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Debating the End of Life Choice Bill and its implications in New Zealand

Click this link to watch the debate

SUPPORT: David Seymour and Gabe Rijpma

“We need to think about that in the context of those who do not have a voice. Who may not be here… People who are trapped in bodies that no longer function… This is about dignity…It’s about giving people the dignity and ability to make their own choice.” – Gabe Rijpma

OPPOSITION: Rt Hon Sir Bill English, Dr Kate Grundy

“A friend of mine in Canada who works in this field…was telling us that patients in hospitals, older patients, really sick patients, are now starting to refuse drugs for two completely contradictory reasons. One is, they are worried that if they take the drug, say significant pain killers, that they will be regarded as losing capacity and therefore not be able to choose euthanasia. The other reason is the opposite. They are worried the doctor might be giving a drug that’s going to kill them.” – Sir Bill English

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Palliative care experts say euthanasia goes against core belief that death and dying are ‘natural part of life’

by Hawke’s Bay Today, 19 May 2018

We don’t talk enough about dying and we need to change that. We think it would help if people knew a bit more about the actual process of dying and what to expect
We suspect a lot of the current debate is fueled by fear of the unknown, and a lack of information about what care is available and what actually happens when someone dies.

“In our experience a good safe death is peaceful, dignified and a natural process.

“People advocating for a law change talk about choice, compassion, and dignity, as if euthanasia were the only way to achieve these things. But these are the founding tenets of Hospice services: you can have choice, compassion, and dignity at the end of your life, and you don’t have to kill yourself for them, or have someone kill you to achieve this.”

  • Click here to read the full article.

 

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Opinion polarised on End of Life Choice Bill

by Nicki Harper, Hawke’s Bay Today, 19 May 2018

“What everybody is trying to do deal with, like me, is that while it’s true there are some people who have difficult deaths is legislation the right mechanism to help those people?” said Yule.

In an effort to gather as much information as he could, he said he had talked to many people on both sides of the debate, but that his final decision once the bill was in its final form would not be made on the issue of freedom of choice.

“It will be made on whether there is undue suffering potentially being endured and whether that is acceptable or not.

“It’s a moral dilemma around the very big call to take someone’s life early versus the suffering they may be under – I think that will be the crunch of it when it comes to the select committee.”

  • Click here to read the full article.
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Record number of submissions on euthanasia bill forces committee to delay its report

by Isaac Davison, The New Zealand Herald, 21 May 2018

Public hearings begin today on the End of Life Choice Bill, and so far 35,000 submissions have been received.

The committee was initially given nine months to hear the submissions, an extension on the usual six months. It has now pushed the deadline back another three months, to March, to cope with the huge workload.

Select committees usually choose which submitters they want to hear from in person, but because of the significance of the legislation the Justice Committee has decided to hear from anyone who wants to make an oral submission.

So far, 3500 people have said they want to appear in person.

  • Click here to read the full article.
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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”.

END

Published at Scoop NZ.

For all media enquires please contact Dr Peter Thirkell, Care Alliance Secretary

secretary@carealliance.org.nz

027 563-5086

 

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David Seymour needs to listen to NZ about euthanasia

by Dr Peter Thirkell, Newshub, 9 March 2017

Mr Seymour says that it is the quality of argument that matters, implying that the submissions in opposition are poorly argued, but not the pro-euthanasia ones. His presumption is staggering. Submissions to the Health Select Committee in 2016 were 80% opposed to euthanasia. They included people from all walks of life and levels of education.

Mr Seymour calls this a progressive bill, but progressive to what end? Progress is, in one sense, just a direction. And the direction of this bill emerges out of, and plays to, people’s fears: fear of a bad death; fear of becoming a burden; fear of losing physical and mental capabilities and social relationships.

  • Click here to read the full article.
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Seymour’s bill ‘woefully inadequate’: Disability Rights Commissioner

Tesoriero said legislative change in relation to end of life choice cannot be considered in isolation from the standard and current services and resources available to those who experience serious but non-terminal conditions or palliative care services. 

“In its current form, the Bill undermines the position of disabled and vulnerable members of our community. It devalues their lives and poses significant risks to them, as individuals and as a group.

IHC Director of Advocacy Trish Grant said the Bill’s stated purpose, to give “people with terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition” the option of requesting assisted dying had far wider implications than intended for people with disabilities, placing them at undue risk…

“Further, the Bill assumes all people in New Zealand have access to the same level of care and support to enable them to have the best quality of life and therefore able to make an informed choice about their right to die.

“But we know people with disabilities do not receive the same level of care and support.”

  • Click here to read the full article (The New Zealand Herald, 7 March).

“The key thing for New Zealanders to understand is that this bill goes beyond terminal illness,” Tesoriero told Newsroom .

“What people need to understand is there’s a really broad scope to the bill, and quite a range of disabilities or chronic health conditions could be considered a grievous or irremediable condition,” she said. “We haven’t had a discussion about the extension of the scope beyond terminal illness.”

“This whole bill is premised on a medical model, not the social model of disability which says that you are only disabled by the barriers that are put in your way. What we have to focus on is improving the support systems available to disabled people to enable them to live good lives rather than focusing on enabling a good death”.

  • Click here to read the full article (Newsroom, 8 March 2018.)

 

Read the Disability Commissioner’s submission to the Justice Select Committee on the End of Life Choice Bill here.

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Ron Jones: Leave doctors out of ‘assisted dying’ discussion

by Ron Jones, The New Zealand Herald, 23 March 2016

Since there are currently no medical indications for ending a person’s life, the use of the word “medical” by legislators dishonestly transfers undue responsibility for the act of euthanasia to the medical profession.

Termination of life is an anathema to most doctors and I doubt if many will wish to participate.

Palliative care physicians, arguably the most trusted and empathetic members of our profession, will not have a bar of it. This may lead to a small coterie of doctors who wish to be involved – “Doctor Deaths” – a phrase that will not be welcomed by the profession or most of the public.

  • Click here to read the full article.
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Terry Dunleavy: MPs cannot pass the buck on euthanasia

by Terry Dunleavy, The New Zealand Herald, 29 January 2018

Euthanasia is one issue on which MPs cannot simply just pass the buck to the public. This is an issue which they, and they alone, should decide as a matter of conscience in the spirit of that memorable 1961 debate.

Already, euthanasia has been described as a “licence to kill”, and the start of a “slippery slope”. But, subjecting it to a binding referendum may also be the first step in a slippery slope to the death of parliamentary democracy.

  • Click here to read the full article.
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Dr Sinead Donnelly: Palliative medicine uses morphine with care

by Sinead Donnelly, The New Zealand Herald, 15 December 2017

Politicians do great harm to the perception of medical practice, and instil unnecessary fear and anxiety in the minds of the public, by promulgating, on national television, incorrect, misleading and unsubstantiated statements.

“By promoting the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide, David Seymour’s bill is seeking to change the nature of our medical profession from ‘care always’ to ‘why be careful!'”

Click here to read the full article.