QUEBEC, February 22, 2011 ( – The legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide for “extreme cases” is a slippery slope to the widespread killing of newborn infants, the elderly, the depressed, and the mentally disabled, an expert witness told the Quebec National Assembly’s Special Commission on the Issue of Dying with Dignity on Thursday of last week.

Dr. François Primeau, a professor of psychiatry at Leval University and Chief of Geranto-Psychiatry at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis Hospital, told the commission that the experience of the Netherlands indicates that euthanasia will be impossible to contain.

“In the face of the experience of the Netherlands, believing that restrictions will contain these abuses is at best naive, and at worst is magical thinking,” Primeau told the commission, adding that “the reality of euthanasia as it is practiced on the ground greatly surpasses the limits established by the law.”

“In 2009, in the Netherlands, there were 2,636 deaths by euthanasia, 45% more than in 2003,” he continued. “They don’t count in this total the 550 cases of euthanasia without consent, nor the 400 cases of assisted suicide, nor the 20% of euthanasia cases that were not reported, nor the infants that died.”

Primeau added that in the Netherlands, “euthanasia has been performed on minors younger than 12 years old, on depressed patients, on handicapped newborns and on patients suffering from mental illness,” a development that he called “very alarming,”

Based in part on his own clinical experience, Primeau observed that “depression and demoralization are the true causes for requests for euthanasia.  These causes can be treated effectively. Euthanasia is not the response for depression at the end of life.” He noted that studies have indicated that depressed patients are “between 4.1 and 5.29 times more susceptible to request euthanasia” and that 50% change their minds in less than two months.

Asked about Canadian assisted suicide activist Ghislain Leblond, who is suffering from an incurable illness and who testified recently before the same commission, Primeau said, “what interests me is that you speak of that particular person, who has legitimacy, a visible person with a platform. The point that I am making is that there are many people who don’t have a platform, people receiving long-term care, who have cognitive problems.”

“People who are in favor of euthanasia do not have a monopoly of heart. Me, I’m against it.  I think that I have accompanied my patients with empathy for 25 years and will do so until the end. I work with elderly people in general. I do so frequently.”