Manitoba

Insurance industry watching impacts of doctor-assisted suicide ruling

The potential effects of the Supreme Court of Canada's recent ruling on doctor-assisted suicide is being watched closely by the country's life insurance industry.

Supreme Court decision prompts questions about number of rejected insurance claims going up

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in February that people with grievous and irremediable medical conditions should have the right to ask a doctor to help them die. (CBC)

The potential effects of the Supreme Court of Canada's recent ruling on doctor-assisted suicide is being watched closely by the country's life insurance industry.

The top court ruled last month that a law making it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives should be amended to allow doctors to help in specific situations.

The court's decision only applies to competent adults with enduring, intolerable suffering who clearly consent to ending their lives.

Almost all life insurance policies contain a clause that states if a person commits suicide within two years of purchasing the policy, no benefits would be paid in that case.

"The reason is that you want to protect the insurer against persons who take out life insurance but with suicide in mind," said Frank Zinatelli, a lawyer representing the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association.

The Supreme Court ruling has prompted questions about whether the number of insurance cases being rejected would increase if the federal government legalizes doctor-assisted suicide.

But Zinatelli said he doesn't think that would be the case.

"I would expect that the rules that would be put in place would be very restrictive. This would not be something that would happen a lot," he said.

Officials with one company, Great West Life, said less than one per cent of claims were denied because of suicide last year.

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