History and Key Dates

Warmest thanks to founding member Sheilagh Hickie for researching and compiling this information!
  • 2013

    Quebec commissions report to determine how to implement medically assisted dying in that province; Bill 52 is introduced as provincial healthcare legislation that will allow medically assisted dying; appeal of Carter/Gloria Taylor decision heard in March and publicly broadcast over the Internet; DWD launches advisory council of physicians with 13 founding members.

    Margot Bentley's family is unable to prevent her from being fed in her care home (against the wishes expressed in her Advance Care Plan) and the family takes the provincial government to court.


    University of Alberta study reveals support for medically assisted dying of over 80% percent in that province; 25% of doctors indicate they are prepared to become actively involved in assisting patients to die; Vermont becomes first state where a governor campaigns on, and is elected for, support for medically assisted dying.

  • 2012
    Right to die movement wins landmark victory as law criminalizing medically-assisted dying is deemed to violate Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Gloria Taylor becomes first Canadian granted personal exemption for assistance to die; Federal Government appeals both decisions; Gloria Taylor exemption hearing fast-tracked - initial decision upheld; Federal Government re-appeals Gloria Taylor exemption; Gloria Taylor dies a natural death; Royal Society Panel releases report in support of legalization of assisted dying; All-party Commission of Quebec issues report on end-of-life choices in support of legalizing medically assisted dying; Dying with Dignity grows to over 2,000 members; 3 DWD Chapters organize and begin local activities.
  • 2011

    Evelyn Martens and Jack Kevorkian die; DWD’s new website is well received; 3 cases brought forward to BC courts. DWD cooperates with BC Civil Liberties Association on their challenge; speaker and ambassador training started; membership drive undertaken.

  • 2010

    Angus Reid poll shows that 85% of Canadians “believe legalizing assisted-dying would give people who are suffering an opportunity to ease their pain and 76% believe it would establish clearer guidelines for doctors to deal with end of life decisions.”

    Wanda Morris becomes DWD Executive Director after serving on the Board for two years; Quebec’s Assemblee Nationale forms a committee to study dying with dignity (83% of Quebeckers back legalized euthanasia); DWD makes a presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care in Victoria; DWD attends World Conference in Australia.

  • 2009

    DWD goes through reorganization as Client Support Program suspended for six months; Lalonde bill does not pass.  Members force special meeting and reinstate Client Support Program.  New Board is brought in that will fully support the program.
     

  • 2008

    Luxembourg passes bill to decriminalize euthanasia; private member’s bill introduced in federal parliament by Quebec MP Francine Lalaonde; Don Babey steps down as Executive Director and Jane Rogers takes over; 15th anniversary of Sue Rodriguez case; DWD attends World Conference in France.
     

  • 2007

    New design for DWD logo; first Marilynne Lecture held in Toronto; new group Formed in Quebec (Association quebecoise pour le droit de mourir dans la Dignite) ; advance care planning workshops held throughout Ontario; new Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) standards established in Ontario.
     

  • 2006

    DWD hosts World Conference in Toronto with over 230 delegates from 16 countries in attendance.

  • 2005

    Evelyn Martens found not guilty; many media interviews during year; Don Babey becomes Executive Director.

    In Florida, 15 years after Terry Schiavo suffers irreversible brain damage and is put on life support, her husband wins the right to have the life support removed.  

    Pilot project for Client Support Program is complete. DWD Board of Directors decides to make the Client Support Program permanent.  

  • 2004

    Cynthia St. John elected to Board of World Federation; DWD attends World Conference in Tokyo.

  • 2003

    DWD’s grant from Trillium Foundation attacked by Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (refuted by DWD with good article on the issue in Ottawa Citizen); first Marilynne Seguin lecture held (on Oregon law); DWD receives large donation from Martha C. Bishop.
     

  • 2002

    Evelyn Martens of the Right to Die Network is arrested and charged with aiding and counseling the suicides of two terminally ill women; Martin Frith becomes DWD Counselling Program Coordinator; DWD attends World Conference In Brussels.
     

  • 2001

    Trillium Foundation (Ontario) approves a grant of $177,800 for DWD to develop a counseling and patient advocacy program.
     

  • 2000

    Cynthia St. John resigns as Executive Director;  Kathy St. John is hired as Executive Director; 2 members of DWD attend World Conference in Boston.
     

  • 1999

    Dr. Jack Kevorkian convicted of second-degree murder; Marilynne Seguin has a hastened death in October.

  • 1998

    DWD moves to present location; New England Journal of Medicine reports that 36% of 1902 American physicians would hasten a patient’s death if legal.

    Board convenes Client Support Program Committee chaired by Dr. John Gandy.
     

  • 1997

    DWD works with Senator Sharon Carstairs on Bill S-13 (Protection of Health Care Providers) but Bill does not pass second reading; Dr. Nancy Morrison charged with murder in Halifax (case dismissed). Marilynne Seguin retires as Executive Director and Cynthia St. John takes over.  
     

  • 1996

    National survey by U of Calgary finds that 20% of Canadian doctors would assist a patient to die, if it were legal; The Medical Post reports that a survey in the U.S of critical care nurses stated that 1 in 5 had helped patients to die.

    DWD goes digital with the launch of its first website and the introduction of email.

  • 1995

    DWD is 15 years old; Oregon passes Death With Dignity Act; advanced directives become law in Ontario; membership survey gets 20% response; Gallup Poll again shows that 75% Canadians support doctor-assisted suicide; Canadian Bar Ass’n requests speaker from DWD at annual meeting.

    DWD presents a written critique to the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia on proposed legislation concerning advance health care directives.
     

  • 1994

    Marilynne Seguin’s book A Gentle Death published; DWD develops criteria for physician-assisted death in Canada which was sent to MP’s; DWD appears at the Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide chaired by Senator Joan Neiman; 2 DWD members attend World Conference in UK.

  • 1993


    DWD is intervener at Supreme Court in Sue Rodriguez case; public forums held in Toronto, London, Calgary and Winnipeg; Marilynne Seguin attends World Conference in Japan; DWD presents submission of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice; CMA requests DWD’s position on physician-assisted death.
     

  • 1992

    New Living Will distributed; membership hits 6,500; Gallup Poll finds that 75% of Canadians favour legal euthanasia; DWD presents submission to Ontario Committee on Administration of Justice on various changes to bills.

    Maclean’s runs article on Nancy B case featuring interview with Marilynne Seguin; Douglas Campbell becomes President; DWD’s National Advocacy Program includes personal counseling of individuals in need, education of the public, working towards changes in legislation and increasing media interviews

    DWD presents a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice regarding the Criminal Code.
     

  • 1991

    Donald Elliott becomes President; World Right-to-Die Societies President visits Canada; advertising in TTC subway and buses in Toronto underwritten by member; Marilynne Seguin goes on speaking tour in BC; public forum held.
     

    DWD delivers a presentation to the Government of Ontario's Standing Committee on the Administration of Justice concerning bills 7 and 8.

    Dying with Dignity submits written briefs to the Manitoba and Alberta Law Reform Commissions providing feedback on proposed legislation for advance health care directives.

    DWD presents a brief and oral testimony to the House of Commons Special Committee reviewing bill C-203, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

  • 1990

    25% of members complete survey; surge in membership following 1988 and 1989 forums; 7 DWD members attend World Conference in the Netherlands; many media interviews sparked by news from Dr. Kevorkian.

    In Florida, Terry Schiavo suffers irreversible brain damage and is put on life support.  Her husband begins the fight (against her parents and the religious right) to have the life support removed.

    DWD presents written brief to a special BC government-directed research committee addressing concerns of the seriously and terminally ill, home care and the use of advance directives.
     

  • 1989

    Another public forum at University of Toronto: Gretta Riddell-Dixon elected President; membership survey undertaken.

  • 1988

    DWD brochure published; Voluntary Euthanasia Declaration made available; Marilynne Seguin attends World Conference in San Francisco; another successful public forum at the Royal York Hotel.

  • 1987

    Prof. Graham Parker elected President; survey was mailed to 2,100 Ontario doctors (219 responded) on awareness and attitudes to Living Will (64% said they would respect it; large public forum held (900 in audience),

    In addition to the Living Will document in use since 1982, DWD drafts the first Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Voluntary Euthanasia Declaration made available to members.

  • 1986

    DWD submits questionnaire to Ontario hospitals regarding their policies on resuscitation intervention, palliative care, ethics committees and the Living Will. Only 89 of 209 responded and, on the Living Will, only 18 acknowledged it as a statement of intent by a patient.

    Metro Toronto Homes for the Aged give inhabitants the right to
    refuse resuscitation.

    DWD hosts two public forums; TVO holds programs on the right to die directed by Marilynne Seguin.
     

  • 1985

    DWD establishes branches in Vancouver and Ottawa.

    With the support of the Ontario Hospice Association, DWD conducts a comprehensive survey of 160 hospitals in Ontario.  This survey reviewed hospital policy and practice regarding resuscitative intervention for the terminally ill, palliative care services, ethics committees and use of LIving Wills.

  • 1984

    First DWD newsletter printed.

    DWD President, Prof. Nowell-Smith, attends meeting of World
    Federation of Right-to-Die Societies; many media interviews and public speaking engagements undertaken during the year.

    To question posed by Canadian Institute of Public Opinion,
    "When a person has an incurable disease that causes great suffering, do you or do you not think that competent doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life through mercy killing, if the patient has made a formal request in writing?" 66% said yes, up from 45% in the first survey in 1968.
     

  • 1982

    DWD incorporated as a Canadian charitable organization;  first version of DWD’s Living Will printed.

  • 1981

    DWD holds first public meeting, with Derek Humphrey as speaker.

  • 1980 (Sept.)

    Movement joined by Graham Parker and Marilynne Seguin and renamed Dying With Dignity; Marilynne Seguin named as Executive Director.

  • 1980 (June)

    Four members (Jean Skelhorne, Patrick Nowell-Smith and two others) meet to set up the Committee for the Right to Die With Dignity.

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