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First Marilynne Seguin Award to Colombia’s Beatriz Gomez

Taken from the World Right-to-Die Newsletter issue no. 46, Januray 2005.

The presentation of the first Marilynne Seguin Award to Beatriz Gomez, founding member and long-time President of Fundacion Pro Derecho A Morir Dignamente (DMD) of Colombia was made at the banquet for attendees on the final night of the World Conference of Right to Die Societies.

Gomez was selected because of her more than 30 years of ­commitment and contribution to the death with dignity movement which started when she lived in New York and was active with the Society for the Right to Die. In 1980, when she returned to Colombia, she founded DMD, the only right-to-die organization in Latin America. DMD pioneered living wills and was influential in the 1997 Constitutional Court decision which overturned a prohibition against assisting suicide (though no enabling legislation has been passed to carry it out.)

In 1999 Gomez was presented with a special medal struck in her name by Colombia’s Congress for her long service in the cause of a dignified death.

Beatriz Gomez exemplifies many of the stellar attributes shown by the late Marilynne Seguin during her many years as founder and leader of Canada’s Dying With Dignity Society based in Toronto. “Both Marilynne and Beatriz, who knew and respected one another for many years, have been the inspiring ­leaders in their countries efforts to bring choice to those near the end of life. Each displayed compassion and caring as well as dedication to the goal of bringing legal changes that might permit control and choice for patients as death approached,” said Dr. Richard MacDonald, Past President of the World Federation, in bestowing this award.

Gomez, now suffering from ­macular degeneration, received a stand­ing ovation as she was awarded the Memorial plaque and a prize of $2000, which she will be donating to DMD of Colombia. In her acceptance speech Gomez indicated not only her admiration for Seguin’s pioneering work but also for her planned death when she was ­ravaged by prolonged illness. Gomez was accompanied to the conference by her daughter, a doctoral student at Columbia University and professor of Urban Studies in Colombia.

The award was made ­possible through a bequest to the World Federation by Marilynne Seguin. Dr. Michio Arakawa graciously translated for the Japanese members present.

Milena Gomez, Beatriz Gomez and Dr. Juan Mendoza-Vega (current president of DMD-Colombia).