Euthanasia is a dangerous, unwise policy

COLUMN

ACT Party leader David Seymour has been seeking support from parliamentarians to have his contentious End of Life Choice bill passed at its first reading. It would then be sent to a select committee which would invite submissions from the community.

Due to prior business, the bill did not have its first reading on August 9, the last member’s day before the general election on September 23 — it is now expected to have its first reading on October 11.

Right to Life is opposed to this bill, as is the World Medical Association, the New Zealand Medical Association, the Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and Palliative Care Nurses NZ, all of whom wish to uphold their ethics to cure and not to kill.

We believe that in the interest of the community, the bill should be defeated. It should share the same fate as the two previous attempts to pass legislation that would change the Crimes Act to allow doctors to terminate the lives of their patients or assist in their suicide.

The first was Michael Law’s “Death with Dignity” bill in 1995 that was defeated 61 to 29. The second Death with Dignity bill in 2003 was defeated 60 to 58. A third Death with Dignity bill of the Hon Maryan Street was withdrawn from the ballot in 2014 and is waiting to be replaced in the ballot by Labour MP Ian Lees-Galloway.

Assisting in suicide or terminating the life of a patient with a lethal injection are serious crimes under the Crimes Act. These laws are there for the protection of the most vulnerable members of our community; the aged, the disabled and the seriously ill. We remove them at our peril. Why too would we undermine the ethics of the medical profession which prohibit doctors taking the lives of their patients?

We believe Parliament does not have the authority to legislate to empower the strong to kill the weak. Should this bill be passed, it would be a very dangerous precedent as a future Parliament could withdraw the protection of the law from another group of vulnerable people such as those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Advocates for euthanasia claim public opinion polls reveal 70 percent support for euthanasia in the community. Right to Life challenges this contention.

On June 15, 2015 a petition on assisted suicide and euthanasia was presented to Parliament by Ms Street and 8974 others. It was referred to the Health Select Committee for consideration and the hearing of submissions. It received an unprecedented 21,277 submissions and heard more than 1200 oral submissions. A careful analysis of all the written submissions revealed that 16,411, 77 percent, were opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. Oral submissions were also overwhelming opposed.

We believe that the Health Select Committee and the community have engaged in this conversation for more than two years. The written and oral submissions constitute the most authentic expression of public opinion on the issue of euthanasia.

The report of the health committee is expected to reflect the strong opposition of those who made submissions. To send this bill to another select committee would be a waste of Parliament’s time and the taxpayers’ money.

If it does, how can Parliament be serious about reducing the horrific suicide rate in New Zealand — the second highest cause of death? In 2015/16 579 people committed suicide; 59 were teenagers between the age of 10 and 19.

We have the second highest youth suicide rate in the OECD.

Suicide is always wrong. It hurts families and it hurts communities. The government has a Suicide Prevention Strategy to reduce suicides. Right to Life asks how can Members of Parliament seriously support the Suicide Prevention Strategy and at the same time support the End of Life Choice bill which, if passed, will have the government paying doctors to terminate the lives of their patients or assist in their suicide.

If passed, the legislation would recognise that there are some lives not worthy of living. The message that Parliament would be giving to the community and youth is that it approves of suicide and recognises your right to kill yourself if you are finding life intolerable.

There is no need for doctors to kill the patient in order to kill the pain. New Zealand has world-class palliative care which is ranked third in the OECD.

The community should be aware that this bill is a Trojan horse that will ultimately result in the termination of the lives of many who do not choose to have a doctor administer a lethal injection. We release it into our community at our peril. The strategy of the advocates for euthanasia is to engage public sympathy by presenting cases like Lecretia Seales, who was fearful of enduring a painful death. Right to Life requests that Parliament act in the interest of the common good and defeat this bill at its first reading.

■ Ken Orr is the spokesman for Right to Life

ACT Party leader David Seymour has been seeking support from parliamentarians to have his contentious End of Life Choice bill passed at its first reading. It would then be sent to a select committee which would invite submissions from the community.

Due to prior business, the bill did not have its first reading on August 9, the last member’s day before the general election on September 23 — it is now expected to have its first reading on October 11.

Right to Life is opposed to this bill, as is the World Medical Association, the New Zealand Medical Association, the Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and Palliative Care Nurses NZ, all of whom wish to uphold their ethics to cure and not to kill.

We believe that in the interest of the community, the bill should be defeated. It should share the same fate as the two previous attempts to pass legislation that would change the Crimes Act to allow doctors to terminate the lives of their patients or assist in their suicide.

The first was Michael Law’s “Death with Dignity” bill in 1995 that was defeated 61 to 29. The second Death with Dignity bill in 2003 was defeated 60 to 58. A third Death with Dignity bill of the Hon Maryan Street was withdrawn from the ballot in 2014 and is waiting to be replaced in the ballot by Labour MP Ian Lees-Galloway.

Assisting in suicide or terminating the life of a patient with a lethal injection are serious crimes under the Crimes Act. These laws are there for the protection of the most vulnerable members of our community; the aged, the disabled and the seriously ill. We remove them at our peril. Why too would we undermine the ethics of the medical profession which prohibit doctors taking the lives of their patients?

We believe Parliament does not have the authority to legislate to empower the strong to kill the weak. Should this bill be passed, it would be a very dangerous precedent as a future Parliament could withdraw the protection of the law from another group of vulnerable people such as those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Advocates for euthanasia claim public opinion polls reveal 70 percent support for euthanasia in the community. Right to Life challenges this contention.

On June 15, 2015 a petition on assisted suicide and euthanasia was presented to Parliament by Ms Street and 8974 others. It was referred to the Health Select Committee for consideration and the hearing of submissions. It received an unprecedented 21,277 submissions and heard more than 1200 oral submissions. A careful analysis of all the written submissions revealed that 16,411, 77 percent, were opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. Oral submissions were also overwhelming opposed.

We believe that the Health Select Committee and the community have engaged in this conversation for more than two years. The written and oral submissions constitute the most authentic expression of public opinion on the issue of euthanasia.

The report of the health committee is expected to reflect the strong opposition of those who made submissions. To send this bill to another select committee would be a waste of Parliament’s time and the taxpayers’ money.

If it does, how can Parliament be serious about reducing the horrific suicide rate in New Zealand — the second highest cause of death? In 2015/16 579 people committed suicide; 59 were teenagers between the age of 10 and 19.

We have the second highest youth suicide rate in the OECD.

Suicide is always wrong. It hurts families and it hurts communities. The government has a Suicide Prevention Strategy to reduce suicides. Right to Life asks how can Members of Parliament seriously support the Suicide Prevention Strategy and at the same time support the End of Life Choice bill which, if passed, will have the government paying doctors to terminate the lives of their patients or assist in their suicide.

If passed, the legislation would recognise that there are some lives not worthy of living. The message that Parliament would be giving to the community and youth is that it approves of suicide and recognises your right to kill yourself if you are finding life intolerable.

There is no need for doctors to kill the patient in order to kill the pain. New Zealand has world-class palliative care which is ranked third in the OECD.

The community should be aware that this bill is a Trojan horse that will ultimately result in the termination of the lives of many who do not choose to have a doctor administer a lethal injection. We release it into our community at our peril. The strategy of the advocates for euthanasia is to engage public sympathy by presenting cases like Lecretia Seales, who was fearful of enduring a painful death. Right to Life requests that Parliament act in the interest of the common good and defeat this bill at its first reading.

■ Ken Orr is the spokesman for Right to Life

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