said that “Awareness can occur in up to 17% of those undergoing conscious sedation. Seventeen percent of individuals who undergo palliative sedation fail to have symptoms relieved by sedation.” This can cause a sense of helplessness, acute fear, and panic. Another very recent paper from the Journal of Medical Ethics put to Dr. McGregor argued that the palliative technique of voluntary refusal of food and fluid with sedation may actually “represent a cruel and inhumane method of terminating life” and that it may inflict additional harm and suffering.

In light of the above articles, Dr. McGregor was asked if he could agree that he should no longer promise his patients that he could rid them of suffering though palliative sedation. Dr. McGregor said the journal articles were news to him and conceded, “I’ll have to think about that.”

Next: Day 3, Wednesday November 16th the court will hear evidence from Dr. Marcia Angell. She is a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and former Editor in Chief of the New England Medical Journal.

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110

Email: info "at"

Blue Divider Line

This is an email and newsletter from the Farewell Foundation:

Greetings Members and Supporters,

Attached is our newsletter for November 2011. It is also available in the “News and Events” section of our website.

The Carter trial starts Monday, November 14th, in BC Supreme Court. The trial is schedule for one month and it is unlikely that Madam Justice Lynn Smith will deliver her decision this year.

Over the past two months many of the procedural issues have related to the trial format. This trial will be a summary trial, rather than a conventional trial. In a conventional trial litigants appear before a judge or jury, and witnesses are called to testify about the facts. Witnesses can be cross-examined and the judge or jury decides the facts, applies the law, and give a verdict. Conventional trials take a long time to complete and usually have to be scheduled many months, even years, in advance.

A summary trial is meant to efficiently resolve a dispute without waiting for a conventional trial. In a summary trial, evidence is put to the judge in affidavits and lawyers spend less time arguing the admissibility of witness evidence. Instead the judge must review written submissions and decide which parts are admissible. In the Carter case, more than 100 affidavits and expert reports have been submitted. There are more than 10,000 pages of material for the judge to consider before issuing a ruling.

This summary trial will hear some witness testimony. On Monday, Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Linda Ganzini is scheduled to testify for four hours. Other witnesses scheduled this week include Dr. Douglas McGregor, Professor Marcia Angell, and Professor Margaret Battin.


Farewell Foundation is in this weekend’s TV episode of Context with Lorna Dueck. Context presents a Christian perspective on social issues. You can see the program in 3 - 8 minute segments at these links:

Part 1: Farewell Foundation, Russel Ogden:

Part 2: Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Jean Echlin/Hugh Sher:

Part 3: Mark Pickup, advocate for life and disability issues:

Part 4: Andy Bannister, Christian Apologist. Why does God allow suffering?:

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110

Email: info "at"

Blue Divider Line

This came by email so there is no source link.

Greetings Farewell Foundation Members and Supporters,

Farewell Foundation is pleased to be first to be granted intervener status in the Carter case. On September 2nd, Madam Justice Lynn Smith granted us status to give written and oral submissions and we can apply to make further submissions should conditions change during the trial.

The five directors for Farewell Foundation applied to intervene on grounds that counsel for Carter were unlikely to introduce evidence supporting the Swiss model for self-chosen death.

After lengthy discussion this week, we are delighted that BCCLA lawyers have committed to “forcefully arguing” the admissibility of expert evidence on the Swiss model. They have retained Dr. Georg Bosshard, a renowned researcher, clinical ethicist, and physician. Dr. Bosshard authored an important chapter on the law and practice of assisted dying in Switzerland in the acclaimed book Euthanasia and the Law in Europe. He is also author of many important studies that show how the Swiss model works and the critical role of non-profit groups such as EXIT and DIGNITAS. At the end of this message are links to several of Dr. Bosshard’s research papers.

Farewell Foundation believes the Swiss model is most effective at enhancing self-determination because it offers the least restrictive access for those who need help with self-chosen death while also providing the best accountability mechanisms to public authorities, including prosecutors, police, and coroners. Through Dr. Bosshard and several other witnesses, the court will have the opportunity to consider the benefits of the Swiss model.

We want to congratulate counsel for BCCLA for putting together a formidable case that is supported by numerous expert witnesses from around the world.

The next court appearance is September 20th when the Attorney General of Canada will argue to postpone the four week trial scheduled for November 14th in favour of an eight week trial starting in March, 2012.

We will keep you apprised.

Publicly Available Research Articles by Dr. Georg Bosshard

Fischer, S., Huber, C. A., Furter, M., Imhof, L., Imhof, R. M., Schwarzenegger, C., Ziegler, S. J. & Bosshard, G. 2009). Reasons why people in Switzerland seek assisted suicide: the view of patients and physicians. Swiss Medical Weekly, 139, 333-338.

Ziegler, S. J., & Bosshard, G. (2007). Role of non-governmental organisations in physician assisted suicide. British Medical Journal, 334, 295-298.

Bosshard, G., Ulrich, E., & Bär, W. (2003). 748 cases of suicide assisted by a Swiss right-to-die organization. Swiss Medical Weekly, 133, 310-317.

Bosshard, G., Fischer, S., & Bar, W. (2002). Open regulation and practice in assisted dying. Swiss Medical Weekly. 132, 527-534.

Fischer, S., Bosshard, G., Faisst, K., Tschopp, A., Fischer, J., Bär, W., & Gutzwiller, F. (2005). Swiss doctors’ attitudes towards end-of-life decisions and their determinants A comparison of three language regions. Swiss Medical Weekly, 135, 370-376.

Bosshard G. (2008). Chapter 16: Switzerland. In Griffiths J., Weyers H., & Adams M, eds. Euthanasia and law in Europe. Oxford: Hart Publishing. (pp. 463-482).

[Ask your reference library for a copy]

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
V3L-3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110
info "at"

Blue Divider Line


Email from the Farewell Foundation August 26, 2011

Greetings Members and Supporters,

On August 17th the BC Supreme Court denied Farewell Foundation the right to proceed with our challenge to Canada’s prohibition against compassionate assistance with self-chosen death. In her ruling, Madam Justice Lynn Smith said the door was open for us to apply to intervene in the Carter case, which is set for trial in November. If granted, intervention status would allow Farewell Foundation to make submissions and possibly lead evidence in court.

Yesterday, Farewell Foundation filed its application to intervene in the Carter case. Madam Justice Lynn Smith will hear our application on September 2nd. You can read our application in the “NEWS and EVENTS” section of our website Also on our website you can read the August 17th BC Supreme Court decision, which was published yesterday.

Farewell Foundation seeks intervention status to ensure that the Swiss model for self-chosen death is considered in the context of Carter. The Carter case proposes an exception to the Criminal Code to allow “physician assisted dying.” The Carter court documents say little about how “physician assisted dying” would work , but one of Carter’s lawyers was reported in the online edition of the Vancouver Sun last week as saying that the medical model being proposed is similar to the one used in Washington and Oregon, where doctors can prescribe lethal prescriptions only to patients who are terminally ill with fewer than six months to live.

Farewell Foundation want to ensure that the definition of “physician-assisted dying” adopted by the Court will not unnecessarily restrict the assistance with self-chosen death that we want to make available for our members.

We will update you as soon as possible after the September 2nd hearing.

Russel Ogden
Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Avenue
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110
info "at"

Blue Divider Line

Email from the Farewell Foundation August 17, 2011

Greetings Members and Supporters,

Today, the BC Supreme Court denied Farewell Foundation standing in its civil claim against the Attorney General of Canada. A key issue for Madam Justice Lynn Smith was our commitment to the anonymity of our members and their personal health information. Despite this hurdle we remain committed to taking on the challenges for your right to the option of self-chosen death.

Our Two Options for Continuing:

Intervene in the BCCLA case

Madam Justice Smith was highly respectful of the important issues that we raised. She encouraged us to file an application to intervene in the BCCLA’s trial in November, which addresses common legal ground. We will do what Madam Justice Smith suggested and we will seek her approval to intervene, to introduce evidence, and to cross-examine witnesses. Given Madam Justice Smith’s comments, we’re optimistic that our application will be approved at our next court appearance, September 2nd.

A key reason to intervene in the BCCLA case is to inform the court about the less restrictive Swiss model and to argue that self-chosen death should not be unduly restricted to physicians. In our last announcement, it was noted that the BCCLA seeks very restrictive “physician-assisted dying.” Farewell Foundation wants a wider range of options for assistance and our research shows that demedicalized self-chosen death, as it is in Switzerland, is a safe, effective, and accountable option.

A New Civil Claim with Publicly Identified Members

If any members wish to discuss the possibility of being publically identified in a new civil claim, contact me by email or telephone. If and when a Farewell Foundation member is prepared to be publically identified in court, a new civil claim may be filed. To gain standing, this member must be facing a life threatening condition or a serious disability and the member would want the option of assistance with self-chosen death from Farewell Foundation.

Thanks to you all for your ongoing support and commitment to the right to autonomy and self-determination. Below this message are some links to today’s news reports.

Russel Ogden

Farewell Foundation
322 – 720 6th Avenue
New Westminster, BC
V3L 3C5 Canada
(604) 521-1110



Also see the Farewell Foundations blog here

--------------- says:

Do you remember the movie named "Who's life is it anyway", it was a really good movie.  Set in a hospital room, the action revolves around Ken Harrison, a sculptor by profession, who was paralysed from the neck down (quadriplegia) in a car accident and is determined to be allowed to die.  Clark presented arguments both in favour of and opposing euthanasia and to what extent government should be allowed to interfere in the life of a private citizen. In portraying Ken as an intelligent man with a useless body, he left the audience with conflicting feelings about his desire to end his life.

Brian Clark (June 2, 1932–) is a British playwright and television writer, best known for his play ‘’Whose Life Is It Anyway? which he later adapted into a screenplay

Blue Divider Line

RCMP identify body found in lake
CHBC, CHBC News, Kelowna: Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Craik was found by a paddle boarder approximately 200 meters off the public dock at City Park, just after 7:30 a.m. on May 13.

RCMP have released the name of the male whose body was found floating in Okanagan Lake on May 13, 2011.

19 year old Justin Craik was found by a paddle boarder approximately 200 meters off the public dock at City Park, just after 7:30 a.m.

An autopsy, conducted by the B.C. Coroner's Service, has ruled out foul play and the pending final autopsy report will confirm the exact cause of death.

Craik's identity was confirmed today and his family have been notified.

Craik was the subject of an investigation after his family reported him missing on April 1st.

The Police investigation into both matters is now concluded while the Coroner's Service investigation continues.

Blue Divider Line

Man pleads with cops to shoot him - by RCMP - Story: 58100 - Nov 8, 2010

Vernon RCMP were forced to deal with a delicate situation over the weekend.

Police say about 5:15 a.m. Sunday, a 24-year-old man was found standing by the back door of the detachment office.

He was shirtless and was waving a ratchet at the officer, demanding the officer shoot him.

"Our officer spoke to him and told him he would not be shot. The man demanded he go get an officer who would as he was done with life," says RCMP spokesman, Gord Molendyk.

"Our officers were able to arrest the man without incident and take him to VJH for treatment."

Molendyk says issues like these do come up quite often.

He says officers are put in a very tense situation while they deal with individuals that suffer from mental health issues.

Blue Divider Line

Family of slain boy slams B.C. mental health system
CTV News - By: The Canadian Press - Tuesday Jul. 27, 2010

John Fulton was last seen on the steps of his Grand Forks, B.C., home August 15, 2009.

The family of a 12-year-old autistic boy who was stabbed to death by his mentally ill neighbour says the child was let down by British Columbia's mental health system and his killing was "completely avoidable."

John Fulton disappeared from the steps of his Grand Forks, B.C., home last August. Two days later, Mounties discovered his body inside Kimberly Ruth Noyes' home.

Noyes' second-degree murder trial wrapped up last week when she was found not criminally responsible for the killing due to mental disorder. She was sent to a forensic psychiatry hospital where her condition will be reviewed after 45 days.

Fulton's family said little during the B.C. Supreme Court trial, but in an open letter this week blasted B.C.'s mental health system.

"This senseless crime was completely avoidable. Noyes' actions were completely deplorable but mental health's inactions are equally so," the letter reads.

Noyes was diagnosed in 2003 with bipolar disorder, a condition that causes manic delusional episodes as well as suicidal depressions.

Each time she was in a manic phase, her psychiatrist testified at trial, she was quite psychotic and completely rejected the notion that she was mentally ill. Noyes believed her dead father was God, that the devil was in her house and that God was coming in a helicopter to take everyone away.

Noyes' eldest daughter and other psychiatrists who had treated her testified about Noyes' delusion that she had to sacrifice her youngest daughter in order to resurrect her.

Fulton's family said in its letter that testimony at the trial made it quite clear that Noyes was a threat to the community and a danger to children, yet no one warned the families that lived at the low-income complex she called home.

"The local RCMP, mental health workers, psychiatrists, her doctor, and her family knew she was ill," the letter reads. "And despite her clearly disturbing behaviour the months before John's death, no one thought to hospitalize her. Where was the common sense?"

Fulton's family said it's not suggesting that people who struggle with mental illness should be locked away from society.

But when someone is uttering threats about sacrificing children, the family said, mental health should be charged with protecting the rights of the general public.

"The loss of this beautiful child has been devastating to our family," the letter states. "The way in which he was taken from us was unimaginable. The pain we feel will take years to lessen, but will never be fully gone."

Noyes had a troubled childhood.

Her mother died when she was very young and she took her passing badly. Noyes' father died the day before she was to graduate.

Three people in her extended family also committed suicide.

Noyes enrolled in the University of Calgary but dropped out. She eventually completed a business administration degree and worked as a bookkeeper

Blue Divider Line

Golden Ears Bridge re-opens after man talked off ledge
Maple Ridge News - July 20, 2010

The Golden Ears bridge was closed both ways for five hours on Tuesday, after a distraught man managed to climb onto a ledge on the Langley side.

Around 10:30 a.m., traffic was blocked off so police could deal with an emotionally disturbed man who had managed to climb up and over a tower and past the suicide barriers.

He spent hours on a ledge which stands about 150 feet above the Fraser River, said witnesses.

Police tried to talk the man down as he was seen hanging by one arm from one of the cable wires.

While police negotiators worked with the man, they also brought in their high angle rescue team, Emergency Response Team and sent a water-borne team into the river.

Air 2 was also participating for some time, said Langley RCMP.

The Caucasian man, believed to be in his late 30s or early 40s, was talked down around 3:45 p.m.

The Golden Ears Bridge was the first bridge in B.C. to be built with suicide barriers.

The sharply pointed metal bars were constructed to stop people from being able to climb over the edge.

Traffic on Highway One was completely jammed heading westbound and feeder routes to the Golden Ears bridge were backed up on both sides of the river.

Blue Divider Line

Barriers may not cut suicides: study - CBC News - Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Photo of Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct

A study suggests suicide barriers like the one on Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct may have little effect overall. (Lori Slater)
A new study says that the suicide barrier erected on Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct hasn't reduced the number of people who jump to their death in Canada's largest city every year.

The report concludes what many critics said at the time the barrier was being built: people intent on committing suicide by jumping from heights will just find another location.

The Bloor Street Viaduct held the dubious distinction of being the bridge with the world's second highest suicide rate after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Between 1992 and 2002, there were an average of 10 suicides a year at the Toronto location.

After the barrier was completed in June 2003, that number dropped to zero.

"However, there was no impact on suicide by jumping in the region as a whole," a summary of the report states. "Toronto's overall yearly suicide rate by jumping was almost unchanged when comparing the pre- and post-barrier periods at 56.4 per year compared to 56.6 per year."

The researchers, led by psychiatrist Dr. Mark Sinyor from University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, also found that "there was a statistically significant increase in suicides by jumping from bridges other than the Bloor Street Viaduct."

One thing that the researchers couldn't quantify however is the effect the barriers may have on impulse actions.

"[The barriers] may save more lives than other suicide prevention strategies, especially in children and young adults, who tend to act impulsively in fleeting suicidal crisis," the study says.

One of the strongest impetuses for the barrier in Toronto was the suicide of 17-year-old Kenneth Au Yeng.

The St. Michael's Choir School student had been admonished on the morning of Dec. 17, 1997 for his part in a school yearbook prank. Several hours later he vaulted over the side of the bridge.

His tragic death helped to push local politicians into taking action.

Similar barriers have also been erected at other world landmarks — the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower being prime examples.

The researchers conclude that, "this research shows that constructing a barrier on a bridge with a high rate of suicide by jumping is likely to reduce or eliminate suicides at that bridge, but it may not alter absolute suicide rates by jumping when there are comparable bridges nearby."

The study was published by the British Medical Association.

Blue Divider Line

Anyone in need of immediate help near Vernon BC should call the PIN Crisis Line at 250-545-2339

Body of missing Vernon man found
Vernon Morning Star - By Roger Knox - June 01, 2010

A week-long search for a missing Vernon man ended Monday evening.

The body of Garry Kurbis, 52, was discovered with his missing pick-up truck in a wooded area off Hartnell and Dixon Dam Roads in the BX.

“Foul play is not suspected in the death,” said Vernon RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk.

Kurbis’s truck was discovered by a resident out for a walk in the area.

Kurbis had last been seen Tuesday on surveillance video leaving his Vernon condo in his white Dodge Dakota pick-up truck.

The long-time autobody shop employee did not show up for work Wednesday, something family and friends said was completely out of character for Kurbis.

Appeals to the public were made by police, family and friends, concerned for Kurbis’s well-being.

Police stated Monday that Kurbis had left a note in his home, saying he was dealing with some issues. His bank accounts had not been touched from the time he disappeared.

Friends conducted searches of the area, as Kurbis was known to be a fan of off-roading, particularly in the Aberdeen Plateau area.

“We would like to thank the public for the calls we received in connection with this case, and for their assistance in attempting to locate Mr. Kurbis,” said Molendyk.

More than 800 people had joined a Facebook page asking for help in finding Kurbis, a popular figure on local golf courses and at the Vernon Curling Club.

On Monday and Tuesday, numerous messages of condolence had been left on the page.

Blue Divider Line

Foul play not suspected in Kurbis death
by Castanet Staff - Story: 54888 - Jun 1, 2010

For a little less than a week, friends and family of a Vernon man were living with the fear of not knowing where he was.

On Monday evening, their worst fears were confirmed. Garry Kurbis, 52, was found deceased in his vehicle.

RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says the RCMP received a call just after 6 p.m. Monday.

“The truck associated to Garry Kurbis was found in the bush area off Hartnell Road in Vernon.
Officers attended, Garry was found deceased in his vehicle,” says Molendyk.

He says foul play is not suspected in this case

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Friends and family worry about missing man
Vernon Morning Star - By Roger Knox - May 29, 2010

It is not like Garry Kurbis to just go off without saying a word to family or friends.

And it’s really not like Kurbis to not show up for work at a local autobody shop, a place he’s worked at “forever.”

Friends, family and Vernon RCMP are puzzled by Kurbis’ disappearance. He was last seen Tuesday when he left his residence in his 1994 white Dodge Dakota pick-up (licence plates 3544 NH). Concern arose when Kurbis failed to show up for work Wednesday.

“We know nothing, it’s totally out of the norm for him,” said Randi Tingle, Kurbis’s second cousin. “When I got a call saying Garry wasn’t at work I was like ‘What the hell?’ It’s totally out of character for him. Big-time.”

All attempts by Vernon RCMP and friends and family to find Kurbis have been unsuccessful.

Asked how concerned the family is about her second cousin, Tingle replied, “A lot.”

Tingle said she wasn’t aware of any issues Kurbis might have been dealing with.

Vernon RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk said Friday that Kurbis’ bank accounts had not been touched, and that his cell phone was found in his home.

“We are doing everything we can to find Mr. Kurbis,” said Molendyk. “We’re concerned for his well-being, as are his family and friends.”

As of Friday, police had not received any tips as to Kurbis’s whereabouts, nor had his truck been spotted.

Tingle started a Facebook page – Please Help Us Find Garry Kurbis, Missing From Vernon, B.C. – on Friday, and had attracted more than 150 members by Friday afternoon.

“Once the news went public, we decided to start the page to help spread the word, you know, word-of-mouth in case anybody had any sightings or information,” said Tingle.

Kurbis, 52, is five-foot-six, weighs 139-pounds, and has brown hair and brown eyes.

Anybody with any information is asked to call the Vernon RCMP at 250-545-7171.

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On May 15, 2010 at approx. 10:30am we heard sirens.

Someone emailed us and said they seen 3 police cars and an ambulance down on Hodges Road at Killiney Beach, Vernon BC.

We were told (rumour is) that an older gentleman close to 80 years old shot himself through the neck trying to commit suicide because he was suffering unbearable hip pain.

Obviously the health care system failed him if that is true.

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Education critical to addressing suicide
Vernon Morning Star - By Cara Brady - January 14, 2010

Gerard Hayes, applied suicide intervention skills trainer, speaks at First Aid for Suicide Thursday.  photo submitted

There is something that can be done when a person feels someone is thinking about suicide.

“I think there’s a lot of fear and stigma around suicide,” said Sharon Durant, chairman of the Vernon Suicide Prevention Committee which is made up of a number of local service agencies.

“A lot of people don’t know what to do if someone is giving signs that they may be suicidal so they don’t do anything.”

The committee presents First Aid for Suicide with Gerard Hayes Thursday.

Hayes is an applied suicide intervention skills training master trainer at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

“We want to show people how to recognize the signs and how and where to get them help,” said Durant.

“It’s like CPR. If you don’t know how to do it and someone near you needs it, you cant help them the way you should.”

Durant believes people can learn how to put things in context to assess the real risk.

For example, a person may say in exasperation about one area of their lives, “I can’t handle this anymore,” but have no thoughts of suicide.

All factors should be considered.

“Don’t ignore that gut feeling. Someone may be reaching out to you, looking to see if you accept the way they’re feeling. Asking them how they’re feeling shows you care about them and accept them,” she said.

“By talking, you may be able to help them get professional help and prevent something worse down the road. People are more likely to reach out to someone they know first rather than to a professional.”

High school students may be asked by peers to keep secrets but anything to do with suicide is one secret they should never keep. School counsellors can show them how to get help.

Suicide affects people of all ages from all cultural, religious, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds and is increasing affecting seniors.

Durant has trained with Hayes and is enthusiastic about being able to bring him to the area as a speaker.

“He’s excellent at giving an overview and teaching the skills people need to help anyone of any age who might have suicidal behaviours,” she said.

“We know that by providing a place where people can talk about suicide, it is very helpful. At the vigil in Polson Park, a woman said she couldn’t tell us how important it was for her to be there and acknowledge her loss and know she was not alone.”

The presentation will include two speakers on their personal experience of losing someone to suicide and service agencies will have resource material available.

Anyone in need of immediate help should call the PIN Crisis Line at 250-545-2339.

The free First Aid for Suicide presentation takes place Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Best Western Vernon Lodge.

Child minding is available at no charge but people must register for it by Jan. 18 by calling 250-542-3114 (ext. 2120.)

The Facts

In 2008, 487 British Columbians took their own lives with 95 of those from the Interior. It is estimated that there were 7,170 attempts.

At any given time, five per cent of the population is having thoughts of suicide with that number doubling for young women between 15 and 24.

In 2002, there were 3,548 deaths by suicide in Canada with fewer than 500 murders and about 3,000 traffic accident deaths.

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Man sets himself on fire at Royal Jubilee
Saanich News - By Kyle Slavin - December 10, 2009

A 23-year-old man is critical condition in hospital with significant burns to his entire body after dousing himself in gasoline and setting himself on fire in the parking lot of Royal Jubilee.

Around 2:45 Thursday police, fire and ambulance attended after being called about either "a man or a car on fire in the parking lot," said Cst. Paul Lamoureux with Saanich police.

"Numerous witnesses in the parking lot saw him and they helped to extinguish the male," Lamoureux said.

The man's identity is being withheld. He is currently in a medically-enduced coma.

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