Mike Yardley: Legalising euthanasia a step onto a slippery slope

by Mike Yardley, Stuff, 25 October 2016

Mr Yardley has written an opinion piece on how he has grappled with the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Flying home to Christchurch last week, assisted dying was playing on my mind.

No, not in response to the feckless behaviour of some passengers, but on the back of a chat with Karen, a lovely traveller from Oregon. She was intrigued that voluntary euthanasia was the subject of a parliamentary select committee inquiry in New Zealand.

Karen supported Oregon legalising the practise in 1995, but now deeply regretted doing so, “because the so-called safeguards are being overwhelmingly ignored.” 

Like most Kiwis, I  wrestled with the issue. No matter how we try and dress it up, euthanasia remains a profoundly vexing issue. But in all good conscience, I cannot support its legalisation.

Karen mentioned to me that in Oregon, the law supposedly restricts assisted suicide to the terminally ill with six months to live, but that is being widely flouted.

As the NZMA chair, Dr Stephen Child self-effacingly points out, “Doctors were not always right in forming a patient’s prognosis. Ten to 15 per cent of prognoses are deemed incorrect during autopsies.”

Child argues the scope for error is too large given the irreversible consequences.

It’s particularly troubling to note that in 2014, only 30 per cent of patients requesting assisted suicide in Oregon actually did so because of pain. And only 3 per cent of applicants received a psychiatric evaluation.

Belgium is another glaring example where the original criteria fast descended into a slippery and unscrupulous slope, whereby under 18 year olds can now apply, and about a third of terminations are carried out without the patient’s request, despite it being illegal. So much for the safeguards.

Click here to read the full article.