Sue Rodriguez

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Susan Rodriguez Canada
Born Sue Shipley
(1950-08-02)August 2, 1950
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Died February 12, 1994(1994-02-12) (aged 43)
British Columbia, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Known for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) sufferer who litigated for the right to die by assisted suicide

Sue Rodriguez (née Shipley; August 2, 1950 – February 12, 1994) was a Canadian woman who became an activist for the legalization of assisted suicide in the country. She was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) in August 1991 and given two to five years to live. As the disease progressed and knowing the often grim fates of other sufferers, Rodriguez asked to be assisted to die, which was illegal in Canada under section 241(b) of the nation’s Criminal Code. A conviction for a violation carried a 14-year prison sentence.[1]

In 1993, represented by attorney Chris Considine, Rodriguez filed a lawsuit. Her case challenged section 214b of the nation’s nation’s Criminal Code. She alleged it violated sections 7, 12, and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She famously asked, “If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?”[2] Rodriguez's case ultimately reached the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled against her 5-4.[3]

On February 12, 1994, with the assistance of an anonymous physician, Sue Rodriguez took her own life[4] by an overdose of the drug secobarbital.[5] Then-MP Svend Robinson, a socialist member of the New Democratic Party (NDP), helped facilitate it. Robinson was regarded as one of Sue Rodriguez's most prominent supporters and was present at her death.[6] Her ex-husband Henry and their son Cole were not by her request. Robinson has vowed to never reveal the identity of the physician who assisted in the suicide.

A similar lawsuit, Carter v Canada (AG), led to physician-assisted suicide becoming legal in the nation in June 2016.[7] ALS sufferer Gloria Taylor was a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.[8]

Life and diagnosis[edit]

Sue Rodriguez was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and grew up in the Toronto, suburb of Thornhill. She lived in California for a time before returning to Canada. Her first marriage to Henry Rodriguez ended after less than eight years, and she had a son.[9]

In the media[edit]

The 1998 film At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story, which stars Wendy Crewson as Sue Rodriguez, dramatizes her story.


On June 17, 2016, medically assisted dying became legal in Canada.[10] An emotional Svend Robinson, who now lives in Geneva, Switzerland, told the press: “Today’s ruling is a victory for compassion, for justice and for humanity. And I pay tribute to the memory of Sue Rodriguez, who with courage, passion and dignity blazed the trail that led to this historic day. She would have been thrilled".[11]