NEWS
03/18/2016 11:20 EDT | Updated 03/19/2017 01:12 EDT

Toronto man who was granted right to doctor-assisted death has died

An 81-year-old Toronto man who became the first person in Ontario to be granted a physician-assisted death has died.

The family of the man, known only as A.B., released a statement saying he died on Friday.

"Today, A.B., our dear husband, father and grandfather passed away in peace and dignity with the assistance of his caring physicians," the statement reads. 

"It was his life and his choice and we support him in that choice unconditionally."

A.B. had said in a court affidavit that he was in the advanced stages of aggressive lymphoma. He was diagnosed in 2012. 

Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell granted A.B.'s exemption on Thursday after a 30-minute hearing. The man's family had said A.B. wanted to die this weekend or sooner.  

No government opposition

Neither the federal nor provincial government opposed the man's request.

A.B.'s lawyer, Andrew Faith, read a statement on behalf of his client following the judge's decision. A.B., a married grandfather, thanked the court for rendering a decision that would allow him to die with dignity.

"This is a right of human dignity and I am thankful that I no longer have to live under a cloud of stigma and shame that I feel as I slowly and painfully lose control," the statement read. 

A.B. also said he's had a good life and that his only regret was having to wage a court battle in his final months.

"My hope is that our government will see fit to make permanent changes in the law so that no other family will have to do this ever again," A.B. said. 

In the family's statement released after A.B.'s death, they say they will do everything they can to make certain the "the legislation to allow physician assisted death is enshrined quickly and permanently." 

Read the family's full statement: 

"Today, A.B., our dear husband, father and grandfather passed away in peace and dignity with the assistance of his caring physicians. It was his life and his choice and we support him in that choice unconditionally.   

We are so thankful for the ongoing care, guidance and medical assistance from his enlightened and compassionate physicians, who like A.B., believed strongly that an individual deserves to be the author of their own journey's end when the pain is intolerable and there is no further hope for recovery.

We are grateful to our lawyers Andrew Faith and Emma Carver of Polley Faith LLP who helped us understand every nuance of this case and unwaveringly helped our treasured A.B. to stand up for his rights and articulate his reasoning to the courts. 

Finally, we would also like to thank Superior Court Justice Paul Perell for listening so carefully to our story, applying the law and understanding the critical need for a speedy decision based on A.B.'s considerable and growing pain and suffering.  

Seeing our beloved A.B. calm, peaceful and without stigma and shame at his life's end gives us the strength to weather our grief at his departure.  In death, he has been restored to the strong, vibrant, and dignified man we knew before cancer and extraordinary pain brought him to his knees. Knowing that his wishes were carried out takes away the sting of his death. The courage he showed us at the end will dwell in our hearts forever and eventually allow the sun and the stars to shine bright enough on our family to mend the hole that is left because of his death. 

We are so very proud that he used his last limited energy to fight for something he believed in so fundamentally: the right to decide when he was ready to pass and the right to have the assistance to do so with comfort and dignity. It was his most fervent hope that our government will take the steps necessary to ensure that all Canadians can gain this right — without having to battle in the courts — should they choose to exercise it according to their own circumstances and beliefs.

Our grandpa, dad, husband was a proud citizen of this country and believed Canada to be the best place in the world.  In his memory, we will do everything we can to continue to make this a reality which includes making certain that the legislation to allow physician assisted death is enshrined – quickly and permanently."