The End of Life Choice Act: a dangerous line New Zealand should not cross

The End of Life Choice Act: a dangerous line New Zealand should not cross

If approved by a majority of voters in the coming Referendum, the End of Life Choice Act will allow eligible terminally ill people to request ‘assisted dying’, either by a doctor or nurse practitioner directly administering lethal drugs (euthanasia) or by a doctor or nurse practitioner setting them up with lethal drugs to take themselves (assisted suicide).

Many New Zealanders like the idea of euthanasia as an option for those terminally ill, and assume the End of Life Choice Act must be okay. They have thoughts like ‘I wouldn’t want to die in unbearable pain. I would like the option to die, in dignity, at the time of my own choice. It’s my own life.’ Or that euthanasia is compassionate, because they feel it could prevent suffering. Or that ‘We do it for our cats and dogs. Why not for human beings?’ These thoughts make it easier to accept the politicians’ claims that similar euthanasia legislation has ‘worked well overseas’, and that the End of Life Choice Act contains ‘rigorous safeguards’.

But here’s a dozen very serious reasons why the End of Life Choice Act is so wrong and dangerous for New Zealand, and why we need to vote AGAINST it.

  1. Legally and practically, New Zealanders already have a ‘right to die’. Nobody is forced to have their lives unnecessarily prolonged. People may freely decline tests, treatment, or surgery. Doctors do not continue treatment or keep life-support going, when there is no hope of recovery. People may sign a ‘Do not resuscitate’ order, and state their wishes for end-of-life care in an Advance Directive. We already have a right to as much pain relief as needed (even if this has a double effect of shortening our lives). 

  2. In reality, very few people die in unbearable pain. Many die peacefully, or in their sleep, or having become unconscious. Modern palliative care can control most pain.  

  3. Those final days are important. The last week or so of someone dying with a terminal illness can often be a time when both patient and family come to peace with the impending death and bereavement, and is a factor in healthy grieving. Euthanasia interrupts the natural ‘letting go’. 

  4. New Zealanders need to realise the chilling long-term risks: we are very unwise to allow anyone (including doctors and nurse practitioners) to legally kill someone else, or to actively help them commit suicide. That is a highly dangerous line for society to cross. It is at our peril that we allow another form of killing to be introduced. It is not just that killing people is regarded by most people as ethically or culturally abhorrent, it is also a matter of safe-guarding the long-term public safety of our society. 

  5. It makes no sense at all for society to deplore high rates of suicide, and then to legalise medically-assisted suicide. The legalisation of medical suicide will give another reason for vulnerable people to feel suicide is an acceptable option. 

  6. Similar euthanasia legislation overseas has NOT worked well: it has led to a steady increase in inappropriate and wrongful deaths. 

  7. The End of Life Choice Act does NOT have rigorous safeguards, and in particular does not protect against coercion. It is loose and poorly-drafted legislation, and would be one of the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world. Many obvious safeguards are missing…

    ● Above all, there is no effective protection against people being subtly influenced by others into requesting euthanasia. Many older people are very anxious about not ‘becoming a burden’ for loved ones. They may feel obliged to sign a request for euthanasia when it is mentioned as an option by a medical professional (the Act only restricts doctors making the suggestion during appointments), or when hinted at by family eager to receive their inheritance before it is all spent on care, or when euthanasia becomes much more common.
    ● There is no requirement that euthanasia be a last resort, after treatment has failed.
    ● There is no requirement that someone first sees a palliative care specialist.
    ● There is no requirement that one of the doctors actually knows the patient.
    ● There is no mandatory psychological assessment, for instance for depression.
    ● There is no mandatory cooling-off period.
    ● There is no provision for an independent witness at any part of the process.
    ● There is no requirement for anyone to consult or tell their parents or children.
    ● There is inadequate protection for those medical staff for who object to euthanasia on ethical and conscience grounds.
    ● The reporting required is inadequate

  8. Medical diagnoses and prognoses can often be wrong. People with terminal illnesses can live much longer than expected, or recover. Under this law, some will die who would otherwise have survived. 

  9. The majority of doctors are strongly against euthanasia: they see it as contrary to their commitment to healing and caring for patients, and want nothing to do with it. Many are also worried that euthanasia will undermine proper funding for palliative care, and that it will erode patient trust.  The New Zealand Medical Association is very opposed to euthanasia. 

  10. The inevitable expansion of this new ‘human right’.Once society crosses the key threshold of allowing doctors (on request) to actively kill people with terminal illness, within a few years Parliament will inevitably start extending this ‘right’ to other ‘unbearable’ conditions, such as disability, mental illness, depression, chronic illness, dementia, and old-age frailty. That is exactly what has happened in most overseas jurisdictions that have allowed ‘assisted dying’. Because of that, many disabled people feel very deeply concerned about the End of Life Choice Act. 

  11. The inevitable increase of involuntary euthanasia. Once voluntary euthanasia becomes legal and common, instances of involuntary euthanasia will likewise steadily increase. The climate of thought will steadily change, and some doctors will begin quietly euthanising patients who they decide have no ‘quality of life’, and who are taking up costly space in hospitals or care facilities. They will rationalise this as compassion, and as responsible stewarding of public resources. This too has happened in a number of countries, which began with ‘assisted dying’ as in this Act. 

  12. As euthanasia becomes normalised, society’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people are those most likely to be euthanised, in increasing numbers. Poor and vulnerable people have less access to financial reserves, to expensive treatments, and to first-rate palliative care, and may feel they have fewer options.

A statement by the New Zealand Christian Network, September 2020

New Zealand MPs legalise ‘end of life choice’ of euthanasia, but the public must vote

New Zealand MPs legalise ‘end of life choice’ of euthanasia, but the public must vote

A referendum gives everyone the jitters

by Carolyn Moynihan, deputy editor of MercatorNet

The New Zealand Parliament legalised euthanasia this week by 69 votes to 51, pending the outcome of a referendum next year. On paper, The End of Life Choice Act 2017 looks restrictive. Its architect, libertarian MP David Seymour, claims it permits “one of the most conservative assisted dying regimes in the world.”

Opponents say it is full of loopholes, which would make it like every other piece of euthanasia legislation in the world. Indications are that, once such a law is in place, nobody much cares about how it is working.

As National MP Chris Penk said at the final debate: “The question is not whether some people will die in the way the bill allows, but whether many people could die in a way that the law does not allow.” That is what has happened in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Hospices won’t be exempt

The Act allows assisted suicide by a lethal dose of drugs, either self-administered or administered by a doctor or a nurse practitioner. This option would be available to New Zealand citizens or permanent residents aged 18 and over who have been diagnosed as terminally ill and having less than six months to live.

Originally, the Act also covered people with “grievous and irremediable” conditions, which could apply to depressed and disabled persons, but this was dropped by Seymour to garner more support from MPs.

Conscience protection for doctors and nurses was added. They are not obliged to participate in any part of the assisted dying process or suffer any penalties for opting out. However, an attending practitioner with a conscientious objection must tell a patient that they have a right to ask the group administering the scheme for the name and contact details of a replacement doctor or nurse.

An amendment drafted in consultation with Hospice New Zealand that would allow organisations to opt out without risking losing public funding was voted down.

Other efforts to address weak provisions concerning safeguards and accountability were shut down in successive debates by members impatient to get the bill passed.

The beautiful-young-woman-with-a-tumour factor

In the end, Seymour got 69 of the 120-member Parliament on his side. However, to get the eight votes of the New Zealand First Party members (led by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters) he and supporting MPs had to accept the party’s demand that the Act go to a referendum. It will be one of at least two proposals the public can vote on alongside next year’s general election, the other being the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

It has taken four attempts, starting in 1995, to get euthanasia across the line in the New Zealand Parliament. Its success this time is in keeping with social trends such as secularisation, but also owes a lot to the advocacy of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, who died of brain cancer in 2015. As an attractive, clever 42-year-old tragically facing death, she has done for euthanasia in this country what another beautiful young woman with a brain tumour, Brittany Maynard, did for the cause in California.

Ms Seales, who had worked for the liberal-minded Law Commission, applied to the New Zealand High Court for a declaration that she had a “right” to assisted suicide under the NZ Bill of Rights Act. She failed at court, but succeeded in the public domain where the support of her husband and family and influential figures such as former Law Commission chief Sir Geoffrey Palmer – not to mention massive and sympathetic media attention – emboldened politicians to have another go at legalising euthanasia. Seales died peacefully of natural causes in June 2015 and in October Seymour lodged his member’s bill. In December that year the New Zealand Herald declared Lecretia Seales “New Zealander of the Year”.

Tens of thousands of opposing public submissions binned

The Seymour bill was drawn from the ballot in June 2017 and had its first reading in December. It then went to a select committee of MPs for study and to receive public submissions. More than 39,000 submissions were received, 90 percent opposing it. Over four months touring the country the committee heard over 2000 oral submissions, of which 85 percent were opposed. These included the majority of medical associations and individual doctors and nurses who addressed the committee.

In addition, a grassroots effort saw published a number of excellent video testimonies from people who had faced a terminal diagnosis or lived with a severe disability, as well as professional commentary on the issue. One of the people appearing in these videos, Clare Freeman, who became tetraplegic at 17 and attempted suicide, addressed hundreds of opponents in front of Parliament on Wednesday as MPs prepared for the final vote. She recounted how a psychiatrist suggested that she could get help to end her life overseas.

All of this has counted for very little with the majority of our political representatives. The public opinion they fear is the referendum looming at the election next year and the debate that will precede it. As NZ Herald writer Claire Trevett commented today: “Few MPs will want to take the lead in that debate – for few will want to be defined by it and have it overshadow their campaign.” That is probably truer of those supporting the legislation than those against it.

The “misinformation” spectre

Supporters have already raised the spectre of “misinformation” to ward off inconvenient publicity about euthanasia and the End of Life Choice Act itself. In fact, Minister of Justice Andrew Little (a supporter) is so concerned that the public may be misinformed and misled that he has talked about setting up a unit in the Ministry of Truth – sorry, Justice – to monitor advertising campaigns. This applies also to the cannabis referendum.

Following an interview with Little, however, the NZ Herald reports, “Teams in the Justice Ministry will prepare neutral, factual information for each referendum and make that publicly available, but they will not be tasked with calling out misinformation.” The Minister expects things to get “ugly” and expects the worst of social media, but has indicated that complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority are the way to go for disgruntled members of the public. He will simply do what he can to “call out misinformation.”

It would be foolish to think that the public is already well informed (and could only be misled by further debate), although politicians and the media regularly invoke opinion polls that show a level of public support for euthanasia of around 70 percent. If the public is generally ignorant, what is the value of a poll that asks a superficial question such as, “Parliament is considering passing a euthanasia law that would allow terminally ill patients to die with the help and approval of their doctors. Would you support it?”

Of course people should be allowed to die. Of course doctors should do what they can to ease their symptoms and reassure them as they die. Aren’t they, don’t they already? Yes. But the euthanasia movement fosters the deceitful idea that people are being kept alive against their will by extraordinary means.

Three-quarters of Kiwis don’t know what ‘choices’ the Act allows

poll commissioned by Euthanasia-Free NZ and released early this week showed that, despite the legislation being around for four years, the great majority of the public do not know what “choices” the End of Life Choice Act would legalise.

  • 74% thought the Bill would make it legal for people to choose to have machines turned off that are keeping them alive, when in fact this is already legal.
  • 70% thought it would make it legal for people to choose to not be resuscitated, when people can already ask for such a request to be added to their medical file.
  • 75% thought that the Bill made euthanasia available to terminally ill people only as a last resort, after all treatments have been tried to control their pain.

“However, the Bill does not require an eligible person to have tried any pain relief or palliative care before requesting a lethal dose, or to have a consultation with a palliative care or pain specialist to find out what options are available to them,” says Euthanasia-Free NZ.

Like the Act’s supporters. this group is concerned about the referendum. “We doubt that another year would be long enough to allow the public to become adequately informed about the Bill’s content, amid contentious debates on cannabis and the general election,” says its executive officer Renee Joubert. “We are concerned that a referendum result may not reflect the public’s true sentiments.”

There seems, indeed, a real possibility that the cannabis referendum, being a more grass-roots issue (so to speak) and therefore given more media time, will eclipse that of euthanasia. The best we can hope for in any case is a change of government.

Carolyn Moynihan, deputy editor of MercatorNet

This article by Carolyn Moynihan was originally published on MercatorNet under a Creative Commons licence. The original article can be found here.

End of Life Choices Bill – Submissions

End of Life Choices Bill – Submissions

Rev Stuart Lange, NZCN Interim National Director, presented our oral submission to the Justice Select Committee on the End of Life Choice Bill on 21 May, 2018. Maxim Institute was also among the list of nine submitters in the afternoon session and have shared the link to the video of the session.

I recommend watching the video simply to gain an appreciation of how citizens and organisations can participate in the shape of the laws that govern our nation. The afternoon session was 2h 45 min long but you can use the guide below to find specific submissions. Simply click on the video to play it, then drag the slider to the desired start time.

Approx start

6:50
21:50
51:30
1:03:00
1:22:00
1:38:30
1:56:00
2:09:20
2:20:20

Name of group or person making their submission

Motor Neurone Disease Association of New Zealand
End of Life Choice NZ
Cordon Copeland
Centre for Science and Citizenship Trust
NZ Christian Network
Maxim Institute
Remote New Zealand Mission Project (teleconference)
Conservative Party NZ
New Zealand Human Rights Commission
(Paula Tesoriero – NZ Disability Rights Commissioner)

Churches and individuals urged to organise submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill

Churches and individuals urged to organise submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill

NZ Christian Network is advising everyone who is concerned about euthanasia being legalised in New Zealand to make sure that they send a submission to the Justice Select Committee. This matter is now very time-sensitive: Submissions to the Select Committee have been extended and close at midnight Tuesday 6 March 2018.

The End of Life Choice Bill, which has already passed its first reading in Parliament, poses a major threat to the well-being of New Zealand society”, says Dr Stuart Lange, the interim National Director of the New Zealand Christian Network.

“Allowing individuals the freedom to choose euthanasia rather than endure possible future suffering seems like an attractive option to many in our society, which places such a premium on individual freedom. Over time, however, State-sanctioned provision for medically-assisted suicide would inevitably dangerously compromise society’s commitment to the compassionate care of those who are terminally ill, disabled, elderly, or depressed. Instead of society valuing and supporting the lives of vulnerable people, there would be a growing tacit encouragement for such people to choose to have their lives ended. As has happened in some other countries, voluntary euthanasia would inescapably lead to the increasing incidence of involuntary euthanasia, the ultimate breach of human rights.”

As a Christian organisation, New Zealand Christian Network obviously holds strongly to the value of every human life. But we are by no means alone in that. Our whole society is predicated on a commitment to human life, and on respect and compassionate care for vulnerable people. So is our medical system, which we currently trust to care rather than to kill. This bill puts all that in grave jeopardy.

We believe the End of Life Choice Bill is unnecessary. The vast majority of people, including those with terminal illness, do not in fact die in great pain, and New Zealand’s palliative care system is well able to prevent most extreme pain.

Dr Lange adds: “In the cause of individual freedom, and with an avoidance of all safe-guards, the Seymour Bill could readily leave New Zealand society wide open to all the most chilling effects of euthanasia. If New Zealand must have euthanasia – which we ourselves believe is neither necessary nor ethical – then this is the worst possible bill to introduce it. The wording of this bill would mean that the State would in effect be providing medically-assisted suicide on demand, not just for terminally-ill people, but for anyone who felt they had a ‘grievous’ condition and requested help to die.”  

The Justice Select Committee needs to hear from thinking members of the public. The reality is, if people do not make a submission, silence is interpreted as assent. 

New Zealand Christian Network urges churches and individuals to make a submission. Below, we set out how this may be done, and provide resources.

How to make submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill

Links

Read and follow the progress of the proposed bill

End of Life Choice Bill

Make a submission

Online
Email

Post

Guideline

It is very important that all submitters write in their own words, rather than cut and paste from other sources. Form letters carry little very weight.

It is also crucial that submissions be respectful, reasoned, and to the point.

Submissions must be addressed to the Committee Secretariat, Justice and include:

  1. Your name
  2. Heading:
    “SUBMISSION – End of Life Choice Bill”
  3. Your own details:
    Name of Individual / Family / Organisation
    Address
    Phone
  4. Your signature
  5. Whether or not you wish to make a verbal submission, appearing before the committee (YES / NO)

Writing to your MP does not count as a submission, but does let them know where you stand on this issue.

Submissions made by post must contain TWO copies addressed to the

Committee Secretariat, Justice, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160

Send by Sunday 25 Feb to ensure they will be received in time

Click on the section titles below to view their contents.

You may wish to use this list as an aid to making your own points in your submission.

People on both sides of the debate are eager to lessen human suffering, but the key issue is the long-term consequences of any law change for public safety. This is an issue of basic human rights (the right to life) and of social justice – in particular, protecting the vulnerable.

Good clinical care aims to eliminate the pain, not kill the patient.

We should not ask doctors, who have a duty of care, to be involved in killing their patients. It is currently illegal to kill, or to withhold the “necessaries” of life from vulnerable people.

The fact that medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia are currently illegal means maximum efforts are made to relieve pain and address all aspects of a person’s suffering. Will that still occur if the law is changed?

The trust which most people now have in the medical professions and hospitals will be seriously eroded, if doctors are authorised to actively end patients’ lives, and protected in law in doing so.

These days no-one need die in pain. Persistent requests for euthanasia are mostly related not to unrelieved pain but to a desire to be in control, a fear of being a burden or the experience of social isolation. Medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia is not the right or best response to these issues.

When seriously ill patients receive good palliative care they rarely want to end their lives.

Seriously ill patients who wish their lives to end already have the right to decline life-prolonging treatment, food and hydration, so that natural death will soon occur.

Very few people actually die in great pain, especially with good palliative care.

A great many medical prognoses and predictions of how long terminally ill people will live prove to be inaccurate. Some patients live much longer, and some recover completely.

The New Zealand Medical Association, the Society of Palliative Medical Physicians and the Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand Society all oppose any law change. Parliament and the media need to take their informed opposition much more seriously.

Section 4 of the “End of Life Choice” bill offers “assisted dying” to any New Zealand citizen (or permanent resident) aged 18 or over who has “the ability to understand…the consequences of assisted dying” and who has “a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within 6 months” OR “a grievous and irremediable medical condition” OR “is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability” OR “experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable”. These qualifications are not limited to a terminal illness, and the other categories are loose and highly subjective. They would presumably permit medically-assisted suicide on the basis of any condition which a person considers “grievous” or not “tolerable”, e.g. incipient Alzheimer’s, chronic arthritis, physical disability, recurring depression, psychiatric disorder, or any loss of physical capacity. The person wishing to die would not need any professional medical confirmation. They would only need to declare that they considered their condition “grievous” and not “tolerable”. This would amount to state-sanction suicide/euthanasia on demand.

Legalising medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia undermines the long-standing convention against the State killing persons. It was for that reason that most countries abolished capital punishment. Changing the law would create a legal situation in which the state licenses death in advance and sanctions the death of certain of its citizens. This is ethically abhorrent.

The legalising of medically-assisted suicide, especially for irreversible and unbearable mental conditions, accepts that “some suicides are okay”. State-sanctioned suicide would help normalise the societal acceptability of suicide, and would greatly undermine efforts to reduce the existing tragedy of very high suicide rates in New Zealand, especially among youth. This would be a major inconsistency.

Suicidal thoughts are usually associated with depression. Research shows that when depression is properly treated, most people change their minds about wanting to die.

Changing the law would send a message that the lives of some are not worth living – it will steer persons towards a premature death.

Abuse of the disabled and elderly is a serious issue in our country. Legalising euthanasia will put elderly people (including those with dementia, mobility issues, and incontinence) at further risk, especially in a society where the numbers of elderly are growing and there is increasing pressure on the health budget.

It is neither rational (on grounds of equity) nor possible long-term to limit medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia to particular groups of people, or to specific conditions, or only to those aged 18 years or over. As has occurred overseas, there would be the same inevitable erosion of boundaries here in New Zealand.

Allowing euthanasia/medically assisted suicide opens the door for the disabled, sick and elderly to see themselves as an excessive financial and emotional burden. The “right to die” could in time become a “duty to die”. No legislation can protect against this.

Many assume that changing the law will simply allow the very small number of high-profile cases to proceed without legal objection. In fact, “legalisation leads to normalisation” and, as has happened overseas, will lead to greatly increased numbers dying through euthanasia.

Overseas experience (such as in Holland and Belgium) clearly shows that legalising voluntary medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia paves the way for euthanasia without request or consent.

New Zealand abolished the death penalty in part because of the danger of executing even one innocent person. Legalising medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia will inevitably lead to some people being killed when they don’t want to die.

Granting a small and vocal minority the freedom to be killed (if they so wish) will inevitably undermine the choice and/or will of many others to live.

There many excellent resources available which can provide useful and well-informed assistance to those making a submission.

We offer some material below, and also commend the following websites:

  • Click here for relevant material on our website.
  • Care Alliance has produced a brochure to help people make submissions.
  • Family First provide well-documented material on what has happened overseas.
  • Note also the speeches of some MPs in the recent debates, notably that of Maggie Barry, who highlighted the risks of elder abuse and the absence of safeguards.

 Other useful websites

Suggested openings:

I oppose the End of Life Choice Bill because…

I don’t want Parliament to legalise euthanasia through this Bill because…

I am totally against assisted suicide because…

Euthanasia should stay illegal because…

I don’t want the End of Life Bill to pass because…

I am against what this Bill stands for because…

I oppose making assisted suicide legal because…

I am against all forms of euthanasia because…

I oppose any sort of assisted suicide because…

I oppose the passing of this Bill because…

Possible reasons:

…people need support, not killing.
…it will hurt vulnerable people.
…it will harm public safety.
…it will encourage more people to commit suicide.
…because it will hurt disabled people.
…it not necessary with excellent palliative care.
…it will put the elderly at risk.
…safeguards do not work do not work in practice.
…it can lead to unfair pressure on sick people.
…doctors can make mistakes about how long people will live.
…of the slippery slope.
…people who ask for it are often depressed.
…people with depression need positive help.
…depressed people often have clouded judgement.
…in overseas countries, it has led to abuse.
…it will make suicide prevention even harder.
…there is no way to enforce safeguards.
…it will open the door to euthanasia on demand.
…it is impossible to restrict it to the terminally ill.
…doctors should heal not kill their patients.
…it is open to elder abuse.
…it will tell teenagers it is ok to commit suicide.
…it suggests that death is the answer to problems.
…it will eventually apply to children here too.
…I don’t support the killing of my fellow-citizens.
…it endangers the elderly and disabled.
…it will lead to increased tolerance of all suicides.
…it is both unnecessary and unsafe.
…it will hurt the weakest members of society.
…it will discriminate against powerless people.
…we should instead promote palliative care.
…it will lead to the deaths of lonely and depressed people.
…we need to protect the vulnerable.
…these days no-one needs to die in pain.
…I worry about the impact on depressed people.
…it will provide a cheaper option than real healthcare.
…we should not encourage suicide.

Source: provided by Richard Waugh, Chairman Auckland Church Leaders Meeting, National Church Leaders Meeting, and National Superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand.

Before the Submission-writing Session

  1. Print one form template for every person (download the To the Justice Select Committee form).
  2. Gather a small team of helpers who can assist your congregation.
  3. Announce in the Notices that there will be an opportunity to make a brief submission at the end of the service. If anyone is able to speak briefly about the Bill, that would be excellent.
  4. Please provide a good supply of ballpoint pens.
  5. Each person needs to write their name and other contact details on the front.
  6. If a person wishes to speak to the Committee to explain their viewpoint further (ie making an ‘oral submission’), they should make sure they tick the appropriate box.
  7. At the back of the form, people should write their message (see Helpful Guide for ideas).
  8. The Helpful Guide is in two parts and is easy to follow. People in the group/congregation should try to choose different combinations from the person next to them.

Office or Supervisor Role

  1. Photocopy the back of the form (the side with the handwritten message).
  2. Staple each of the photocopies and their respective forms together.
  3. Put all the forms into an A4 envelope. Put $3 postage on the envelope.
  4. Write the address on the envelope:

    Committee Secretariat

    Justice
    Parliament Buildings
    Wellington 6160
  5. Please mail the envelopes before or on Tuesday 13 February (to allow a week for post).If you live in Wellington, you can take the envelopes to Parliament in Molesworth Street and give them to the reception desk. You don’t need to stamps on if you drop them off, but you do need to write the address on the envelope. Parliament should will take envelopes until the closing day ie Tuesday 20 February, but you are advised to deliver them earlier than this if possible.
The End of Life Choice Act: a dangerous line New Zealand should not cross

Globally, opposition to euthanasia dwarfs end-of-life movements

World Medical Association reaffirms its opposition

Jurisdictions which permit assisted suicide or euthanasia suck all the oxygen out of media coverage of this topic. To put the issue in perspective, assisted suicide or euthanasia is only legal in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and a handful of American states. Nearly everywhere else, doctors have repudiated it.

As a reminder of this, the World Medical Association has reaffirmed its long-standing policy of opposition to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. At its annual Assembly in Tbilisi, Georgia, the WMA adopted a revised Declaration on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide. It states:

“The WMA reiterates its strong commitment to the principles of medical ethics and that utmost respect has to be maintained for human life. Therefore, the WMA is firmly opposed to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.”

Furthermore, the WMA strongly supports conscientious objection. Its statement says: “No physician should be forced to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide, nor should any physician be obliged to make referral decisions to this end.”

On the other hand, the WMA also supports the right to refuse burdensome treatment. “The physician who respects the basic right of the patient to decline medical treatment does not act unethically in forgoing or withholding unwanted care, even if respecting such a wish results in the death of the patient,” it states.

WMA Chair Frank Ulrich Montgomery, a German physician, summed up the feeling of the medical profession on a global level: ‘Having held consultative conferences involving every continent in the world, we believe that this revised wording is in accord with the views of most physicians worldwide.’

End-of-life care has been at the centre of heated debates within the WMA. Last year the Canadian and Dutch delegations to the WMA’s assembly failed in a bid to change the organisation’s stand to neutrality, rather than opposition. As a result, the Canadians pulled out of the WMA. There is sure to be on-going pressure for the WMA to change its position.

So it’s significant that earlier this year, the WMA’s official journal published a strong rebuttal of arguments for neutrality. It stressed that the proportion of doctors who back the Canadian approach was minuscule:

“Only a small minority of physicians support E&PAS. The vast majority of doctors around the world wish only to foster the will to live and to cope with illness and suffering, not to facilitate acts of suicide or to create ambiguity around what constitutes a medical treatment. We must remember that the four regional WMA symposia demonstrated that most doctors would never be willing to participate in euthanasia.”

The WMA statement coincided with another statement, this time from a religious angle. Representatives of the three Abrahamic religions – Christians, Jews, Muslims – signed a declaration in the Vatican repudiating euthanasia and assisted suicide. It is an extraordinary demonstration of ethical unity on a deeply controversial topic by theologically separate groups. Their declaration says:

We oppose any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions.

The statement also stresses the importance of palliative care and of trying to ensure that patients do not feel useless at the end of their lives.

The signatories included Vatican officials, Avraham Steinberg, co-chair of Israel’s National Council of Bioethics, Samsul Anwar, chairman of the Central Committee of the Indonesian Muhammadiyah and Orthodox clergy.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet

This article by Michael Cook was originally published on MercatorNet under a Creative Commons licence. The original article can be found here.