Assisted suicide debate reignites; minister stands firm

Susan Griffiths's talks with family Thursday, moments before dying by assisted suicide in a garden in Zurich, Switzerland. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

Canada’s Justice Minister says he won’t reopen the debate over assisted suicide despite the decision of Winnipegger Susan Griffiths to end her life via assisted suicide in Switzerland.

Close friend Cindy Rublee was with Griffiths in her last moments.

“It is absolutely the way she wanted to go. This is how she imagined it would happen, and it’s exactly how it happened,” said Rublee.

She said Griffiths legacy would be the lobbying she has inspired for the legalization of assisted suicide in Canada.

Assisted suicide is currently illegal in Canada but is legal in Switzerland. Griffiths said before she died she hoped the law would be changed.

Queen’s University medical ethics expert Udo Schuklenk has spoken out in support of Griffiths’ decision and said she should have been able to die in Canada.

Schuklenk said it’s time for Canada to review the assisted suicide legislation.

But Minister Rob Nicholson said even though the issue is “emotional and divisive” for many Canadians, he has “no intention of reopening this debate.”

He said in a written statement, “The laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities.”

Rublee said Griffiths friends will continue to lobby on her behalf.