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Professor Margaret Somerville (Southern Cross)

The statistics for medically assisted deaths in Canada suggest that euthanasia has become “just another way to die”, according to leading Australian bioethicist Margaret Somerville. Source: The Southern Cross.

Professor Somerville said experience shows that once legalised, euthanasia very quickly becomes normalised.

While it was too early to assess the phenomenon in Australia, where all states have now passed Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation, she said normalisation had occurred at “warp speed” in Canada.

Last month, the South Australian Government revealed that in the first three months since VAD laws took effect, 28 South Australians received a VAD permit. Of these, 12 people died, including one who passed away without using the medication available.

The Government said the next phase of the program would involve “expanding services in regional areas to improve access even further”.

Professor Somerville, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Notre Dame Australia School of Medicine in Sydney, said that in Canada it had taken less than four years for the country to move from relatively restrictive limits on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) to some people speaking of going to court to argue that there is a right to euthanasia on demand.

The most recent Health Canada report put the official death toll from MAiD to the end of 2021 at 31,664, which Professor Somerville said was “almost certainly an underestimate”.

Of all deaths in Canada, 3.3 per cent were by MAiD and the number of deaths increased by 32.4 per cent from 2020 to 2021.

“In at least 1740 MAiD deaths, the people who were euthanised gave loneliness and isolation as reasons for wanting euthanasia,” she said.

“In short, euthanasia cannot be contained once it is legalised, because once we step over the clear line that we must not intentionally kill another human being, there is no logical stopping point.”

She predicted that there would be the same rapid expansion of VAD in Australia as has occurred in Canada.

She said opponents of VAD had “more work to do than ever” now that euthanasia is legal, offering people alternatives which they will want to choose instead of euthanasia.


Warning on normalising of euthanasia (By Jenny Brinkworth, The Southern Cross)