BOOK REVIEW News Weekly
Debunking popular misconceptions
, April 13, 2013
EXPOSING VULNERABLE PEOPLE
to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
by Alex Schadenberg
Foreword by Kevin Andrews MP
(Ballan, Victoria: Connor Court)
Paperback: 80 pages
Reviewed by Paul Russell
Since the mid-1990s and, perhaps even earlier, the precautionary principle has made law-makers wary about legalising euthanasia.
Until very recently, practically every official review of the pros and cons of euthanasia has come out against legalisation, chiefly because of the risk it would pose to vulnerable people, such as the elderly, the chronically ill, the disabled and the depressed.
Pro-euthanasia activists know that this very real risk is their campaign’s Achilles’ Heel. No matter how much they re-brand their organisations’ names, change their rhetoric, publicise difficult cases in the media and bleat endlessly about politicians being out of touch and lacking compassion, the risk to vulnerable people has been the principal stumbling-block to the successful realisation of their goals.
Parliamentarians and voters who think a little more about the issue than a polling question will allow, almost inevitably come to the conclusion — sometimes even in spite of their personal preference for euthanasia — that the blunt instrument that is our law cannot adequately protect people from abuse.
In order to counter this well-founded belief, in 2007 a pro-euthanasia academic from the University of Utah, Margaret Battin, published a study in the Journal of Medical Ethics, in which she claimed that there was no statistical evidence that vulnerable people were adversely affected in jurisdictions where euthanasia and assisted suicide were legal.
During the past six years, a number of unofficial reports on euthanasia have echoed Professor Battin’s conclusions, some authors dismissing out-of-hand the whole notion of risk to the vulnerable. These and subsequent reports have in turn likewise echoed, and relied upon, their errant antecedents in what can only be described as an attempt to convince the public by dint of repetition.
A recent background paper released by the think-tank, Australia 21, and a paper produced by Tasmania’s Voluntary Assisted Dying, have relied extensively on these flawed findings. Both these recent papers dismiss any notion that legalising euthanasia could pose a risk to vulnerable people.
This widespread misunderstanding has prompted the Australian network, HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide, to publish in Australia and New Zealand an important rejoinder.
The author, Alex Schadenberg, is chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International, based in Canada.
Schadenberg, who has visited Australia in recent years on speaking tours, provides a comprehensive picture of the plight of vulnerable people in the Netherlands and Belgium where euthanasia is legal.
Pro-euthanasia researchers and activists have been content to quote only the official published reports on euthanasia provided by the Dutch and Belgian governments. Schadenberg, however, delves far more deeply and presents a more factual, and deeply disturbing, account of euthanasia’s impact on the vulnerable.
With a foreword from Victorian federal Liberal parliamentarian and frontbencher, Kevin Andrews MP, and with endorsements from a number of politicians across Australia, this small volume is an important corrective to many popular misconceptions surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Exposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is essential reading both for politicians and for people engaging with politicians on this issue. It is also an excellent resource for students.
Paul Russell is founder and director of the Australian network, HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide www.noeuthanasia.org.au and vice-chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) International.