Medically assisted death became law in Canada in 2016 and has changed how people can navigate their final days. After they have passed on, however, many families are discovering that the life insurance policy the person had may not be paid out. To avoid this in your future, it is important to understand medically assisted death and euthanasia, and how these affect life insurance policies. Today we will discuss the key points that you need to know.
The Difference Between Assisted Death and Euthanasia
First, letís discuss the difference between assisted death and euthanasia because these terms mean different things, and they can each impact life insurance policies and payouts.
"Assisted death," according to Beneplan, "is suicide by a patient facilitated by means or information (as a drug prescription or indication of the lethal dosage) provided by a physician aware of the patientís intent. In these scenarios, the patient is in full control of the process and self-administers the substance(s)."
"Euthanasia," by contrast, is "the intentional putting to death of a person with an incurable or painful disease intended as an act of mercy."
Euthanasia specifically comes in six different types:
While euthanasia comes in many forms, assisted death is very clearly defined in Canada, has numerous safeguards and can only be enacted in very specific situations. Hence the difference between the two; and, when it comes to life insurance policies, this difference is very important.
- Active: a person directly and deliberately causes the patient's death.
- Passive: essentially, someone is allowed to die. Usually, this is caused by withdrawing or withholding treatment.
- Voluntary: when a person requests that they die.
- Non-voluntary: when the decision is made on behalf of a person, usually because the person is otherwise incapable of making a meaningful choice between living and dying.
- Indirect: this usually means giving treatment that has a side effect of speeding up the death process, usually through pain medication.
- Direct: this form involves a direct means of assisting death, usually through a fatal dose of drugs. In Canada, this can take two forms: a drug administered by a physician or a prescription that the person takes themselves.
The Impact on Life Insurance
For the purposes of a life insurance policy, it is important to note that almost every policy in existence has a suicide exclusion clause, a special clause that either changes or voids the policy if suicide is the cause of death. This is in place to prevent people from committing suicide to give insurance money to their loved ones.
That said, as the bill allowing medically assisted death became law, more and more life insurance companies decided that the suicide exemption did not apply. However, the circumstances must be very specific, just as they are for the conditions under which a medically assisted death can occur.
To be eligible, the person receiving the medically assisted death must meet all of the following criteria:
If all of these circumstances are met, then some insurance policies will pay out and ignore the suicide exemption.
- Be eligible for health services in Canada that are paid for with public funds
- Be the age of majority
- Capable of making decisions with respect to their health
- Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, psychological issue, or disability
- Natural death has become foreseeable and reasonable and takes into account all of the personís medical circumstances. A specific time does not have to be outlined
- Have requested medical assistance in dying voluntarily and in good faith without any external pressure
- Provide informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying