Euthanasia a slippery slope that ends in involuntary euthanasia

Euthanasia was legalised in Belgium in 2002, where is defined as “the intentional termination of a patient’s life by a physician at the patient’s request”, so that only voluntary euthanasia may be legally carried out in Belgium (J Med Ethics 41; 625-629, 2015). However, this legal requirement of voluntarism is not always fulfilled.

Thus, a study conducted in Flanders in 1996 found that 3.3% of cases of euthanasia had occurred without the prior request of the patient. In other words, they were involuntary euthanasias. Another study (also in Flanders) found that there had been 1796 cases of involuntary euthanasias (3.2%). A more recent study from 2007 found that the percentage of involuntary euthanasia was 1.8%, while another in 2013 found 1.7%.

However — and we believe this is important — the percentage of involuntary euthanasia in patients who were 80-years-old or over rose to 52.7%, while in those with diseases other than cancer, this figure reached 67.5%. The decision was not discussed with the patient in 77.9% of cases (J Med Ethics 41; 625-629, 2015).

Canada experience

A Recent statement of Professor Somerville, who spent 40 years living and working in Canada,  has recently returned home to Australia to take up the position of Professor of Bioethics in the School of Medicine at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney where she says claims by Australian pro-euthanasia advocates, including media personality Andrew Denton, that euthanasia and assisted suicide is working safely overseas don’t stand up to basic scrutiny.

“Wherever it has been legislated there are very serious problems,” she says.

In Quebec, Canada, where doctor-assisted suicide has been legal since December 2015, a recent report on the first seven months of the law’s operation found that 262 people died by ‘Medical Aid in Dying’ – almost three times the number of deaths previously predicted by the Province’s Health Minister.

Relevant figures in Canada show that involuntary euthanasia is the effect of it legalization

In 21 of those 262 deaths or eight per cent of cases, the doctors had not complied with the law. Eighteen of the cases did not have the opinion of a second, independent doctor; in two cases it was found that the person might not have been terminally ill and in one case it was not clear that the person even had a serious illness.

“Now when the law is brand new and you still can’t get doctors to comply with it, what hope have you once complacency sets in?” Professor Somerville says.

“And one of the things that pro-euthanasia people argue is that euthanasia or assisted suicide will be rare. Well, 262 cases in just seven months are not rare.

“Officially, around four per cent of all deaths in Belgium and the Netherlands are euthanasia or assisted suicide. Now if we translated that rate to the population of Australia, we’d have about 6000 deaths by euthanasia or assisted suicide a year. I don’t call that rare.” (MNNews March 2017, see HERE)

These figures are very disturbing and confirm how when euthanasia is legalised in a country, it can lead to a slippery slope that end in involuntary euthanasia.