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

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

By Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

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.

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