Ruth von Fuchs
President and Secretary
Brian Finnemore, MD
The group has about 400 members.
Annual Report of Activities 2018
(by Ruth von Fuchs)
I prepared and distributed the final issue of the RTDSC Newsletter, covering the period from July 2012 to December 2017. The long timespan allowed me to write a compendious nine-page article instead of doling out 22 quarterly newsbytes. The article’s title was "The MAID Chronicles, or How We Got Here From There". You can read it, and the rest of the newsletter, here: Right to Die Society of Canada Newsletter 4:3 - 9:4 (Jul. 2012 - Dec. 2017)
I attended the Las Vegas conference "Dying in the Americas" organized by Final Exit Network. Instead of discussing the Canadian situation in detail (this was very competently done by Shanaaz Gokool of Dying With Dignity) I made a philosophical/sociological presentation entitled "A Tale of Two Gillians". To see the full presentation, click the links below:
Two Gillians Prologue
Two Gillians Slideshow
Two Gillians Epilogue
I responded to a Health Canada survey on palliative care and other end-of-life matters. You can read my submission here: Palliative Care: Broadening The Vision (pdf)
I refined my carotid-compression exit technique and made a PowerPoint presentation for the NuTech meeting held in CapeTown at the time of the 2018 conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies.
I participated in Dying With Dignity's "Postcard to Jody" campaign by sending a card with this text pasted onto its front:
The suffering before dementia occurs can be worse than the suffering after it occurs, and thus more in need of remediation. From page 32 in the Penguin 2018 paperback edition of Behave by Robert M Sapolsky: "... In another study subjects waited an unknown length of time to receive a shock.12 This lack of predictability and control was so aversive that many chose to receive a stronger shock immediately."
12. G. Berns, "Neurobiological Substrates of Dread," Sci 312 (2006). 754
Right to Die Society of Canada History
Victoria writer John Hofsess founds the Right to Die Society of Canada to meet the need for a choice-in-dying group that will not be constrained by the prohibitions affecting charitable organizations. He creates a very professional and substantial magazine, Last Rights, to be the voice of the Society.
Victoria ALS sufferer Sue Rodriguez contacts John and together they plan a court challenge to the law forbidding assistance with suicide. John and the Society spend $25,000 on this project, most of it for legal fees. Sue is very successful in building public awareness of the problems caused by Section 241(b) of the Criminal Code.
The Society polls MPs and senators regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide. When returning her questionnaire, Senator Joan Neiman informs John that she feels it is time for a thorough examination of Canada's laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide, and she thinks the upper house of Parliament would be a good place to do this work. (The House of Commons has repeatedly shown itself unwilling to consider the issue.) A committee is formed and begins to hold hearings. The Society is one of the groups that makes a presentation to the committee.
Windsor MS sufferer Austin Bastable, whose motto is "Carrying on where Sue left off", contacts the Society in the hope of being able to raise his profile and become more effective. The group donates computer equipment to him, and John creates a section for him within DeathNet, the website he has been building. Austin succeeds in bringing assisted suicide back "onto the front burner", receiving extensive press coverage and being the subject of an hour-long TV documentary broadcast by the CBC. DeathNet is voted best Canadian health/medical site in 1995 and again in 1996.
Somewhat discouraged by the Senate Committee's failure to recommend significant changes, and by Parliament's subsequent failure to implement even the few modest changes that were recommended, John shifts his emphasis. He begins to focus on helping people in the here and now, rather than striving (perhaps vainly) for legislative change within the lifetimes of the group's current members. He also changes the group's name to Right to Die Network of Canada, planning to establish local chapters in cities where there are at least 50 members.
Last Rights magazine ceases publication and John transfers its name to a new organization he is creating as a "sister group" for the Network: Last Rights Publications, or LR Publications. He produces a series of explanatory booklets, each on a different self-deliverance method, and offers them for sale -- following the example of the Hemlock Society in the United States, whose financial underpinnings came originally from sales of Derek Humphry's book Final Exit. (For customers ordering the booklet about the plastic-bag method he also offers bags that have had a casing and elastic already sewn on, so that people are not put at a disadvantage by being unable to sew.) But John feels the need to refine the existing self-deliverance methods, and to discover new ones that are better. He therefore links up with Derek Humphry and also with Dr. Philip Nitschke (of Australia). After contacting several other interested researchers they hold the first international conference of a group they name "New Technology for Self-Deliverance", or Nu-Tech for short.
The five Canadian choice-in-dying groups agree to produce a joint newsletter. It is called Free To Go and is edited by Ruth von Fuchs, who has become increasingly active in the Network and in the right-to-die movement as a whole.
John concentrates more and more on LR Publications and Nu-Tech. Responsibility for the Right to Die Network is unofficially assumed by Ruth in Toronto, though membership revenue and administration are still handled in Victoria by John and by Evelyn Martens.
Evelyn Martens is arrested and charged with counselling and assisting the suicides of two B.C. women. She is freed on bail but is forbidden to have any connection with the Network. John also becomes less active. Ruth therefore takes over the management of the group, with help from her husband Themis Anno and from Ottawa members Paul and Deltry Zollmann.
Working from an archival membership list (the only current list having been lost when police seized Evelyn's computer), the new management appeals for help to pay off the group's debts. The members on the reduced mailing list, even though they are small in number, prove themselves to be large in spirit. Soon the group is back on a sound financial footing.
Recalling that the name change from "Society" to "Network" had been questioned by some members, Ruth asks the members to indicate their preference. Of those who vote, 53% want "Society", 33% want "Network", and 14% are happy with either. In response, the group goes back to its original name.
A new website, www.righttodie.ca, is created to serve the Society's members and the public. Although the DeathNet website has not been kept up to date, much of the material on it is timeless and quite useful, and the Society therefore purchases the site contents from John. The plan is that selected pages from the old site will be moved to the new site, as time permits.
On November 4 the jury in the Evelyn Martens case returns "Not Guilty" verdicts on both charges (regarding Monique Charest and Leyanne Burchell). As expected, Evelyn announces that she does not wish to resume her duties as membership director, and the database continues to be administered by Ruth in Toronto.
Members in the Victoria area are asked whether they want to be included in a shared list of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, to facilitate local communication and activities. Thirteen members say "Yes"; the list is therefore compiled and distributed.
When Francine Lalonde's dignity-in-dying bill (C-407) is selected for debate, the Society compiles another list, of 52 MPs who are thought likely to be supportive of Lalonde's initiative. In case these MPs might appreciate some "debate ammunition" to supplement their own ideas, a mailer is prepared -- in English and in French -- containing rejoinders to eight of the most popular arguments against the legalization of aid in dying. (Although many of these mailings undoubtedly get pulped, one MP is so pleased by his copy that he phones the Society to thank us.)
The Victoria members hold their first meeting. Two of them report on an Australian conference which they had attended (one of them having been asked to be a speaker) and there is a demonstration of the helium method for self-deliverance.
When the Vancouver group Choices in Dying finds it necessary to disband, some of its members and some of its funds come to RTDSC.
The Society's website (www.righttodie.ca) completes its rise through the ranks of Google.ca, and becomes the first site to be displayed in response to a request for the three words "right to die". This leads to many student inquiries and new memberships.
When the World Federation of Right to Die Societies holds its convention in Toronto in September, the Society applies for membership, and is accepted.
A 15-year-old Toronto student named Zoe Cleland starts an online petition in support of physician-assisted suicide being legalized in Canada. The Society's website publicizes the petition and provides a link to it. Several hundred people sign it during the year.
The Society's membership form starts providing a place for people to indicate that they want to be in touch with nearby fellow members. The hope is that this will reduce members' isolation and perhaps even lead to the formation of some new "local chapters", following the lead of the Victoria group.