Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide by Alex Schadenberg (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, 66 pages, $20 for ebook or paper)

It can be difficult to keep on top of the latest medical studies and reports, let alone understand what they are saying (and as importantly, not saying). Alex Schadenberg’s Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is a brief volume that examines and critiques seven recent studies reported in medical journals, three major reports from Canada and the United Kingdom, and the legal opinion by Justice Lynn Smith that if left standing will legalize euthanasia in Canada.

Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, dissects the studies by explaining what they say, listing their shortcomings and limits, and, where applicable, noting contradictions between studies.

The seven studies he critiques examined euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands and Belgium, two euthanasia regimes held up as models for legalizing euthanasia elsewhere with the suggestion that their so-called safeguards protect individuals who are vulnerable to euthanasia but have not requested it. They were originally published in prestigious medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and Lancet. Each study gets a single short chapter in which he briefly describes the findings and explains their significance before addressing errors and weaknesses.

One of the longer chapters is 10 pages, and it examines a British Medical Journal analysis of reported and unreported euthanasia cases in Flanders, Belgium, using death certificate information and questionnaires of the certifying physician. The shocking finding of this analysis was just 73.1 per cent of euthanasia deaths met the legal requirements for carrying out a euthanasia request. More importantly, many euthanasia deaths were not reported as euthanasia and (not surprisingly) that unreported cases of euthanasia were more likely to violate regulations governing the procedure such as doing the proper paperwork, consulting a second physician, and ensuring that the request is carried out by a physician (not a nurse, as is often the case).

The BMJ study admits that “100% transparency seems to be a rather utopian ideal.” Schadenberg says that proves that safeguards do not work, and that many illegal euthanasia deaths are “disguised’ as palliative care.

Schadenberg uses the data from Flanders to cast doubt on several other studies that purport to show that safeguards work and that official euthanasia death numbers in the Netherlands and Belgium are inaccurate (too low) despite the fact the number of euthanasia deaths creeps steadily upward.

The three reports, including a Royal Society of Canada report, and the judicial decision of Judge Smith, fail to take into account the studies indicating “it is not possible at this time to show that vulnerable people are not adversely affected by the euthanasia law.” In the case of Judge Smith, it is actively ignoring evidence inconvenient to her decision.

Schadenberg says that every intentional killing, whether a requested euthanasia or not, is unacceptable, but that euthanasia activists who point to safeguards in other countries as models to protect vulnerable people are, at best, misleading the public. Schadenberg says that human nature being what it is, doctors who want to get around the law do not admit it so official records make it look like the policies work. Exposing Vulnerable People exposes safeguards as a fiction.

 To order Exposing Vulnerable People contact the EPC at 1.877.439.3348 or online at www.epcc.ca.