Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hugh Scher responds to the death of Ed Hung.

A letter from Hugh Scher in response to the death of lawyer Ed Hung.

Hugh Scher is the EPC legal counsel
and a former chair of the Council
of Canadians with Disabilities
Human Rights Committee.
Dear members of the Hung family. 

I am deeply saddened by your loss, but equally saddened by Ed’s desire to exploit his situation for political purposes. There are a host of options that could have kept Ed pain free and still emotionally linked to friends and family throughout his remaining days. It is sad that Ed felt the need to use his last days to pursue a quest for death rather than to enjoy his life, friends and family.

It is just sad that he and those around him lacked the imagination and support to see the value in his remaining days of life, other than as a quest for death and to promote a certain political agenda.

This is the same situation for so many people with disabilities whose lives and experiences are so greatly devalued, including by those in positions of power  and privilege who are fuelling the right to die movement here in Canada and around the world.

There are numerous vulnerable people that would certainly be impacted by the decision to legalize assisted suicide. Safeguards to prevent against abuse have proven ineffective in places like Belgium and the Netherlands and elsewhere in the only 7 jurisdictions around the world that endorse this policy. Studies suggest that in 32% of euthanasia deaths in Belgium, a patient’s express consent and request was not received before they were killed, despite a clear legal safeguard that requires this. Despite this fact, not one physician in Belgium has ever been charged for violating the law. The same is true of the 47% of doctors in Belgium and 23% of doctors in the Netherlands who refused to report their acts of euthanasia or assisted suicide despite a clear legal requirement to do so.

Once the law is removed as a barrier to such conduct, it becomes that much more accepted and supported regardless of the clear breaches of legal safeguards in place to prevent abuse.

Ed was a passionate advocate of the law and a firm believer in the principles of due process and the rule of law. It is evident that these factors did not enter into his own personal choice to end his life or into his message after the fact. However, Parliament has repeatedly considered such considerations here and around the world and almost universally found that legalization of euthanasia was dangerous and bad public policy. 

I am again saddened by Ed’s own personal choice but steadfastly believe that the rule of law and basic human rights underlie and support continued prohibition of assisted suicide and euthanasia as sound public policy that is Constitutionally supported in Canada. I am also comforted to know that the overwhelming majority of countries and states around the world maintain such prohibitions as the norm and not the exception.

There is much we must work to do to improve end of life care, palliative and hospice care here in Canada. Euthanasia is not the recipe for that success. Equally important is to summon the creativity and imagination to appreciate the value of every person regardless of disability or illness and to support those with disability, including those near the end of life with care and compassion and not with a death that endangers us all and puts all of our lives at risk. As Ed was want to say, better a 1000 guilty people should go free than even just one innocent person be convicted, let alone innocently put to death.

Hugh Scher
Scher Law Professional Corporation

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