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Major gaps persist in knowledge of the practice of assisted suicide and euthanasia

By Michael Cooke, BioEdge, 10th November 2019

More research must be undertaken about the decision making process and consequences of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and how this legislation “affects societal discourses regarding palliative care, suffering, old age and dying.”

Currently, research into euthanasia is difficult as some jurisdictions have no legally required reporting procedures, with some forbidding the mention of euthanasia as the cause of death on the death certificate. Euthanasia legislation “suffers from an under- reporting bias. Studies have estimated that, even several years after legalisation, from 1/5 (the Netherlands) to 1/3 (Belgium) [of] cases is [sic] not reported.”

“More in-depth knowledge overall is needed into the MAiD [Medical Aid in Dying] decision- making process, especially concerning vulnerable population groups such as the oldest old and people suffering from severe mental illness … most research on MAiD practice has been limited to interviewing or surveying physicians. More research exploring the narratives from patients and patients’ relatives is particularly needed to gain a more complete picture.”

There is an “important gap in our understanding of the process and consequences of the practice”. The influence of legalising euthanasia on palliative care, and patients feel pressure, fearing being a burden to relatives and society, must be examined.

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.