“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
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:
- Your name
“SUBMISSION – End of Life Choice Bill”
- Your own details:
Name of Individual / Family / Organisation
- Your signature
- 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
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…
…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
- Print one form template for every person (download the To the Justice Select Committee form).
- Gather a small team of helpers who can assist your congregation.
- 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.
- Please provide a good supply of ballpoint pens.
- Each person needs to write their name and other contact details on the front.
- 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.
- At the back of the form, people should write their message (see Helpful Guide for ideas).
- 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
- Photocopy the back of the form (the side with the handwritten message).
- Staple each of the photocopies and their respective forms together.
- Put all the forms into an A4 envelope. Put $3 postage on the envelope.
- Write the address on the envelope:
- 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.