For all media enquiries please contact Dr Peter Thirkell, Care Alliance Secretary, firstname.lastname@example.org, 027 563-5086.
Landmark Canadian court case proves euthanasia safeguards aren’t there, 20 March 2018
“The current landmark court case in Canada again reinforces the fact that laws legalising euthanasia cannot provide safeguards that work,” says Dr Peter Thirkell, Care Alliance Secretary.
Roger Foley has cerebellar ataxia, a terminal and incurable severe brain disorder that limits movement and leaves him unable to perform basic tasks independently. He wants to be able to live at home, but has instead been offered only two options: a forced discharge from hospital or medically assisted death. Because of this, Mr Foley is suing the hospital, several health agencies, and the attorneys general of Ontario and Canada.
“The Canadians haven’t had their law for very long and yet already we can see that the idea of choice is a myth – real choices are not available for patients to be assisted to live,” says Dr Thirkell. “This is happening in the same country that David Seymour calls “advanced” with a law that he points to as an example to be followed.”
“Mr Foley’s case highlights the substantial dangers that people with disability and serious chronic and life-limiting medical conditions will face if Mr Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill is passed.”
Under the End of Life Choice Bill, it is not necessary for a patient to have their basic needs met before seeking euthanasia, and there is no obligation to ensure real alternatives are explored; the patient must simply be “aware” of them.
“The Bill targets people who may have complex health needs, and who rely on our health system for care. We should be providing the highest standard of care and support to live, which meets those needs.”
“True patient-centred care enables the best living possible, personalised to the patient where appropriate medical expertise and care is properly provided. That’s what palliative and hospice care does and that’s why palliative and hospice care should be invested in.”
“Mr Foley wants to live and the irony is that it is the availability of legal euthanasia and assisted suicide that marks for him the end of any choice for life.”
The Care Alliance stands in solidarity with Mr Foley in his action to be assisted to live to, as he says, “build my circle of care that works with me”.
New Zealanders’ right to democratic process, 21 February 2018
The Care Alliance calls on the Justice Select Committee to make an official media announcement about the extended submission period for the End of Life Choice Bill. Care Alliance Secretary, Dr Peter Thirkell, is concerned that the general public needs to be made aware that the closing date for submissions is now midnight on Tuesday 6 March.
He also calls on the Committee to publish on its website the nearly 11,500 submissions received and processed so far, which is usual practice but not yet carried out.
“It’s important that the Justice Committee recognises that every voice counts in what is meant to be a democratic process,” says Dr Thirkell, “and that the process should be open, accessible and equitable.”
“Providing early access to all submissions on the website can only help to better inform everyone about the issues at stake in this Bill. We’ve found that the more people get to know about it, the less they like it.”
Care Alliance Welcomes Upcoming Debate on EOLC Bill, 13 December 2017
The Care Alliance welcomes the upcoming debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide in New Zealand following the decision by MPs to move David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill through to Select Committee.
“We look forward to a full and robust consultation,” says Care Alliance spokesperson Dr Peter Thirkell. “We will be putting our efforts into the Select Committee process and showing the bill up for all of its flaws.”
“We urge all groups that will be placed at risk by this bill to speak out and make their views known to the Select Committee.”
Care Alliance Highlights Folly of Victoria Euthanasia Decision, 23 November 2017
The legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Victoria, by the narrowest of margins, introduces an unsafe and unnecessary practice into the heart of their healthcare practice, says Dr Peter Thirkell, Spokesperson for the Care Alliance. Australian medical organisations have stated on numerous occasions that such laws are inherently unsafe, and in the words of the Australian Medical Association mark “a significant shift in medical practice in Victoria.”
The result in Victoria is contrary to what happened in New South Wales just a week earlier where parliamentarians had the wisdom and courage to vote down a similar bill. As NSW Labour health spokesman Walt Secord notes, “It is not possible to put in place sufficient safeguards and protections to prevent abuses of these laws. And this is before we consider the invidious pressures of medical costs, financial burdens on families or the prospect of manipulation in regard to inheritances.”
The Victorian decision also flies in the face of advice from Palliative Care Victoria to their own parliamentary inquiry, opposing the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide and saying that what it really needs is more money to be spent on palliative care. The Care Alliance is reassured by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s promise just yesterday to undertake work on finding a more sustainable model for funding palliative care in New Zealand. This echoes the conclusions of the recent New Zealand Health Select Committee report, which could not recommend any change in the law but rather urged the Government to better support the work and funding of palliative care providers.
Dr Thirkell concludes, “Victoria has ignored the weight of international evidence. It’s not where we start with euthanasia but where a law change would take us – that is the problem. The evidence is clear – where legislation has passed there are quickly pressures to extend it.” The Care Alliance calls on MPs to look carefully at the international evidence while also taking proper account of our own unique context. New Zealand medical, palliative, and hospice organisations all oppose such legislation, as well as 80% of more than 22,000 submissions to the Health Select Committee last year. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are both dangerous and unnecessary.
Care Alliance Welcomes Health Select Committee Report, 2 August 2017
The Care Alliance has welcomed the report of the Health Select Committee’s investigation into the desire to end one’s life, which was tabled in the House today.
“The Committee received nearly 22,000 unique written submissions and heard nearly 1,000 oral submissions,” said Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance. “While eighty percent of those submissions were opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia, the report is a careful and thorough summary of both sides of the issue.”
“We disagree with some of the language and statements in the Report, especially the use of the euphemistic term ‘assisted dying’. Overall, however, we think it is a useful starting point for discussing the issues. It will make sobering reading for anybody who thinks that legalising euthanasia could ever be safe, simple and straight forward.”
“That is why we too ‘encourage everyone with an interest in the subject to read the report in full’,” said Mr Jansen. “It would also be useful if future public polling asked whether respondents had read the report.”
“We extend our thanks to the Committee’s members and staff for the respectful and considerate way they listened to all voices,” said Mr Jansen. “They have heard powerful personal evidence about how we can and should do better to care for each other.”
Click here to read the Select Committee report.
Care Alliance Launches ‘Ten Questions For David Seymour’ Campaign, 12 July 2017
The Care Alliance today launched a campaign highlighting ten key questions MPs need to ask about David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill.
“Mr Seymour’s bill is an extreme version of a very bad idea,” said Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance. “All New Zealanders need to examine it critically, especially Members of Parliament who might be asked to debate it soon.”
Mr Jansen said the Ten Questions would be progressively released over the next two weeks. The first question, released today, is ‘Why 18 years of age?’. “This question highlights the inconsistency of Mr Seymour’s argument that euthanasia is ‘compassionate’. If killing is so kind, why not make it available for children as they do in Belgium and the Netherlands?”
He noted that in 2013 Maryan Street said ‘Application for children with terminal illness was a bridge too far in my view at this time. That might be something that may happen in the future, but not now.’
“The reality is that making 18 the age of eligibility is a political calculation, rather than an ethical, legal or medical judgment,” said Mr Jansen.
Health Select Committee: 77% of Submissions Oppose Euthanasia, 5 May 2017
Analysis of 21,277 submissions to the Health Select Committee’s investigation into end of life issues shows that 16,411 opposed the legalisation of euthanasia, while 4,142 supported legalisation.
Releasing the analysis today Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, said “the submissions reflect the depth and breadth of public attitudes about euthanasia. We believe it is the largest number of submissions ever received by a Select Committee and, critically, they were unique rather than ‘postcard’ or ‘form’ submissions.”
“We became aware last year that pro-euthanasia advocates were spreading a message that opposing submissions did not meet their standards for length, uniqueness or the use of religious arguments. We thought that was disrespectful to the thousands of New Zealanders who took the time and effort to share their views with Parliament, for and against. So we set to work to find out the facts.”
Care Alliance volunteers read every submission to record views on legalising euthanasia, the length of the submission, and whether or not religious arguments were used by the submitter. This work was completed in April, and a random sample from the full analysis was checked by an independent research company. It concluded that “we can say with at least 95% confidence that the overall classification percentages are accurate within no more than 0.4% variation.”
The Health Select Committee investigation began in response to a petition presented to Parliament in June 2015.
“Quite simply, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society were able to get 8,975 signatures on a petition, but could muster less than half that number in actual submissions,” said Mr Jansen. “By contrast, 16,411 people took the opportunity to say no to euthanasia.”
Opposition to euthanasia was dominant across all submission lengths. For example, of the submissions longer than one page, 1,510 submissions opposed euthanasia while 523 supported its legalisation.
Mr Jansen added that “While the Care Alliance never argues this issue from a faith perspective, we respect the right of any New Zealander to do so, for or against, if they wish. That is a real and existing right protected by the Bill of Rights Act. In the event, more than 82 percent of submissions opposed to euthanasia contained no reference to religious arguments.”
Mr Jansen said that many of the submissions, for and against, contained deeply moving personal stories regarding illness, dying and suicide. “The Select Committee has been provided with incredible testimony. We trust that they will hear that there is much more that needs to be done to improve mental health, disability and end of life services in New Zealand, but that the overwhelming majority of submitters say that euthanasia is not a solution.”
Click here to read the full analysis tables.
Kevin Hague just treated 21,435 New Zealanders with utter contempt, 22 September 2016
“Kevin Hague just treated 21,435 New Zealanders with utter contempt,” says Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance. “On 23 June 2015 Mr Hague stood on the steps of Parliament to receive a petition asking for an investigation of public attitudes into assisted dying.”
“A record 21,435 people answered the call of the Health Select Committee for public submissions. But Mr Hague now says that the Green Party doesn’t need to listen to those views. He’s made up his mind, that’s good enough for him, and there’s nothing that anyone can say to change it.”
“It is an appalling breach of trust of all those New Zealanders, for and against, who took the time and effort to contribute their views.”
Belgian child euthanased: what do New Zealand advocates say?, 18 September 2016
The Care Alliance is calling on all New Zealand advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide – including David Seymour MP, Maryan Street and Matt Vickers – to declare whether they support the euthanasia of a child in Belgium last week.
It is the first confirmed such death since Belgium removed all age restrictions on euthanasia in 2014.
Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, said the death was tragically predictable “because once you normalise the idea of euthanasia, there is no logical place to draw the line. New Zealanders urgently deserve to know whether the people advocating for a law change here think Belgium has got it right or got it wrong.”
Care Alliance to appear before Health Select Committee, 13 September 2016
The Care Alliance will make its oral submission to the Health Select Committee’s investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand on Wednesday 14 September.
Matthew Jansen, the Secretary of the coalition of groups opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide, said that he is looking forward to the opportunity to explain why euthanasia is unnecessary and dangerous.
“While we only have 15 minutes to present, I am looking forward to highlighting some of the key issues that the Select Committee will need to consider in their investigation into the desire to end one’s life,” he said.
Health Select Committee officials should provide full analysis of public submissions, 12 August 2016
Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, has called on Health Select Committee officials to provide a full analysis of the public submissions received in response to Maryan Street’s petition.
The Office of the Clerk reported this week that it is has already processed 21,435 submissions, with more than 1,800 people asking to appear in person when public hearings start later this month.
“One analysis shows that more than three-quarters of submissions are against the legalisation of euthanasia. Equally important is that the vast majority are unique rather than form submissions.“
“The real story is that the silent majority are finding their voice on this issue, and are refusing to be told how they are supposed to think by a small group of euthanasia advocates.”
Mr Jansen said that a proper analysis of the submissions would be helpful for politicians and the media to understand the real attitudes of the public. “This is an unprecedented response to a parliamentary inquiry, and it runs completely counter to the narrative peddled by Ms Street and others. The New Zealand public deserves a full analysis of this extraordinary result.”
Govt-funded euthanasia research paper is a “Shabby conclusion to a deceptive beginning”, 10 May 2016
Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, has questioned the value of a Government-funded study by University of Auckland researchers Phillipa Malpas and Pam Oliver into attitudes of New Zealand doctors and nurses to the legalisation of so-called ‘assisted dying’.
Last year Mr Jansen revealed that survey participants were not being told that Drs Malpas and Oliver were members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, or that the study was being funded by the Health Research Council.
“The paper they are now distributing is a shabby conclusion to a deceptive beginning” said Mr Jansen. “Their paper slices and dices the numbers in ways that are highly misleading to a casual reader. For example, a small print footnote says that responses from people who ‘strongly disagreed’ with legalising assisted dying were excluded from subsequent analysis. The views of 175 doctors and nurses suddenly disappear from consideration by that sleight of hand alone. That is why their statement that 37 percent of doctors ‘strongly or mostly’ agree with legalising ‘assisted dying’ is simply untrue.”
Mr Jansen also noted that the authors say the survey was anonymous, but then disclose that four days’ worth of responses were removed ‘due to notice of two faked responses by a TVNZ journalist’. “Either it was anonymous or it wasn’t,” said Mr Jansen. “In fact, how do they know that any of the responses were done by doctors and nurses, and only done once per person?”
Mr Jansen said the report should be approached with intense scepticism. He noted, for example, the suggestion in figure 13 that 7.7 percent of doctors have hastened death by administering or supplying a lethal dose of medication is grossly misleading. “First, it is 12 out of 155 doctors, not the 368 doctors who completed the survey. Secondly, it appears to include medication given with the intention of relieving pain but that may have the effect of hastening death, which is standard, legal and ethical treatment right now.”
“Once again the euthanasia lobby is showing that it cannot be trusted with data and facts,” said Mr Jansen. “It’s all about scaring up some headlines, and hoping nobody digs deeper. This whole taxpayer-funded exercise has been a shambles from beginning to end.”
Matt Vickers to speak at Euthanasia 2016 conference, 5 January 2016
Matt Vickers will speak at the Euthanasia 2016 conference in Amsterdam in May this year.
Mr Vickers is scheduled to speak in the ‘Campaign’ programme of the conference alongside George Eighmey from Oregon.
Mr Eighmey, a former Oregon House Representative and director of Compassion & Choices, sparked controversy in 2003 when he said that the top reason for people requesting assisted suicide was “I don’t want to have anyone wipe my rear end”.
Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, said that Mr Vickers’ attendance at the conference “shows what a slippery slope the so-called ‘right to die’ really is. The Dutch organisers of the conference are currently campaigning for everybody over the age of 70 to have access to a ‘suicide pill’ as a matter of right. Will Mr Vickers be speaking for or against such a law change here?”
Doctors say no to assisted suicide, 9 December 2015
New Zealand doctors are being invited to add their name to an Open Letter rejecting medical involvement in euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The Open Letter – published online at www.doctorssayno.nz – has been launched by Wellington doctor Sinead Donnelly, who is also a trustee of the Care Alliance.
“Killing someone does not require any medical training,” she said. “If Parliament did decide to introduce assisted suicide – and I sincerely hope they do not – they should choose another profession to do it. Doctors are only included to give this bad idea a cloak of medical legitimacy.”
The Open Letter endorses the World Medical Association and New Zealand Medical Association statements that it is unethical for doctors to be involved in assisted suicide and euthanasia, even if they were made legal.
Matthew Jansen, Secretary of the Care Alliance, said that awareness of the problems of assisted suicide was growing around the world. “Just last week, Justice Michel Pinsonnault of the Quebec Superior Court ruled that ‘medical aid in dying’ is simply a euphemism for euthanasia.”
“It’s time for plain speaking on this issue,” said Mr Jansen. “I am deeply grateful to the doctors who have already signed up to the Open Letter, and encourage others to follow their lead.”
Euthanasia Research Funded By Taxpayers, 19 October 2015
The government’s Health Research Council is funding euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) research, according to documents released to the Care Alliance under the Official Information Act.
The research, conducted by Dr Phillipa Malpas and Dr Pam Oliver, is the subject of complaints to the University of Auckland’s Human Participants Ethics Committee.
Matthew Jansen, spokesperson for the Care Alliance, says “It is appalling that the HRC is funding a lopsided survey that is intended to help draft legislation to kill people.”
Mr Jansen also highlighted the University of Auckland’s role in providing ethics approval for the research. “Two reviewers specifically noted that Dr Malpas is an advocate of euthanasia and assisted suicide, but they then failed to make sure that participants were told.”
“Drs Malpas and Oliver did not tell the Ethics Committee at the outset that they are members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, and they went on to tell survey participants that they are ‘independent’.”
“In reality they are using public funds for a private campaign.”
He says there are many other serious deficiencies in the survey which mean it should never have been approved. “They have even cited Wikipedia as a source of information for survey participants, for goodness sake. That’s an insult to the academic integrity of the University.”
Mr Jansen has written to the Chair of the University of Auckland’s Human Participants Ethics Committee asking for its approval to be suspended until the deficiencies are corrected.
NZ Ranked Third Best In World For Palliative Care, 9 October 2015
New Zealand is the third best country in the world for palliative care, according to a new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
The United Kingdom and Australia are ranked first and second respectively, and Ireland is fourth. The United States is ninth.
The report considered data in five categories to decide an overall Quality of Death Index:
- Palliative and healthcare environment
- Human resources
- Affordability of care
- Quality of care
- Community engagement
Matthew Jansen of the Care Alliance says the report shows that New Zealanders can have confidence that high-quality palliative care is available “but there is no room for complacency as our population ages. New Zealand can improve its performance further with extra government funding, as well as more training for the palliative care workforce we will need in the future.”
Click here to view The 2015 Quality of Death Index: Ranking palliative care across the world
Care Alliance Welcomes Health Select Committee’s Terms of Reference, 27 August 2015
The Care Alliance has welcomed the Health Select Committee’s terms of reference for considering a petition from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
Spokesperson Matthew Jansen says that the terms of reference will allow all New Zealanders to be involved in considering what society’s response should be to people who express a wish to end their lives. “We believe that the best compassionate response to a person experiencing physical, emotional or psychological suffering is to surround them with love and provide them with the best possible care. Legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) would give exactly the wrong message to vulnerable people feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances.”
Mr Jansen said that the recent Research New Zealand poll, which recorded a sharp drop in support for EAS following the Seales v Attorney-General case, showed that a more informed debate helps expose the practical problems with EAS. “The Select Committee can do all New Zealanders a great service by investigating the complex issues involved in suicide. We believe the evidence will show that EAS is both unnecessary and dangerous.”