Scher: Stringent safeguards needed for assisted dying law

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

The following article was published by Advocate Daily on January 22, 2016.

The only way for the federal government to bring in an assisted suicide law is to ensure there are adequate protections from the prospect of abuse, says Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher.

Psychiatric, vulnerability and palliative care assessments should all be required, along with universal access to palliative care for all people seeking assisted suicide — something that is not currently available, he says.

“A person’s choice should never be to suffer to death or kill yourself, and there’s no reason in Canada why that needs to be the case,” says Scher, of Scher Law, who has spoken and consulted widely on the topic of assisted suicide and end of life practices.

The Liberal government has struck a committee that will be tasked with looking at how to implement a doctor-assisted death law, after the Supreme Court last week added a four-month extension to the government’s deadline to come up with new legislation.

Scher expects he will be called as an expert witness before a joint committee of Parliament in the coming weeks.

In a landmark decision last February, Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, the high court recognized the right of consenting adults enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to access assisted suicide.

Scher calls the four-month extension “sensible” given the change in government, but he says the time period is “extremely short.”

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