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What the Elizabeth Wettlaufer case should teach us about Canada’s euthanasia law

by | Jun 7, 2017

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

(Declaration: I was born and raised in Woodstock Ontario, and I have worked in London, Ontario all of my adult life. )

Elizabeth Wettlaufer

Elizabeth Wettlaufer

Now that Elizabeth Wettlaufer has confessed to first degree murder in the deaths of 8 elderly people that were in her care in Woodstock and London Ontario, it is important to reflect on what this case tells us now that euthanasia is legal in Canada. It starts with the fact that health care killers are hard to detect, as a CBC news report explained .

First: Wettlaufer had the access and the ability to lethally inject her patients without oversight in the system to protect her patients. If Wettlaufer had not admitted to a medical professional that she had killed patients, the authorities would not have caught her.

Canada’s euthanasia law requires the physician or nurse practitioner who causes a person’s death by lethal injection (euthanasia) to self-report the death to the designated authority. There is no third-party oversight of the law, even though euthanasia directly and intentionally causes a person’s death.

A study of the practice of euthanasia in Flanders Belgium (2013), where they have a similar euthanasia reporting system, found that more than 1,000 deaths were hastened without request and more than 40% of the assisted deaths were not reported.

The government needs to understand that any system that gives physicians and nurse practitioners power over their patients without – third party oversight will be abused.

Second: The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition responded to the news of the Wettlaufer case by demanding an in-depth investigations into murders in care homes in Canada. Now that Wettlaufer has pled guilty to the charges other groups are making a similar demand.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has received calls from many Canadians concerning the death of a friend or a family member. These callers often claim that their friend or family member was killed in the hospital or care home. I suspect that many of these stories are true.

Third: Cases of doctors or a nurse intentionally causing the death of a patient are not uncommon. Several cases have been reported in the media, such as the death of David Gray, in which the doctor received a nine month suspended sentence for negligence causing death.

Several medical professionals who killed their patients, include: Dr. Harold Shipman, Charles Cullen, Dr. Virginia Soares de Souza, Aino Nykopp-Koski and Dr. Michael Swango.

The recent case of an Italian doctor, Leonardo Cazzaniga, and a nurse who allegedly killed at least 10 patients , uncovers the reality that these acts are done behind a “closed door.”

The Euthanasia Deception documentary shared the story of Hendrik Reitsma’s grandfather who died by assisted death without request in the Netherlands.

A NEJM study on the practice of euthanasia in the Flanders region of Belgium found that 1.7% of all deaths (more than 1,000 deaths) were hastened without explicit request in 2013.

A Lancet study analyzing the Netherlands euthanasia experience found that there were 310 hastened deaths without explicit consent in 2010 in the Netherlands.

It is not safe to give physicians, or others, the right in law to cause death of their patients.

The Globe and Mail reported that Wettlauffer felt an urge to kill and killing patients made her feel powerful and gave her a release of pressure.

“By giving vulnerable people a potentially lethal dose of insulin, she felt both more powerful and a release of this pressure,” says a summary in her discharge file from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Toronto facility where she revealed her homicidal past, which eventually led to her arrest.

When a nation legalizes euthanasia, it gives medical professionals, who were already willing to kill their patients the legal right to proceed.

1. Every Canadian Province needs to do an in-depth investigation into suspicious deaths at hospitals and care institutions or we will never know how many intentional medical killings occur in our country.

2. Canadians must realize that Canada’s euthanasia law is fatally flawed. There is no effective oversight of the law even though it gives physicians and nurse practitioners the right in law to kill their patients.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Crime Euthanasia