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New Zealand’s euthanasia bill is a step into the unknown for disabled people

By Wendi Wicks, The Guardian, 14th November 2019

“How can any MP be able to agree to a measure that endangers a whole community that they are not a member of?”

MPs have voted for a public referendum on the euthanasia bill, asking the vague question, “do you support this bill?”

“It’s to be hoped that the population at large can do a sound job, but that depends on the quality and range of information they get. MPs had a huge range of sound, factual information. But judging from their voting record, many clearly disregarded heaps of it.”

“Yes, there are many individual stories both for and against this bill. All deserve respect because telling them takes effort. But there’s more to good law than basing it on individual stories. It’s about the collective impact on our community. It should be good, safe law for all. That’s what MPs are there to do but didn’t.”

“The opposition we express is consistently based on concerns that society is full of negative, biased and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours, so that people think disabled lives are less worthy. Given this attitude as a basis, the state provides really limited support for us to live well. So it’s disturbing when laws are put up that mean the state will provide the means to die, not live. But that’s where we are now. We aren’t dead yet and we don’t want state-sanctioned death support.”

“A friendly QC commented on my vulnerability to the law thus: “You’re toast.” Me and how many other disabled people?”

Read the full article here.

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Expert letter highlights risk of assisted dying increasing suicides​

Mental Health experts and researchers have written an open letter to MPs highlighting the risk of assisted dying increasing suicides. 

In the press release, spokesperson Dion Howard “says he has first-hand experience of his young clients using the same justifications for their suicidal inclinations as euthanasia advocates.”

“We feel a professional responsibility to present overseas statistical evidence regarding the relationship between assisted dying and suicide rates, the evidence is not conclusive because no-one has yet done the research and it is complex, but there is suggestive evidence which indicates that, over time, as the rates of assisted dying increase, there is a corresponding increase in suicide rates.”

“It’s a critical issue here in New Zealand because we have some of the highest suicide rates in the world, particularly for Māori, and they are still rising.”

The group want MPs to wait until more research is done before considering a law change.

“It is too risky to legislate for euthanasia or assisted suicide in New Zealand until evidence can show there’s no causal effect on New Zealand’s already high suicide levels.”

Read the letter here, and the press release here.

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MP Alfred Ngaro tables amendment to uphold principles of The Treaty of Waitangi in the euthanasia bill

There is no cookie cutter situation in a world with legalised euthanasia. Every patient is different, bringing their own concerns, views, background and support systems with them in any health decision they make. Integral to this is the patient’s cultural background.

Currently, nothing in the bill requires a medical practitioner, when dealing with Maori, to be culturally competent and carry out assessments in a way that considers Maori culture. Previously, David Seymour has said that cultural considerations and competencies are a serious issue, but has also stated it’s for the people to choose. MP Alfred Ngaro points out that such action is dismissive of real concern about the inequities Maori people face in the current health system. If this isn’t addressed in the euthanasia bill, the system won’t allow for the complexities of Maori language and culture, in assessing cases of euthanasia. Alfred Ngaro has tabled an amendment to the euthanasia bill to address this, by including a part on cultural considerations. This will ensure a practical commitment to uphold the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi is cemented in law.

Watch MP Alfred Ngaro’s speech here.

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Euthanasia is symptom of society which does not care

By Breda O’Brien, The Irish Times, 21st September 2019

Read article here.

Is euthanasia simply a symptom of a society which doesn’t care?

Euthanasia is often advocated for under a banner of compassion and care. Overseas, we see this ‘care’ extending to cases of patients suffering from dementia, mental illness and even failed sex-change operations. In the Netherlands, a court recently decided that an advanced directive was sufficient consent, even if the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s was forcefully objecting, and had to be held down to receive the lethal injection.

This leaves us wondering, what makes the difference between those who request euthanasia, and those with similar symptoms expressing a strong desire to live? Instead of widening the grounds for euthanasia, why not replicate conditions that make life worth living despite suffering?

In statistics where women, elderly and the disabled are more heavily represented requesting euthanasia, Breda O’Brien writes, “we must question whether medical killing is motivated by love, or by cold functions of sexism, ableism and ageism.”

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Polling reveals country voters want palliative care fixed before euthanasia legalised

By Nathan Hondros, WA Today, September 3, 2019

Read the full article here.

No one would say good palliative care is a bad thing.

We all know death isn’t always easy. But whilst death isn’t always easy, there is no doubt that good palliative care makes a difference. Not only treating physical illness, but also providing mental and emotional support to patients and those surrounding them.

Polling in regional Western Australia reflects this, showing that only one person out of every four believe euthanasia should be legalised before palliative care is improved. Clearly, euthanasia should never be the first option. If better alternatives exist to treat illness, alleviate pain, and increase comfort, these should be taken. If medical care is under-performing or under-resourced in NZ, this should be fixed.

“No terminally ill person should ever find themselves in the position of being unable to experience quality palliative care but able to access assisted dying.”

Good palliative case isn’t always easily accessible in NZ. What will legalising euthanasia do about it?

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‘Voluntary assisted dying’ legislation could put lawyers at our deathbeds

By Mary McComish, WA Today, 5th August 2019

Under the Victorian law, the two assessing doctors (in WA it may involve a doctor and a nurse practitioner) have to assess and certify as to around a dozen eligibility criteria and other things.

For example was the person a resident in Victoria, did the person have decision-making capacity (not compromised by depression or other mental health condition), was the person acting voluntarily and without coercion, did the person suffer from a disease, illness or medical condition, was it expected to cause death within six months, was it causing intolerable suffering?

… Any of these assessments or acts could be open to question, especially things like prognosis, capacity and absence of coercion in the decision.

Answering the questions could well involve extensive bedside interviews in the presence of opposing lawyers.

Read the full article here.

The legal implications of legalising euthanasia are much more complex than people think, as seen in Victoria, Western Australia. Many different variables and assessments are open to question, coercion and error.

Surely it is better to support and resource our health professionals instead of turning to such a problematic and inherently dangerous piece of legislation?

Once this path is taken, there will be no going back.

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A myth: Euthanasia only for the terminally ill

By Felicity Caldwell, Brisbane Times, July 5 2019

Euthanasia advocates are constantly seeking to extend the circumstances where euthanasia should be available. Although advocated as only for those who are terminally ill, other jurisdictions where euthanasia has been legalised show the support for massive shifts in accessibility to include ‘mature minors’ (children under the age of 18), as well as people with psychiatric conditions.

Boundaries and exceptions around euthanasia are bound to expand, do we really want to take such a significant risk?

Read the full article, ‘Let teens and mentally ill decide on death: Queensland euthanasia advocate’ here.

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‘No-one is beyond help’: Why euthanasia should never be an option

By Danielle Gibbs, Stuff.co.nz, 10 July 2019

We live in a world where things are not perfect. How can we say, “it’s okay for you to die, your life is intolerable” when we don’t always have the means to provide the full support a person needs to live?
We need more support for vulnerable people, such as the disabled and mentally ill, that is based on the individual’s needs. There should not be a set standard…

We need to start thinking that prevention is always better than cure.
We need to tell society that it’s okay to need help. It doesn’t mean you are weak. It means you know your limits and capabilities. Asking for help is a strength.

Read the full article here.

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Euthanasia cannot solely be contained to the terminally ill

By Jen Mills, Metro News, 7 July 2019

A paralysed man in the United Kingdom will be going before the High Court in London seeking the right to be euthanised by the state.

A paralysed man in the United Kingdom will be going before the High Court in London seeking the right to be euthanised by the state.

As opponents note, the request contravenes articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights – even though his request uses the language of human rights.

The case shows the mistruth that euthanasia can possibly remain limited to people with a terminal illness. Over time many people including disabled people like Mr Lamb will bring lawsuits challenging the law until they can be provided with assisted suicide.

It doesn’t matter what ‘safeguards’ are employed. Once it becomes a ‘right’ to be killed, it will inevitably become ‘discrimination’ to deny that right to individuals like Mr Lamb.

Read the article here.

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Report: 60% of Patients Needing Palliative Care Do Not Receive It

By Jim Parker, Hospice News, 3 July 2019

Close to 60% of patients who would benefit from palliative care do not receive those services, despite the availability of community-based palliative care as well as hospital-based palliative care, according to a new report from the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst Insights Council. 

Lack of awareness is a major barrier to palliative care expansion. A Journal of Palliative Medicine study, published in April, found that as many as 71% of people in the United States have little to no understanding of what palliative care is, including many clinicians in a position to refer patients to palliative care or hospice. 

How can euthanasia be proposed when good palliative care is not easily accessible for everyone?

Read the full article here.