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October 2015

Euthanasia bill is open to wide interpretation

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Media Release Euthanasia-Free NZ 14 October 2015 
“The End-of-Life Choice Bill uses vague language that is open to wide interpretation”, says Renee Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
The bill proposes death by lethal drugs for people with “a grievous and irremediable medical condition”. Virtually anyone could qualify under this clause, because a condition automatically becomes “irremediable” if a person exercises their right to refuse further treatment.
The requirement that a person needs to be “in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability” is equally problematic. The capability to do what? To read? To run? Anyone with a disability, mental illness or ageing-related condition could qualify under this clause.
In July, a 24-year old depressed but otherwise healthy woman, was granted legal euthanasia under similar legislation in Belgium. Her depression was considered “an irremediable condition” and in the words of Seymour’s bill, “she experienced suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that she finds tolerable”. She only wanted a lethal injection.
“We are deeply concerned that, under Seymour’s bill, depressed people could receive death instead of treatment”, says Ms Joubert. “Depression is easily hidden, even from doctors, and easily misdiagnosed. Depressed people could use another medical condition as an excuse to qualify for a lethal injection from a doctor. This bill effectively allows state-facilitated suicide.”
Seymour’s bill contains no enforceable safeguards against coercion and abuse.
Euthanasia-Free NZ trusts that MPs will reject the End of Life Choice bill, especially in light of overseas decisions to dismiss legislation that is much less extreme. During the past year assisted dying legislation was rejected in the UK, Scotland and the US states of Maine, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware and Maryland. It was legalised in only one state, California, and only by circumventing the normal legislative process.

David Seymour introduces End of Life Choice Bill

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3News 14 October 2015
A Bill legalising assisted dying will be introduced into the Member’s ballot by ACT leader David Seymour today.

Mr Seymour says the End of Life Choice Bill is a response to the growing call for euthanasia which has gained prominence since the high-profile case of lawyer Lecretia Seales who spent her dying moments fighting for the right.

It also coincides with a petition with 8975 signatures which will be presented to the Health select committee this morning.

But Family First believes the Bill is premature and should wait until the inquiry he supported was completed.

“Rather than a flawed euthanasia Bill which will contain the same pitfalls as Maryan Street’s earlier proposed Bill, it makes absolute sense to debate euthanasia within the wider context of the premature ending of one’s life,” national director Bob McCoskrie says.

“Voluntary euthanasia has the allure of being an enlightened and compassionate response to the plight of the suffering, but its practical operation is fraught with risks and there are slippery slopes that are indeed very slippery.”

A person eligible for assisted dying would:
Be aged 18 or over;
Suffer from a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months or have a grievous and irremediable medical condition;
Be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;
Experience intolerable suffering;
Be able to understand the nature and consequences of assisted dying.
The legal process:
Two medical practitioners need to be satisfied that the person meets the criteria;
The person will also have to be assessed by a mental health specialist;
A Support and Consultation for End of Life New Zealand Group (SCENZ) will be set up – it will maintain a list of doctors, specialists and pharmacists willing to participate in assisted dying;
Medical practitioners who conscientiously object to assisted dying must refer people to SCENZ.

David Seymour's voluntary euthanasia bill to be lodged in Parliament

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Stuff 13 October 2015
A bill calling to legalise voluntary euthanasia will be lodged by ACT leader David Seymour in Parliament on Wednesday.
The bill is being presented on the same day former Labour MP Maryann Street, who in the last parliamentary term proposed and championed the End-of-Life Choice bill, will have a petition heard at health select committee.
The petition, which has 8795 signatures, garnered cross-party support when it was presented at Parliament in June by Street and Matt Vickers, husband of Lecretia Seales, who died of a brain tumour on the same day she lost her High Court bid to choose to die.
An inquiry was born out of Street’s petition and members of the health select committee would look at the factors that contributed to a person wanting to end their life, as well as the experiences of other countries who have adopted euthanasia laws.
Seales spent her final months fighting for the courts to rule in favour of assisted dying but she learnt on her death bed that she had been denied her dying wish.
It’s understood Seymour’s bill was likely to be modest and wouldn’t go as far as some people would like, but would draw from the experiences of similar bills that have come up for debate recently overseas.
David Seymour’s voluntary euthanasia bill set to join ballot
NZ Herald 14 October 2015
Act Party leader David Seymour will today launch his bid to get voluntary euthanasia back on the parliamentary agenda.
Mr Seymour is lodging a new bill in the private member’s ballot which would legalise medically assisted suicide.
When he began drafting the bill in June, he said: “In my view it is politically, morally, legally and, in terms of public policy, the right thing to do.”
The End of Life Choice Bill will go into a ballot which already has 68 bills in it, meaning there is no guarantee it will be debated in the immediate future.
Mr Seymour wants the Government to pick up his bill, but it has not given any sign that it will do so.
Prime Minister John Key has previously said that while he has voted in favour of voluntary euthanasia in the past, he believed a member’s bill was the best way to deal with the issue.
Seymour to present euthanasia Bill
3News 14 October 2015
ACT leader David Seymour is about to unveil his End of Life Choice Bill.

He drafted his voluntary euthanasia legislation after a petition carrying 9,000 signatures was presented to parliament in June, asking for an inquiry.

In July, the health select committee announced it would hold an inquiry, and it’s due to start hearing submissions on the petition on Wednesday.

When the petition was presented by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand, Mr Seymour said drafting a bill was “the right thing to do”.

Euthanasia Bill Pre-Empts Important National Conversation

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Media Release 14 October 2015
Family First NZ says that a private members bill by ACT MP David Seymour on euthanasia is premature, and pre-empts an important national conversation that is just getting under way regarding assisted suicide and the ending of one’s life.

“David Seymour should wait for the Inquiry that he supported to be completed. Rather than a flawed euthanasia bill which will contain the same pitfalls as Maryan Street’s earlier proposed bill, it makes absolute sense to debate euthanasia within the wider context of the premature ending of one’s life. There has always been a concern about conflicting messages being sent regarding euthanasia and suicide. There are mixed messages when society wants to approve a person taking their life but also take a zero tolerance approach to other suicides,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The country needs to have a robust honest debate about euthanasia without the emotion of a law change in the mix, and examine whether so-called safeguards deserve that label, whether coercion is subtle but real, and whether patients will ask themselves why they are not availing themselves of assisted suicide. The potential for abuse and flouting of procedural safeguards is a strong argument against euthanasia. Overseas experience proves that the risk of abuse cannot be eliminated.”

“Allowing euthanasia could potentially institutionalise suicide as a method of coping with personal problems. The risk of ‘suicide contagion’ associated with a media campaign around promoting euthanasia is also a real concern,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“We would argue that the international evidence confirms that to allow assisted suicide would place large numbers of vulnerable people at risk – in particular those who are depressed, elderly, sick, disabled, those experiencing chronic illness, limited access to good medical care, and those who feel themselves to be under emotional or financial pressure to request an early death because they don’t want to be a burden. This is not ‘autonomy’ or ‘choice’ or ‘dignified’.”

“Voluntary euthanasia has the allure of being an enlightened and compassionate response to the plight of the suffering, but its practical operation is fraught with risks and there are slippery slopes that are indeed very slippery. There will be an irreversible alteration to the way society and medical professionals view the demise of the elderly, the disabled, the incurably afflicted and the terminally ill. Death will be planned, coordinated and state-sanctioned in a manner hitherto unknown,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“David Seymour should put the brakes on his private members bill and allow the conversation to happen.”

Assisted dying: What does the law in different countries say?

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BBC News 6 October 2015
California has become the fifth US state to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives with a doctor’s supervision. What does the law say in different states and countries when it comes to the right to die?
What is the difference between euthanasia, assisted suicide and assisted dying?
These terms are not always used consistently.
◾Euthanasia is an intervention undertaken with the intention of ending a life to relieve suffering, for example a lethal injection administered by a doctor
◾Assisted suicide is any act that intentionally helps another person kill themselves, for example by providing them with the means to do so, most commonly by prescribing a lethal medication
◾Assisted dying is usually used in the US and the UK to mean assisted suicide for the terminally ill only, as for example in the Assisted Dying Bills recently debated in the UK
Where are these practices permitted?
◾The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg permit euthanasia and assisted suicide
◾Switzerland permits assisted suicide if the person assisting acts unselfishly
◾Colombia permits euthanasia
◾ California has just joined the US states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana in permitting assisted dying
◾Canada will permit euthanasia and assisted suicide from February 2016 (slightly earlier in the province of Quebec)
How did the law change in these places?
◾In the Netherlands, euthanasia and assisted suicide were effectively legalised through the use of the defence of necessity in prosecutions of (primarily) doctors for providing euthanasia
◾In Colombia, Montana and Canada, the courts also took the lead in changing the law, on the basis of human rights claims
◾In Belgium, Luxembourg, Quebec and Vermont, it was the legislature that changed the law
◾In Oregon and Washington, legislation was enacted because a majority voted in favour of an initiative placed before the electorate following a petition signed by a minimum number of voters
Must the person be suffering?In the Netherlands, the patient’s suffering must be unbearable, with no prospect of improvement. The suffering need not be related to a terminal illness and is not limited to physical suffering such as pain. It can include, for example, the prospect of loss of personal dignity or increasing personal deterioration, or the fear of suffocation.
The Belgian law is similar. The patient’s suffering must be constant and unbearable, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder. There is no requirement that the patient be diagnosed with a terminal illness, although additional checks are imposed if the patient is not terminally ill.
In Canada, patients will qualify for assistance if they have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering.
The five US states permit assisted dying only, so the patient must be terminally ill. There is no additional requirement relating to the patient’s experience of the disease or any minimum level of suffering.
Which requests by patients will qualify?
All of the regimes require the patient to be competent, well-informed, and to make a voluntary request. Oregon requires that the voluntariness of the request be confirmed by two witnesses.
How old must the patient be?
Only the Netherlands and Belgium permit euthanasia for patients under the age of 18.
◾In the Netherlands, a competent patient between the ages of 16 and 18 may request euthanasia or assisted suicide. The parent or guardian does not have a veto, but must be consulted. Competent patients aged between 12 and 16 may also qualify, but only if their parent or guardian consents
◾In Belgium, a competent patient under the age of 18 may request euthanasia with parental consent. Additional scrutiny of the child’s competence is required, and suffering based on a psychiatric disorder is excluded.
What additional safeguards are imposed?
In the Netherlands and Belgium, a second doctor must see the patient to confirm their request is valid and their suffering unbearable. A network of doctors has been trained to undertake these consultations.
In the five US states, a second doctor must see the patient to confirm they are terminally ill and their request is valid. In Oregon, Washington and Vermont, the patient must also see a mental health professional if either the attending or consulting doctor suspects they may be suffering from a psychological disorder, such as depression, causing impaired judgment.
How are these cases reviewed?
None of the regimes require the prior consent of a judge, as proposed in the recent Assisted Dying Bills in the UK.
In the Netherlands, the doctor must report the case to the coroner, who passes it to a regional committee. If the committee finds the doctor did not follow the legal requirements, the case is referred to the prosecution service, and to the body that regulates doctors.
In Belgium, the process is similar, but there is only one committee.
In Oregon, the doctor must report each prescription and each death to the state health department. If the doctor fails to comply with the legal requirements, the health department refers the case to the body that regulates doctors.
What is known about the frequency of euthanasia and assisted suicide?
Doctors have been asked about the decisions they have made at the end of patients’ lives, using an anonymous survey originally designed by Dutch researchers. These surveys have been carried out in a range of countries, including those where euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are permitted, and those where it is not.
The rate of euthanasia in the Netherlands has remained fairly stable at 2.8% of all deaths (in 2010).
The most recent survey of doctors in the UK was in 2007-08. The rate of euthanasia was reported to be 0.21% of all deaths, and a similar rate has been reported in France (in 2009), even though euthanasia remains illegal in both countries.
In contrast, research carried out in Flanders, Belgium found the rate prior to legalisation was unclear, with separate surveys reporting rates of 0.3% of all deaths in the region (in 2001-02) and 1.1% (in 1998). The rate has risen steadily since legalisation in 2002 to 4.6% of all deaths in the most recent survey in 2013.
Very low rates of assisted suicide are reported in countries that both permit and prohibit this practice.

Clive James: 'I'm embarrassed to be alive'

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NZ Herald 10 October 2015
Broadcaster Clive James said he is “embarrassed” to be living a year after he predicted his imminent death.
The writer and critic, 76, last year revealed he was suffering from terminal leukaemia and had “written himself off”.
But to the delight of friends and family, he has survived another year – leaving him “stuck with the embarrassment of still being alive”.
“People are still sympathetic, except perhaps for some of my Australian critics, the most scornful of whom has always wanted me dead anyway,” he told the Guardian.
James’s prediction was made in a poem published in September 2014 called Japanese Maple.
In the piece, he suggested browning leaves on a tree in his garden signified the “end game” of his life.
Instead, he now says: “Winter arrived, there has been a whole other summer, and now the maple is just starting to do its flaming thing all over again, with my shyly watching.”
Before his prediction, the Australian-born TV critic joked that he was trying to fend off the terminal cancer in order to impress former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s daughters.

How California’s New Assisted Suicide Law Could Especially Hurt the Poor

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The Daily Signal 6 October 2015
“My concern is for people who don’t have resources, who don’t have a choice.”
“You read about Oregon denying someone a lung transplant, but, ‘Here, you can you have these pills.’”
“That’s my fear about what this would become.”
That’s what Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents the San Diego area, told the Sacramento Bee in an interview published in July.
Gonzalez is a Democrat who opposed California’s new physician-assisted suicide law, which was signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown, also a Democrat.
Gonzalez is right to be afraid.
In theory, the California law has safeguards ensuring that suicide is solely the patient’s choice. “Before the drugs can be prescribed, two California doctors must agree that the person has no more than six months to live,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “It is then the patient’s choice whether to take the drugs. Those who want to must affirm their intention 48 hours in advance and must take the drugs on their own, without help.”
Oregon’s Example
But there are many ways to influence people, to get them to the point where they do state that their intentions are to die. And the example of Oregon, which enacted physician-assisted suicide in 1997, provides plenty of reason to be concerned that people, especially those who are low-income, are susceptible to ill-intentioned persuasion.
Dr. William Toffler, an Oregon doctor, wrote in The Wall Street Journal in August that “the regular notices I receive indicating that many important services and drugs for my patients—even some pain medications—will not be covered by the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program” were “concerning.”
“Yet physician-assisted suicide is covered by the state and our collective tax dollars,” Toffler, who is also national director of Physicians for Compassionate Care, noted. “Supporters claim physician-assisted suicide gives patients choice, but what sort of a choice is it when life is expensive but death is free?”

Groundbreaking study links 'assisted dying' to an increase in suicide rates

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Media Release Euthanasia Free NZ 7 October 2015
Some advocates claim that the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide (PAS), also known by the euphemisms ‘assisted dying’ and ‘end of life choice’, could lead to a reduction in total suicides and delay suicides that do occur. Until recently these claims had not been tested by research.
A groundbreaking study published in this week’s Southern Medical Journal counters these claims. The study examined the association between the legalisation of assisted suicide and state-level suicide rates in the United States between 1990 and 2013.
It concluded that the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide is associated with a 6.3% increase in total suicides (including assisted suicides) and not at all associated with a decrease in non-assisted suicides.
“This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) non-assisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals,” the researchers concluded.
In the New Zealand context a 6.3% increase in suicide rates would represent an additional 35 deaths, based on the 2014-2015 statistics.
“I’m not at all surprised by the study’s findings”, says Renee Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ. “Assisted suicide laws communicate the message that the deliberate ending of one’s life is an acceptable solution to life’s problems.”
“There is essentially no difference between suicide and ‘assisted dying’, apart from the number of people involved in the act. Suicide is a person ending their own life without help from anyone else. Assisted suicide, by definition, is a person ending their own life with the help of someone else. Both result in premature death.
“The slogans employed to justify ‘assisted dying’ also apply to suicide. Suicidal people may also feel they are ‘suffering unbearably’ and without hope. They may also feel it’s ‘their body, their choice’ and that they want to ‘choose when to die’. They may also feel they are exercising their ‘right to die’. Indeed, rights apply to everyone, regardless of health status or age.
“’Assisted dying’ slogans are counter-productive to our quest to lower the suicide rate in New Zealand,” says Ms Joubert.
The Health Select Committee is currently investigating the legalisation of ‘assisted dying’ within the wider context of suicide. More information about how to make a submission is available at
People who are thinking about ending their own lives, or who are concerned about someone else, are encouraged to phone 0508 TAUTOKO (0508 828 865).

NZ's end-of-life care third best worldwide

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3News 7 October 2015
New Zealand’s end-of-life care is the third best in the world, according to a global study.

The research, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranked New Zealand behind only Britain and Australia when comparing the overall quality and availability of palliative care found in hospitals and hospices in 80 countries.

New Zealand was also found to have the world’s highest community engagement around end of the life care – one of the five statistics considered.

“New Zealand has excellent facilities and a qualified workforce, and access to palliative care is free and universal,” the report’s authors noted.

But they said different standards for assessment of care across DHBs made it difficult to get a broad picture of some issues.

The EIU noted top ranked countries tended to be richer, and income levels were a “a strong indicator of the availability and quality of palliative care”.

When the survey was last conducted in 2010, New Zealand also came in third.

Gov. Brown signs controversial assisted-suicide bill

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After struggling, Jerry Brown makes assisted suicide legal in California
LA Times 5 October 2015
Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, signed a measure Monday allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.
Brown appeared to struggle in deciding whether to approve the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown wrote in a signing message. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
The new law is modeled after one that went into effect in 1997 in Oregon, where last year 105 people took their lives with drugs prescribed for that purpose.
The California law will permit physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months.
The law will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare, which may not be until next year — January at the earliest, November at the latest.