Friday, February 26, 2016

Assisted dying proposal a 'dangerous social policy experiment'

The following article was published by Advocate Daily on February 26, 2016

Hugh Scher
A parliamentary committee is endorsing a "dangerous experiment" in what would be the most wide-ranging assisted dying regime in the world without judicial oversight, says Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher.
“The suggestion of endorsing euthanasia for people with psychiatric conditions, for people who are depressed, for children, for people with psychological suffering — and doing it with absolutely no independent, objective, before-the-fact oversight by a court or tribunal to ensure powers are not abused — is extremely troubling,” says Scher, principal of Scher Law
“Effectively the government is suggesting the fox should be ruling the chicken coop and this notion is an extremely dangerous one,” Scher tells
The special parliamentary committee introduced the long-awaited recommendations on Thursdayas the federal government prepares to draft new legislation governing medical assistance in dying.

In Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, the Supreme Court struck down the ban on doctor-assisted death last year. The government has until June to come up with a new law that recognizes the ability of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives.

Contrary to the Supreme Court ruling in Carter, the committee suggests that people diagnosed with incurable conditions likely to cause loss of competence, such as dementia, should be able to make advance requests for medical assistance in dying, the report says.

The committee says physician-assisted dying should be immediately available to competent adults 18 years or older and — after further consultations — should be expanded to include "mature minors'' within three years, something Scher and many suicide prevention experts find alarming.
“The notion that children who aren’t able to drive and vote should somehow be able to access a needle in their arm to kill themselves when they are experiencing profound depression and feelings of hopelessness turns suicide prevention into a fallacy,” says Scher, counsel for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, the leading national and international association of doctors, nurses, people with disabilities and of leading experts on euthanasia and assisted suicide practices in foreign jurisdictions.
In a CityNews panel, Scher says there are not enough safeguards preventing misuse of the law that could find people dying unnecessarily.
“Stephen Hawking, Steven Fletcher (former Conservative MP), any person with a disability is now going to be subject to the risks of lacking any safe space in any health-care setting in our country,” Scher says on the TV news station’s panel discussion. 
“Every health-care setting is effectively required to implement and give effect to the terms and requirements of euthanasia that are being set out by this committee report — even those in hospices and palliative care environments who significantly oppose implementation of these measures because it undermines the essence of the work they’re trying to do.”
In an interview with, Scher says he fears the Liberal government may whip a vote in Parliament to pass the legislation, negating further debate or discussion, because it is considered a “Charter issue.”
“The Supreme Court of Canada did not establish the right to die as part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada,” Scher says. “What they did was look at existing Criminal Code prohibitions and found they were overly broad relative to their purposes and, as such, they suggested it be struck down subject to Parliament’s right to reintroduce those measures necessary in order to minimally restrict the rights of a certain class of Canadians.”
He says the wide-ranging recommendations may be a “political ploy” so if the government decides to pull back on elements of the assisted dying regime it is considered to be more reasoned and measured.
“But the reality is this represents a dangerous experiment in social policy that is taking Canada into uncharted territory.”

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