About Us
About Us:
Officers
Ruth von Fuchs
   President and Secretary

Advisors
Susan Bracken
Brian Finnemore, MD
John Hudson
Paul Zollmann

Size


   The group has about 400 members.


History

1991
   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.


1992
   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.


1993, 1994
   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.


1995
   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.


1996, 1997
   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.


1998
   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.

1999
   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.


2000, 2001
   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.


2002
   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.


2003
   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.


2004
   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.

2005
   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.)

2006
   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.

2007
   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.