"Vulnerable at risk" flapdoodle



"The vulnerable will be at risk if we legalise assisted dying."

This silly, nonsensical argument (flapdoodle) is promoted frequently and persistently in opposition to assisted dying law reform. Various forms are advanced not only by lobbyists, commentators, journalists and politicians, but even by judges and professional medical bodies (see examples).

But the statements are flapdoodle because they use circular rhetoric dressed up as a profound or self-evidential truth to fabricate a case for or against change.

The fabrication is to present ‘the vulnerable’ and people ‘at risk’ as different groups. They aren’t. The Oxford English dictionary defines ‘the vulnerable’ as “at risk”, and Merriam-Webster agrees: “open to harm”.

Therefore it’s a circular sham to argue that a group becomes itself on the basis of some arbitrary change. We could equally say:

“The vulnerable will be at risk if we wear yellow socks on Wednesdays.

Indeed, if you come across an example of this circular sham, ask the author to correct it because:

“No case is made when a circle is laid.

If they don't, let us know!



  1. Magazine article: Bill Muehlenberg (2008), Quadrant Online, 3-Sep, http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/bill-muehlenberg/2008/09/some-objections-to-legalised-euthanasia/ (viewed 28-May-2014), “The most vulnerable will be at risk … with legalised euthanasia”.
  2. Anti-euthanasia campaign website: Alex Schadenberg (2013), Assisted dying law would bring risks for the vulnerable, http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/assisted-dying-law-would-bring-risks.html (viewed 28-May-2014).
  3. Legislator’s speech in Parliament: Rev. Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes (2003), Speech by the Rev. Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes AC, MLC in the NSW Legislative Council Chamber on The Voluntary Euthanasia Trial (Referendum) Bill 2003, “The most vulnerable will be at risk … [from] voluntary euthanasia”.
  4. Professional medical body statement: British Medical Association (2014), What is current BMA policy on assisted dying?, https://www.bma.org.uk:443/advice/employment/ethics/ethics-a-to-z/physician-assisted-dying  (viewed 28-May-2014), “Permitting assisted dying for some could put vulnerable people at risk”.
  5. Supreme Court (Canada) determination: Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 SCR 519, “… persons who may be vulnerable to the influence of others … may find themselves at risk at the hand of others … [in the intentional termination of life]”, p. 558.


Want a forensic analysis of the circular sham and how it so easily works to fool us? Check out the Full Monty here...

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