A one sided report
As mentioned previously, the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel recently released a report on End-of-Life Decision Making. It recommended the legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. However, it is important to realize the weakness of this report, and how it failed to present both sides of the debate.
The report was not a balanced effort given that many of the authors and the people whom the panel consulted are known to be euthanasia advocates. It is nothing more than an euthanasia tract.
The report does not provide an in depth analysis of abuses of euthanasia and assisted suicide in jurisdictions where these practices are legal. On this point, Margaret Somerville, director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, notes in an article about the report:
“For example, the report indicates that there has been one case of the use of euthanasia on disabled babies in the Netherlands. This is probably correct in the short time since the criteria for allowing such euthanasia was formally accepted by the Dutch Society for Pediatrics in 2005. But an article in the New England Journal of Medicine documents 22 cases of babies with spina bifida being euthanized in the Netherlands prior to that; this is not mentioned in the report. Likewise a survey of Belgian physicians, who had carried out euthanasia that found that 32% of those physicians had euthanized patients without their request or consent, is never mentioned.”
The report also advances the possibility of future acceptance of euthanizing patients with dementia. There is the usual mention of rising health care costs and an aging population as if euthanasia is somehow the solution to this situation. Every patient regardless of age and incapacity is deserving of the best of health care.
Ms. Somerville remarks on the findings of a 2010 Environics poll of 2,000 Canadians on euthanasia. They were asked whether “the government’s priority should be: legalizing euthanasia, improving end-of life care, or both. 71 percent of respondents said improving end-of-life care, 19 percent said legalizing euthanasia, and 5 percent said both.”
The report of the Royal Society of Canada was hardly surprising given the makeup of the members of the panel.