Thursday, September 10, 2015

Concealing euthanasia as cause of death a 'recipe for disaster'

This article was published by Advocate Daily on September 10, 2015.

Hugh Scher
If a doctor is to intentionally end the life of a patient, there must be full disclosure and public accountability around the act, Toronto health and human rights lawyer Hugh Scher tells the National Post in an article discussing whether the cause of such deaths should be classified as “natural causes” or euthanasia on death certificates.

Since the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the Criminal Code ban on doctor-assisted suicide in February, new dilemmas have surfaced, including whether deaths by lethal injection should be labeled “death by natural causes” on official documents, reports the Post.

“Quebec’s College of Physicians is considering recommending doctors list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death in cases of ‘medical aid in dying’ on public death records – and not euthanasia,” reports the Post, noting the college says it wants to ensure life insurance is paid to families in cases of euthanasia.
But Scher, a well-known voice in the end-of-life care debate, says the proposal amounts to fraud.
“You are talking about the intentional killing of a patient by a doctor. And now we’re suggesting that we’re going to cover up that intentional killing of a patient by a doctor and call it something else,” says Scher, 
Scher has acted as counsel to The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in several high-profile cases including Rasouli v. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2011 ONCA 482 (CanLII); Cuthbertson v. Rasouli, 2013 SCC 53, [2013] 3 S.C.R. 341; Bentley v. Maplewood Seniors Care Society, 2014 BCSC 165 (CanLII); Bentley v. Maplewood Seniors Care Society 2015 BCCA 91; Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2012 BCSC 886 (CanLII); Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) 2013 BCCA 435 (CanLII); and Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5.
“How is anybody supposed to have any confidence in a publicly administered system of euthanasia that is based upon a fraud,” Scher says in the Post.
Scher tells the college’s proposed recommendation “represents a serious threat to transparency and accountability in the application of the Quebec euthanasia regime.
“The notion that doctors should be permitted to falsify death certificates so as to hide the true cause of death in cases of euthanasia is a troubling affront to medical ethics, transparency and accountability,” says Scher. 
“Those who have promoted euthanasia in Quebec and across Canada have done so on the basis that it will bring into the open present circumstances of troubling practices of palliative sedation by providing for a public and transparent euthanasia regime.” 
Scher says: “If Canada is to engage in this dangerous social experiment, the least we can expect is full public accountability, transparency and compliance with the basic requirements of the law.” Anything else is a “recipe for disaster,” he adds. 
“If the present proposals are permitted to stand, it will be virtually impossible to enforce existing standards and legislative requirements and to discipline and punish those doctors that transgress those basic practices,” says Scher.
Scher suggests that judicial oversight and approval is required before acts of euthanasia are carried out by doctors in order to ensure compliance with the terms of the Quebec law and the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court.

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