Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Strident Opponent of Assisted Dying Won't Chair Advance Request Review

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Strident Opponent of Assisted Dying Won't Chair Advance Request Review

Article excerpt

Assisted dying opponent steps aside


OTTAWA - A Toronto doctor who once likened assisted dying to the Holocaust is no longer in charge of a federally mandated process to determine whether Canadians should be able to make advance requests for medical help to end their lives.

Harvey Schipper has stepped aside as chair of a working group of experts who will examine the issue, although he will continue as an active member of the group.

"While I do believe I would have served in the role of chair impartially, the work of this expert panel is far too important to be burdened with unnecessary distractions," Schipper said in a statement released by the Council of Canadian Academies.

The council's appointment of Schipper as chair late last month had raised doubts about the impartiality of the process and the seriousness of the federal government's commitment to consider expanding its restrictive law on assisted dying.

Advance requests was one of three major issues left unresolved last year when the government passed legislation that restricted medical assistance in dying to those who are already near death.

As part of the legislation, the government promised to conduct independent reviews to determine whether the legislation should eventually be expanded to include advance requests, mature minors and those suffering strictly from mental illnesses.

In December, the government engaged the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct the reviews of the three issues and report back to Parliament by late 2018.

The council last month created a 43-member expert panel on assisted dying, chaired by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Marie Deschamps, and subdivided it into working groups on the three outstanding issues.

Schipper, a University of Toronto professor of medicine, was put in charge of the advance request working group despite having been a strident opponent of assisted dying.

In a June 2014 column published in the Globe and Mail, he opined that civilized society always runs into trouble when it makes exceptions to the moral imperative that life is sacred. He then compared arguments used to justify assisted dying with those advanced by Nazi Germany to justify the Holocaust. …

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