Gloria Taylor, the West Kelowna woman who won a historic exemption to Canada’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide, has died of natural causes.

The 64-year-old died in hospital Thursday of an unexpected and severe infection she suffered as a result of a perforated colon, the BC Civil Liberties Association said in a statement.

“Gloria was a heroic woman,” BCCLA lawyer Grace Pastine wrote. “Even as her own body failed her, she fought for all Canadians to have choice and dignity at the end of life.”

Because of Taylor’s acute condition, she chose not to end her life with the help of a physician. She died surrounded by family and friends.

Taylor, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, was at the centre of a landmark B.C. Supreme Court case that declared Canada’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide unconstitutional and discriminatory on June 15.

Justice Lynn Smith postponed her ruling for one year to allow the government time to brace for the ramifications, but granted Taylor the right to take her life immediately.

Taylor responded to the decision a few days later at a celebratory press conference.

“Today we stand tall and say: We changed Canada forever. We made a difference,” Taylor declared.

“It took a long time and now, finally, we have emerged from the Dark Ages to realize that dying is a part of living.”

She also revealed that her condition was deteriorating; that she was losing her voice, and could no longer eat without the help of a feeding tube.

She announced that she would not take advantage of her exemption immediately, however.

“I live one day at a time and I’m not there yet,” she said.

The legal victory has been heralded by many as compassionate and overdue, but criticized by others, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, who fear it could lead to the abuse of vulnerable seniors.

The federal government has also announced it will challenge the decision in the B.C. Court of Appeals, though Pastine said the BCCLA will continue to fight in Taylor’s absence.

“Gloria was terrified that she would become trapped in her body as her ALS progressed and she was incensed that other Canadians with serious illnesses were facing the same cruel predicament,” Pastine said.

“Gloria lit the torch, now we will carry it. This case is her legacy.”