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‘End of life bill demeans the disabled’

by Thomas Coughlan, Newsroom, 22 May 2018

The euthanasia bill risks sending a message to the disabled that their lives are valued less than the lives of abled-bodied New Zealanders, the Disability Rights Commissioner says.

She argued that the inclusion of disabled people in the legislation sent a message that disabled lives were not worth living.

Tesoriero said that a suicidal disabled person who met the Bill’s criteria would be allowed to end their life, whereas an abled-bodied person who also wanted to end their life would be given social support and counselling and would be prohibited from assisted suicide. 

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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.