Man given right to end his life passes away

As Ontario native is allowed to die with assistance, we delve into the insurance implications

Man given right to end his life passes away

In what is being widely viewed as a ground-breaking case, a man in Ontario who was granted the right to end his life with a doctor’s assistance has now died less than 24hrs after a court approved his assisted death.

The man, aged 81, a married grandfather known only by the initials AB, was suffering from an aggressive form of lymphoma in its advanced stages. He was granted an exemption by Paul Perell, the Superior Court Justice in Ontario, and passed away on Friday.

The ruling is a first in Ontario as, under existing Canadian law, it is deemed a crime to assist someone with ending their life. However, two recent decisions at the Supreme Court have allowed for exemptions on the condition that certain criteria are met.

However, what about the life insurance implications of such a decision? Life and Health Professional asked Joan Weir, director of health and dental policy at the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, about how an assisted death would impact a life insurance policy.

“Generally, life insurance products purchased individually will have some kind of ‘suicide clause’ in them,” she said. “Typically, this could be two years, but it could be less or it could be more. The time limitation means that, once the period expires, the clause is no longer in effect.  

“Given that most people who would consider physician-assisted suicide under the coming regulations would be quite ill and likely for some time, it is unlikely that they would qualify to purchase a new individual life insurance product. For individuals who already have long-standing life insurance policies, the suicide clause would have expired, so the proceeds will be eligible for payment whether the person ends their own life or has a physician assist them.”

So should a person who ends their life in a court approved assisted manner, still expect to receive a payout?

“For the man from Ontario who applied to the courts, while life insurance isn’t mentioned, he was diagnosed in 2012,” commented Weir. “He wouldn’t have been eligible to purchase insurance after diagnosis, but if he had an existing policy dated prior to 2012, it would quite likely be eligible to paid as the suicide clause would no longer be in effect.

“We expect that there will be a very small minority of individuals who fall into that ‘middle’ scenario of being very healthy, purchase new life insurance, develop a terminal illness, exhaust all treatment options and come to the position where they wish a physician assisted death, all within the contractual limitation for suicide. Contractually, the clause could be applied, but it is also possible that insurers will review each situation as it arises and make a determination appropriate to the claim.”

What is your opinion on the assisted-death issue? Do you believe it should be permitted in certain cases, or is it always morally wrong? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.