Gloria Taylor, who won a landmark B.C. Supreme Court case for the right to die with dignity, has passed away.
She died suddenly on Thursday from a severe infection resulting from a perforated colon, said the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) in a statement on Friday.
Taylor, who had Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS, wanted the right to die with dignity and with the help of a doctor. In June, she was granted the right to physician-assisted suicide by a B.C. judge who gave her a personal exemption.
"This is momentous time in history. Now all Canadians will have the right to die with dignity. This is a blessing for me and for all other seriously ill Canadians," Taylor said at the time.
While Taylor won a hard-fought case, she told the media she had no immediate plans to end her life.
"Due to the acute nature and brief course of her illness from the infection, Gloria did not need to seek the assistance of a physician to end her life," said the BCCLA on Friday. "In the end, Gloria’s death was quick and peaceful."
Taylor, who lived in West Kelowna, died in hospital, surrounded by her friends and family members, said the group.
"We are grateful that Gloria was given the solace of knowing that she had a choice about how and when she would die. Thanks to the ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court, Gloria was able to live her final days free from the fear that she would be sentenced to suffer cruelly in a failing body," said Anne Fomenoff, Gloria’s mother.
"I am so proud of my feisty, determined daughter – she struggled to make the world better for Canadians. I speak on behalf of my entire family when I say we are so proud of her legacy. We are blessed to have known and loved this special woman."
The federal government appealed the B.C. Supreme Court decision for which a hearing is scheduled for March 2013. It's widely believed this fight will end at the Supreme Court of Canada.
"The BCCLA will continue with the lawsuit, fighting to protect Gloria’s victory against government appeals. Gloria lit the torch, now we will carry it. This case is her legacy," said Grace Pastine, the association's litigation director.
Another B.C. woman, Sue Rodriguez, was the first to challenge Canada's laws against assisted suicide. In 1994, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against her. Since then, jurisdictions around the world including Oregon, the Netherlands and Belgium have introduced laws that allow assisted suicide.
Taylor's lawsuit was as vigorously opposed by opponents as the Rodriguez case.
"We're saddened to hear of her death and had hoped she would enjoy a longer life and we remain convinced that she was mistaken in pursuing this litigation as a way to handle her situation," Dr. Will Johnston, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition BC., said Thursday.
With files from The Canadian Press