Quebec. On February 13, a week after the end of the 30-day period in which an appeal was possible against Mr. Justice Dufour’s ruling that she had a right to be taken off her life support system, Nancy B.’s respirator was taken off; she died seven minutes later.
When she was unplugged, a hospital spokesman said, she was unconscious because of tranquilizers, and her heart stopped beating a few minutes later.
Her family was gathered in prayer by her side.
André Picard of the Globe and Mail reported that she was a devout Roman Catholic who had Mass said occasionally in her hotel room. Because she feared harassment, she had asked the media to respect her privacy (and even to refrain from using her last name).
Her death did not end disagreement over whether she should have chosen it.
Margaret Somerville of McGill’s Centre for Medical Ethics and Law said, “It’s sad that she saw this as her best option, but it would have been sadder if she was forced to live against her will.”
Donald Elliott, president of Dying with Dignity, thought it was right to allow her to end her life: “What we say is that you are entitled to make that choice.”
But Hélène Rumak, head of a foundation which represents the severely disabled, said that Nancy had a lot to live for and that she was stunned by the decision.
James Derksen, president of the Canadian Disability Rights Council, felt the same way; he said he would support the right of a terminally ill patient to refuse “heroic” treatment, but that Nancy’s decision was “reflective of society’s assumption that living life with a disability is not worth doing…”