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April 2016

Dutch government funds study to consider child euthanasia

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LifeSiteNews 27 April 2016
The Dutch minister for public health, Edith Schippers, has decided to award about 450,000 dollars of public money for scientific research on child euthanasia. She made the announcement last week in response to a request made in June 2015 by the Dutch Association of Pediatricians (NVK) asking for decriminalization of so-called “mercy-killing” of children aged between 1 and 12.
Last Friday, Schippers told the Second Chamber of Parliament that she is presently of the opinion that there are not enough reasons to make euthanasia available for this age group, and that the NVK’s request is being put on hold. But the debate has not been closed and the minister appears to be open to other solutions.
The decision to subsidize research on child euthanasia, as well as the one – also announced on Friday – to open a new support-desk for doctors who are facing difficult end-of-life situations regarding children aged 1 to 12, do show that sooner or later the slippery slope of legalized euthanasia leads medical practice to ever-increasing sympathy towards procuring death to larger and larger categories of patients.
The majority of the lower Chamber of the Netherlands has already expressed support for child euthanasia.
Both parliamentarians and pediatricians are following the lead of neighboring Belgium, where minors are allowed to ask for euthanasia provided they are mentally competent and both their parents agree, that their suffering is unbearable, and death would take place “within a foreseeable time.” It was the Belgian law, which came into effect in February 2014, that triggered an official request from Schippers asking the NVK for its opinion. Its report was submitted one year later, and the minister took one more year to assess the situation.
In the Netherlands, euthanasia is already legal for newborns up to 12 months, and for adolescents aged between 12 and 17, who are legally considered to be “mentally competent,” insofar as their parents do not oppose the decision. Officially, 5 minors – one aged 12, and four aged 16 or 17 – have been euthanized between 2002 and 2012. Doctors are now aiming to close the gap, despite the fact that the younger the child, the less “mentally competent” it can be deemed to be.
In Belgium, there is no age limit; rather, they use a case-by-case assessment of a child’s understanding of what euthanasia means.
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Canada shows that assisted suicide is a cliff, not a slippery slope

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Media ReleaseSecretary Care Alliance 22 April 2016
Family First Comment: Dr Kleinsman says the Canadian experience shows there is no logical limit once you start legalising assisted suicide. “Taking the single, fateful step of believing that assisting suicide is a legitimate response to suffering puts you in free fall. You simply cannot withhold it from some if you allow it for others.”
John Kleinsman, Chair of the Care Alliance, says that Canada is providing a stark warning that “assisted suicide is a cliff, not a slippery slope”.
The Canadian government last week submitted a bill that would legalise ‘medical assistance in dying’ in response to the Supreme Court’s judgment last year in Carter v Canada.
The National Post columnist Andrew Coyne has highlighted that the chief complaint of euthanasia advocates about the bill is that “it does not include children and the mentally incompetent.”

What once was unthinkable is now indispensable. The extraordinary step of authorizing doctors (and nurse practitioners: another innovation), sworn down the centuries to save lives, to take them instead, has been swallowed and digested as if it were nothing. The debate has moved on to its next inevitable stage.

Dr Kleinsman says the Canadian experience shows there is no logical limit once you start legalising assisted suicide. “Taking the single, fateful step of believing that assisting suicide is a legitimate response to suffering puts you in free fall. You simply cannot withhold it from some if you allow it for others.”
He noted that David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill proposes legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide for anyone over the age of 18. “If Mr Seymour truly believes it is compassionate for the State to kill adults, why on earth would he withhold such ‘compassion’ from children? Belgium, the Netherlands and now Canada show that is exactly where this thinking leads you, and Mr Seymour should at least be honest about it.”

Canada drafts euthanasia law

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NewsHub 15 April 2016
Family First Comment: Dangerous.
“Patients would also have to be experiencing “enduring and intolerable suffering” and death would have to be reasonably foreseeable. How do you define ‘enduring’, ‘intolerable’, and ‘reasonably foreseeable’? And WHO determines it?

Canada’s Liberal government has unveiled draft legislation on doctor-assisted suicide which would apply to adults suffering incurable illness or disability but stopped short of extending it to minors or the mentally ill for now.

Legislators will vote on the draft law, which applies only to Canadians and residents in the country, by June 6.

The Supreme Court of Canada overturned a ban on physician-assisted suicide last year but gave the new government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extra time to pass legislation, adding Canada to the handful of Western countries that allow the practice.

Trudeau, whose father declined treatment for cancer before his 2000 death, said Canadians were “extremely seized with this issue.”

“It’s a deeply personal issue that affects all of us and our families and all of us individually as we approach the end of our lives,” he told a news conference in London, Ontario, on Thursday.

“The plan we have put forward is one that respects Canadians’ choices while putting in place the kinds of safeguards needed.”

Under the law, patients would have to make a written request for medical assistance in dying or have a designated person do so if they are unable.

There would be a mandatory waiting period of at least 15 days in many cases, and patients would be able to withdraw a request at any time.

Patients would also have to be experiencing “enduring and intolerable suffering” and death would have to be reasonably foreseeable.

Euthanasia bill provides perfect cover for acts of murder
Alex Schadenberg Euthanasia Prevention Coalition 14 April 2016
Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying) was tabled today in the House of Commons today.
The bill claims to be following a more restrictive framework, and in comparison to the radical recommendations from the government committee the bill appears to be more restrictive.

In reality the bill provides legal immunity to anyone, who kills another, under the act, while the bill fails to provide effective oversight of the law or conscience rights for healthcare professionals.
There are significant problems with the design of the bill.


Why some MDs won’t kill you (even if you ask)

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Times Colonist 2 April 2016
Family First Comment: This article is worth reading – especially the story about Gerald.

The “assisted death” debate evokes a spectrum of strong emotions in most of us. Often, our opinion is largely based on witnessing, or at least hearing about, the sufferings of others at the end of their lives.
At least that is true of my own opinion on this subject. As a family physician for the past 31 years, I have walked this road with more patients and their families than I can remember.
Some of these “transitions” seem to happen relatively “easily,” if you know what I mean. Yes, there’s always some sadness, and the poignant finality of the occasion, but in some cases it seems that the death is timely, the family are prepared and the transition is relatively smooth.
But they are not all like that.
Although I have witnessed more of these occasions than I can remember, there are a few that I will never forget. I would like to share one real life (and death) experience with you, as it has certainly informed my opinion on the subject of assisted death.
I met Gerald (not his real name) in 2001 soon after he had immigrated to Canada to retire in our beautiful city. He had enjoyed a very successful professional career, and although he was making big changes in his occupation and living situation, he was still very youthful in his love for life, and was looking forward to a full and active life in Victoria.
He consulted me infrequently due to his good health, but I always enjoyed his “joie de vivre,” and we struck up a good rapport.
One day, I received a phone call from the ER doctor that Gerald had suffered a sudden collapse on the street, and was now in the ICU with what appeared to be a devastating stroke. It turned out that he had suffered a brainstem infarction, which effectively “disconnects” the brain from the rest of the body. Gerald’s ability to think and feel emotions, sensations and pain were unaffected, but he was unable to move anything at all, except his eyes.
Think about that for a moment: Feeling pain at a pressure point or feeling mucus pooling in the back of your throat and being unable to move, or even communicate your pain or fear. Totally dependent on machines to breathe for you and feed you, and on other people for bathing and toileting you.
We set up an alphabet board so we could laboriously point to each letter, and Gerald would blink at the letter he wanted and spell out a word. I remember sitting for the first time with some anticipation wondering what Gerald would want to say. Slowly, the words came: “p l e a s e k i l l m e.”
He stared straight at me, and the desperation and commitment were as clear as if he had shouted it from a rooftop. He would repeat this phrase at the start of every spelling-board conversation over the next few months. This would cut me to the heart each time, as I had to explain that there was nothing I could do except ensure the best medical care possible, and try to anticipate and alleviate any physical pain.
Slowly, over many months, Gerald’s condition stabilized and he could breathe on his own, with frequent suctioning. He was able to be transferred home with 24-hour care, and could use a computer with a controller in his mouth. He still could not talk, eat, drink or move any muscles apart from his eyes and now his lips.
Because he had 24-hour care, my visits became less frequent, and as the months went by, his communications became more positive. In fact, he started to write articles about his experiences, and communicate with friends by email.
One day, I summoned enough courage to ask him if he was glad to be alive. He answered: “Yes!” I then asked him if he was glad that I hadn’t killed him as he had asked me to all those times. He said: “Yes, very glad!” I think there was a little smile in his eyes, also.
Gerald went on to live a fulfilling life before succumbing to pneumonia a few years later.


'Miracle' as cancer bride who married in deathbed wedding makes full recovery – and renews vows

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Mirror 28 March 2016
A miracle cancer bride who first noticed signs of the deadly disease during a walk for Cancer Research UK has made a full recovery after being granted a deathbed wedding.
Sereena Scott, 32, has now renewed her wedding vows with hubby Robert, 37, after defying the odds to make a full recovery.
The sales assistant was devastated when she discovered she had a deadly watermelon-sized mass on her ovaries, but today she is looking forward to the future.
She said: “I feel like the luckiest person alive to have beaten cancer when I was so close to dying.”
Sereena, from Kent, noticed something was wrong when she felt pain while taking part in a Shine Night Walk for Cancer Research UK in September 2014.
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Assisted Suicide Study Questions Its Use for Mentally Ill

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New York Times 10 February 2016
A new study of doctor-assisted death for people with mental disorders raises questions about the practice, finding that in more than half of approved cases, people declined treatment that could have helped, and that many cited loneliness as an important reason for wanting to die. The study, of cases in the Netherlands, should raise concerns for other countries debating where to draw the line when it comes to people’s right to die, experts said.

At least three countries — the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland — allow assisted suicides for people who have severe psychiatric problems and others, like Canada, are debating such measures, citing the rights of people with untreatable mental illness. Laws in the United States, passed in five states, restrict doctor-assisted suicide to mentally competent adults with terminal illnesses only, not for disorders like depression and schizophrenia.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, finds that cases of doctor-assisted death for psychiatric reasons were not at all clear-cut, even in the Netherlands, the country with the longest tradition of carefully evaluating such end-of-life choices. People who got assistance to die often sought help from doctors they had not seen before, and many used what the study called a “mobile end-of-life clinic” — a nurse and a doctor, funded by a local euthanasia advocacy organization.

“The criteria in the Netherlands essentially require that the person’s disorder be intractable and untreatable, and this study shows that evaluating each of those elements turns out to be problematic,” said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry, medicine and law at Columbia University.

Dr. Appelbaum added, “The idea that people are leaving their treating physician and going to a clinic that exists solely for this purpose, and being evaluated not by a psychiatrist but by someone else who has to make these very difficult decisions about levels of suffering and disease — it seems to me like the worst possible way of implementing this process.”


John Kelly’s Testimony Against New Hampshire End-of-Life Choices Study Commission SB426

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Not Dead 29 March 2016
Family First Comment: This is a superb read. But especially note this…
“Encouraging assisted suicide for some will encourage suicide for all. Suicide contagion is real. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Oregon’s already high suicide rate has increased much more than the national average; from 1999 until 2010, the rate of increase for people age 35-64 was 49% in Oregon versus 28% nationally. Given the motto of Compassion & Choices and other “right-to-die” organizations is “My Life. My Death. My Choice.” this should come as no surprise. It certainly is a negative that bullied teenagers get the message that suicide is an answer to your problems.”

My name is John Kelly, and I am the New England Regional Director for Not Dead Yet, the national disability rights group that has long opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide. I am also the director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts: Disability Rights Advocates against Assisted Suicide.
Please reject SB426 because it is riddled with falsehoods. From the words of the commission’s title to its enumerated duties, it’s clear that legalization proponents drafted the bill. It is a stalking horse for the legalization of assisted suicide.
The first falsehood is the phrase “end-of-life.” The committee should know that in current practice, the “end-of-life” is the six-month period following a physician’s terminal diagnosis. Yet of the millions of misdiagnoses every year, many are terminal misdiagnoses. We know this because of the thousands of people who “graduate” from hospice each year. The Medicare hospice benefit limits eligibility to people “reasonably expected” by a doctor to live less than six months, but the six-month terminal window is arbitrary, having more to do with congressional cost concerns than any clinical basis.
Assisted suicide advocates took what was essentially a bureaucratic criterion and made it the linchpin of their new medical “treatment,” state-approved barbiturate poisoning. Assisted suicide laws turn the best outcome under hospice – proving you weren’t terminal after all – into the worst possible end for people who might live months, years, or decades longer, but are instead persuaded (or coerced) under threat of agonizing death to commit suicide.
There are so many examples of people outliving terminal prognoses, from Ted Kennedy living a year longer than predicted to John Norton of Florence, Mass., who testified before the state legislature that when he was diagnosed with ALS, he would have definitely used assisted suicide were it available. Luckily for John, his family, and everyone who has come to know him, assisted suicide wasn’t state policy, his disease process stopped, and – 60 years later! – he’s urging people to reject these bills.
There is no “end-of-life” period that could be enacted in law that would protect innocent people. The falsehood of “end-of-life” means you must reject the bill.
The second falsehood is illusion of “choices,” the other word in the title of the proposed commission. When people cannot get accurate knowledge about their condition, we cannot speak of “choices.” We also cannot speak of “choices”

  • when one out of every 10 people over the age of 60 in New Hampshire is estimated to be abused every year, almost always by adult children and caregivers.
  • When someone in line to inherit your estate can help sign you up, pick up the prescription, and then take action against you with no questions asked.
  • When depressed people with a serious illness who mistakenly think that people will be better off without them get told that “feeling like a burden” is a rational reason to kill yourself.
  • When there is no funded homecare, so families worried about the inheritance feel pressure to “choose” assisted suicide.
  • When the only other “choices” a nursing home.
  • When people with disabilities are already told to our face that we would be better off dead.

I was once able-bodied and had an accident, and since then I’ve received many “better dead than disabled” messages, right to my face and through popular culture. My own father wished that I died in the accident. I was speaking to a reporter recently about assisted suicide and she said that if she ever became paralyzed from the neck down, or had ALS and “they wanted to put a tube in me,” she would want it.
The words in the bill’s title “End-of-Life Choices,” by the way, was the choice of the former Hemlock Society when it tried to make its purpose more palatable to the public. That same organization with the same mission is now known as “Compassion & Choices.” After the 219-66 defeat suffered by the last assisted suicide bill, HB 1325, I’m sure that the former Hemlock Society is behind this bill as well.
Predictably, the first “choice” to be investigated by the commission is “the positive and negative effects of legislation in states that have enacted aid in dying laws.”
The third falsehood in this bill is the phrase “aid in dying,” one of Compassion & Choices’ favorite euphemisms for assisted suicide (“Death with Dignity” is the other). It’s not clear exactly what “aid” means. It could be the prescription that the doctor writes, or it could mean the overdose of barbiturates that the pharmacist dispenses, or it could mean the poisonous concoction that people try to drink – slowly enough to prevent vomiting and quickly enough to prevent falling asleep before the overdose is complete – in the act of suicide.
“Dying” reflects the fiercely maintained belief of proponents that when people are “reasonably expected” to die within six months, they are in the process of actively dying. Leading Massachusetts proponent Dr. Marcia Angell strenuously argues that “make no mistake about it, people are dying.”
The problem is that this is so often and so clearly untrue. Here is yet another reason to reject SB426.
The American Medical Association has a definition for “physician-assisted suicide,” not for “aid in dying.” When the New England Journal of Medicine held a 2013 poll on the issue, the title was simply “Physician-Assisted Suicide.”
One positive, according to proponents, is that there has never been a case of abuse out in Oregon – that’s right, the first state-run program ever without a case of abuse. The only reason that no abuse is discovered is because the reports are designed that way. The only abuses we know of are ones that somehow make it to the media.
For example, Wendy Melcher died after being given massive doses of barbiturate suppositories by two nurses, one of whom was having an affair with Wendy’s partner. The nurses claimed that Melcher had requested assisted suicide, but there was no doctor’s prescription, Wendy did not self-administer, and the nurses never reported her death to the Oregon Department of Health as an assisted suicide.
Yet instead of referring the nurses to authorities for criminal charges, the state nursing board secretly suspended one nurse’s license for 30 days and placed the other on two years “probation.” It took a reporter’s phone call years later to inform Melcher’s devastated family that she had been killed. It seems that the very existence of the assisted suicide law turned evidence of a serious crime into an excusable mistake. The Portland Tribune editorialized, “If nurses — or anyone else — are willing to go outside the law, then all the protections built into the Death With Dignity Act are for naught.”
The fifth falsehood is that “aid in dying” is not assisted suicide. But when proponents talk about “dying on their own terms” and choosing the “timing, manner, and circumstances” of death, that’s a suicide plan.
Encouraging assisted suicide for some will encourage suicide for all. Suicide contagion is real. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Oregon’s already high suicide rate has increased much more than the national average; from 1999 until 2010, the rate of increase for people age 35-64 was 49% in Oregon versus 28% nationally. Given the motto of Compassion & Choices and other “right-to-die” organizations is “My Life. My Death. My Choice.” this should come as no surprise. It certainly is a negative that bullied teenagers get the message that suicide is an answer to your problems.
Would commission members judge the “end of life concerns” reported by prescribing doctors a positive or negative effect? Proponents draw on personal stories, which often involve pain and fear of pain. Yet as pointed out by Mike Skibbie, policy director for the New Hampshire’s Disability Rights Center, in the New Hampshire Public Radio debate earlier this month, the leading reasons cited in Oregon and Washington all have to do with disability.
The sixth falsehood is that assisted suicide is all about pain and suffering. But the five leading reasons reported by prescribing doctors solely deal with psychosocial distress about disability. First is distress about dependence on other people (“losing autonomy” 92%), second is distress over lost abilities (“less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable” 89%), followed by feelings of shame and perceived/actual loss of social status (“loss of dignity” 79%), distress about needing help with incontinence (“losing control of bodily functions” 50%), and believing that suicide would leave loved ones better off (“burden on family, friends/caregivers” 40%).
Another falsehood is that “choice” belongs only to the individual. It’s a fantasy that other people only want what the individual wants, and completely support whatever the person chooses. Everyone is in relation to their family and loved ones.
If someone’s suicide is seen as an individual and social benefit, of course other people will be suggesting it.
Here is an example of a man told he was a burden. Oregonian Kathryn Judson wrote of bringing her seriously ill husband to the doctor.
I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor’s office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought). To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. “Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her, “ he said, as a clincher.
A belief common among people thinking of suicide, whether “conventional” or assisted, is that their deaths will benefit others. Assisted suicide laws reclassify what should be evidence of impaired judgment as a rational response to disabling, serious illness.
The lives of non-“terminal” disabled people share many traits with people requesting assisted suicide, but we reject as bizarre and dangerous the notion that personal dignity is somehow lost through reliance on others, or because we are not continent every hour of every day. That’s why for 40 years the disability rights movement has insisted on funded programs to provide necessary personal care attendant (PCA) services for all disabled people, including people disabled by their serious illness.
Assisted suicide laws set up a two-tier system, under which some people get suicide prevention services while others get suicide assistance. The difference between the two groups would be based on value judgments about so-called “quality of life.” Many of us already get told, straight to our face and through medical hostility, that we might be better off dead. Legalized assisted suicide makes that prejudice official policy.
That’s why every leading national disability rights group that has taken a position on assisted suicide has come out against it.
There is no way to come up with a better bill through the “thoughtful and deliberative” process envisioned by sponsor Senator Dan Feltes.
This study commission would be well replaced by a commission that would investigate how best to “help older people in New Hampshire live well.” This commission could investigate innovative practices like in-home medical visits, in-home mental health care, fully funded homecare, and the guarantee of effective palliative care, secured through a requirement that all practicing doctors in the state be certified in the field.
New Hampshire could follow the innovative practice of Connecticut, the first state to recognize explicitly that “assisted suicide is actually a form of lethal discrimination against disabled people. Here is the key finding of the Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board (CTSAB):
Until recently, the CTSAB was considering assisted suicide of the terminally ill as a separate issue from suicide prevention. The active disability community in Connecticut, however, has been vocal on the need for suicide prevention services for people with disabilities. There may be unintended consequences of assisted suicide legislation on people with disabilities. [Disabled scholar William] Peace writes that “Many assume that disability is a fate worse than death. So we admire people with a disability who want to die, and we shake our collective heads in confusion when they want to live.”
One of the Board’s most important recommendations is:

  • Do not “assume” suicide is a “rational” response to disability.

Suicide is not a rational response to disability.
Please only establish commissions with honest language. Reject SB426 because it’s dishonest and dangerous. Thank you.

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Life story: A resilient fighter till the end

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Stuff 9 April 2016
Despite a life using a wheelchair, Shayden Gibbons-Kingdom never thought of himself as disabled.
Shayden was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at just 7-years-old, and started using a wheelchair less than a year later.
He lived a life dedicated to friends and family, enjoying his time at school and developing a passion for popular music, classics and drama.
Marie Gibbons described her son as “strong willed and very compassionate”.
He died on March 23, 2016, surrounded by his family.
He was 18.
Shayden was born on December 1, 1997, at Avonlea Birthing Centre in Christchurch.
“We always knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what it was,” his mother said.
“He could never run, jump or ride a bike, he always struggled going up stairs.
“My dad would use a stick to push him on his bike.”
The late diagnosis, received when he was already 7-years-old, meant Shayden was always treated as normal.
“I think that pushed him to be strong, and pushed us to be strong too.”
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Cancer campaigner Leanne Bachop ticked off bucket list before death

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Stuff 9 April 2016
Leanne Bachop did not want cancer to dictate her future. So she​ went treatment-free, cashed in her life insurance and went on a bucket list adventure.
She and her partner of eight years, Mike Sherrie,53, decided there should be no regrets once a rare form of cancer eventually killed her.
Visits to relatives and monuments in Abu Dhabi, UK, USA and Tahiiti were all ticked off before her health deteriorated further after Christmas. She spent her final months at her Christchurch home.
Bachop, the 47-year-old sister of former All Blacks Graeme and Stephen Bachop and youngest of seven siblings, died on April 1 – more than five years since she was diagnosed with neuro endocrine tumours (NETs). The illness went undetected after she was misdiagnosed.
An advocate for the Unicorn Foundation, Bachop was a beacon of inspiration for many, documenting her cancer journey online. To her, it was never about a fight or battle.


MPs back devout-Catholic rival to head euthanasia inquiry

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NZ Herald 1 April 2016
National Party MP Simon O’Connor has been backed by Labour and Green Party colleagues after his suitability to head an inquiry into euthanasia was questioned because of his personal beliefs.
Mr O’Connor is the chairman of Parliament’s health committee, which is considering a petition to legalise euthanasia in New Zealand.
The devout Catholic, who once trained for the priesthood, is firmly opposed to assisted suicide.
Act Party leader David Seymour, who supports a law change, said Mr O’Connor had been too partisan on the issue and should step down as chairman.
Mr Seymour blamed Mr O’Connor for the committee’s terms of reference, which he said had placed too much emphasis on suicide.
“That is very different from assisted dying,” he said.

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