Joint Parliamentary Committee on Assisted Suicide Refuses to hear from leading experts on the need for effective oversight to protect Canadians

TORONTO, Feb. 3, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Fundamental to keeping Canadians safe in the operation of a state-sanctioned assisted dying regime is the need for rigorous before the fact oversight by an independent judge or tribunal stated Hugh Scher, Toronto constitutional lawyer and disability rights advocate. Scher stated:

Before the fact judicial oversight is essential to any assisted suicide regime that Parliament may seek to introduce. It is the only way to ensure compliance with legislative criteria established to identify vulnerability and prevent abuse before people are put to death.

EPC VP Amy Hasbrouch stated that:

This position is endorsed by multiple stakeholders across the country including from the disability community, the medical community and legal experts.

In all jurisdictions where assisted death is legal, the laws lack effective oversight.

Consequently, safeguards, including the need for consent from the patient are routinely ignored.

A study published in the NEJM (March 19, 2015) found that 1.7% of all deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium in 2013 were assisted without request. Therefore more than 1000 deaths were intentionally hastened without request. The same study determined that nearly half of the assisted deaths went unreported states Alex Schadenberg, EPC executive director.

Dr. Will Johnston states that adoption of a Belgian-style euthanasia regime in Canada, such as has been adopted in Quebec, without effective before the fact judicial oversight to ensure compliance with legislative requirements would be a recipe for disaster that is certain to put Canadians at risk.

Euthanasia is not a form of health care. Defining assisted suicide as health care would mean that lethal injections are a form of medical treatment. Not only is this an Orwellian concept, but it is one that would certainly leave Canadians without a safe space within the healthcare system, states Dr. Johnston, Chair of EPC – British Columbia.

Despite more than 15 years of extensive experience with the legal, medical and practical challenges associated with assisted suicide practices in other jurisdictions, the Joint Parliamentary Committee has deliberately refused to hear from leading constitutional, medical and sociological experts, who have previously advocated against the adoption of euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada because of the risks that it poses to all Canadians and our healthcare system.

Failure to hear particularly from those who are experts who raise concerns about euthanasia practices in other jurisdictions represents a fatal flaw to the committee's deliberations and an intentional attempt to silence those with differing viewpoints while embracing those who promote unbridled euthanasia. Such an approach runs completely contrary to the Government's stated objective of conducting a comprehensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders in order to implement a safe and measured response to the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Supreme Court's conclusion that assisted suicide could be legalized safely in Canada is predicated on the notion of strong federal regulation. The court concluded that a legislative response would require a "carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards." It was only the possibility of crafting a scheme with such effective oversight and safeguards that led the court to reject the argument that weakening the prohibitions will inevitably lead to the casual termination of life including the lives of individuals who do not wish to die, notes Scher.

The Committee's exclusion and refusal to hear from leading national experts on the subject call into question its motives and actions and greatly undermines the conclusions it may draw as a consequence of its limited and self-selected inquiry.
For more information contact: 
Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director (London) 519-851-1434,
Hugh Scher, EPC Legal Counsel (Toronto) 416-816-6115,
Dr Will Johnston, Chair EPC – BC (Vancouver): 604-220-2042,
Amy Hasbrouck, EPC – VP (Montréal): 450-921-3057,

A photo accompanying this release is available at:

Hugh Scher legal

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