Monthly Archives

September 2016

WARNING: Greens would legalise euthanasia for terminally-ill adults

By | Recent News

NewsTalk ZB 22 September 2016
Family First Comment: Yet another reason to keep the Greens away from any form of power.
The Green Party says it will legalise medically-assisted dying if in Government.
It is the first political party to formally adopt a voluntary euthanasia policy in its manifesto.
The new policy was announced today by health spokesman Kevin Hague, who is leaving Parliament next week.
“I am pleased that one of my final acts as an MP … is to launch this policy, which will allow people to choose to die with dignity,” he said.
In his valedictory speech on Tuesday, Hague urged Parliament to “be brave” and grapple with important issues such as assisted dying.
“Political timidity” was holding up reform in this area, he said.
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Green’s ‘Assisted Suicide’ Policy Ignores Important Inquiry

By | Media Releases

Media Release 22 September 2016
Family First NZ is slamming a Green Party policy on euthanasia which has been released at the same time as a major inquiry on assisted suicide gets under way with representation on the select Committee from the Greens themselves.

“It is significant that while Green MP Kevin Hague says that there has been ‘political timidity’, the Greens won’t campaign on the issue. The country needs to have a robust honest debate about assisted suicide without the emotion of a parliamentary 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,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“There are mixed messages when the Greens rightly wants to take a zero tolerance approach to suicide yet at the same time approve certain circumstances for a person to take their life. The risk of ‘suicide contagion’ associated with promoting euthanasia is also a real concern,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“The Green Party policy raises concerns around issues of subjective definitions, risks to the elderly and vulnerable, and statements made around potential euthanasia for disabled persons.”

“New Zealand has a well-developed network of hospices, and palliative medicine is widely practiced with a standard of excellence, and the Greens would be better to focus on ensuring world class palliative care is available to all NZ’ers.”

“The Green Party should pull the plug on their policy and allow the conversation to happen in the Inquiry.”

Hospices against euthanasia, MPs told

By | Recent News

NewsHub 21 September 2016
Hospices have told told Parliament’s health select committee that they oppose changing the law to allow voluntary euthanasia.

The committee is listening to public opinion on voluntary euthanasia and will report its conclusions to Parliament in response to a petition asking for a law change.

On Wednesday Andrew Leys, chief executive of Hospice Southland, said his team was extremely concerned about a possible law change.

He told the committee hospice workers often faced questions about euthanasia from patients.

“The vast majority move beyond the point of wanting euthanasia,” he said.

“My team is concerned that voluntary euthanasia could lead to less support for people to help them cope with their circumstances.”

Mary Potter Hospice director Brian Ensor said hospices would have to be kept entirely seperate from any assisted dying.

“The last days of living should be made as comfortable as possible, and it may involve sedation,” he said.


Woman given 2 months to live survived for NINE years (UK)

By | Recent News

Daily Mail 12 March 2015
When Sandra Hilburn was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2006, she was told she only had up to three months to live.
Nine years – and five grandchildren – later, the 68-year-old retiree from New Jersey is still going strong, and all thanks to an experimental treatment involving a common vaccine.
Hillburn, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, was one of 12 cancer patients who were given a tetanus shot as part of a new study conducted at the Duke University Medical Center.
Researchers found that a dose of tetanus vaccine let patients like Hillburn live longer when added to an experimental treatment for the most common and deadly kind of brain tumor,
It ‘put the immune system on high alert,’ paving the way for the experimental treatment to work better in attacking the disease, said researcher Kristen Batich of the Duke University Medical Center.
In a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature, she and others describe a study of 12 patients. Some who got the tetanus shot lived years longer than those who didn’t.

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Belgium teen first minor to be granted euthanasia

By | Recent News

Radio NZ 18 September 2016
Family First Comment: And so it begins
A terminally ill 17-year-old has become the first minor to be helped to die in Belgium since age restrictions on euthanasia requests there were removed two years ago.
The head of the country’ federal euthanasia commission said the teenager was “suffering unbearable physical pain”.
Euthanasia commission head Wim Distelmans said the teenager was nearly 18.
“Fortunately there are very few children who are considered [for euthanasia] but that does not mean we should refuse them the right to a dignified death,” he told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
The case had been reported to his committee by a local doctor last week, Mr Distelmans told Reuters.
Belgium is the only country that allows minors of any age to choose euthanasia.
They must have rational decision-making capacity and be in the final stages of a terminal illness.
Their parents must also give consent.
The Netherlands also allows euthanasia for minors, but they must be aged over 12 years old.
Belgium lifted its age restrictions in 2014. The law passed by parliament said the child would have to be terminally ill, face “unbearable physical suffering” and make repeated requests to die before euthanasia is considered.
Many people, including church leaders and some paediatricians, questioned whether children would be able to make such a difficult choice.


Don't change euthanasia laws – NZ Medical Association

By | Recent News

NewsHub 14 September 2016
Family First Comment: Who do we listen to?
Medical professionals or Politicians?
Easy – Not politicians!

The New Zealand Medical Association has told a parliamentary committee it opposes changing the law to allow voluntary euthanasia.

The health committee is gathering evidence in response to a petition asking for a law change.

A fortnight ago it heard from supporters of voluntary euthanasia, and on Tuesday it was the turn of those who oppose it.

Dr Stephen Child, chair of the NZMAA, told the committee the association represented 5500 medical professionals.

“Doctors do everything we possibly can for our patients … but 10 to 15 percent of diagnoses are incorrect, and three percent of diagnoses of cancer are incorrect,” he said.

“We’re not always right in diagnosis, and we’re not always right in prognosis.

“In principle and in practice, the association does not support a change in the legislation.”

Dr Child said doctors believed in pain relief “even if the secondary consequences of that may hasten death … giving morphine to a dying patient is not what we’re talking about here”.

The Care Alliance, a coalition of organisations and individuals opposed to voluntary euthanasia, said “assisted suicide” was unnecessary and dangerous.

“The right response to suffering is to continue the services for people with terminal illnesses,” said the alliance’s secretary, Matthew Jansen.

The Wellington Interfaith Council said all religions opposed the ending of life.

Council chairman Khalid Sandhu, a doctor, gave several examples of how his terminally ill patients had died peacefully under palliative care.

“We are desperate to stop people committing suicide, while at the same time discussing giving people that choice,” he said.

The committee will continue hearing submissions, and then report to parliament.—nz-medical-association-2016091413

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Euthanasia debate reignites in Parliament

By | Recent News

NewsHub 14 September 2016
The Care Alliance has told a health select committee legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide is unnecessary and dangerous.

The committee has heard a second round of submissions on legislation to permit medically-assisted dying, “in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition that makes life unbearable”.

Former Labour MP Maryan Street proposed and championed the End of Life Choice Bill, along with Matt Vickers, partner of Lecretia Seales who died from a brain tumour after campaigning for the right to die.

“We know not all deaths are good deaths but we believe we can improve services available to the terminally ill. Moving the bright line of prohibition on assisted suicide would create more problems than it would solve,” the Care Alliance, a group made up of palliative care doctors and nurses and Hospice New Zealand, said.

Secretary Matthew Jansen said euthanasia and assisted suicide are unnecessary because palliative care works to alleviate the suffering of patients – “physically it works well”.

Mr Jansen says more New Zealanders should get better access to higher quality services, but “we should never throw up hands and say ‘we can’t give you a perfect outcome, therefore we’ll give you a lethal injection’. [That’s] dangerous.”

“We have a serious problem with suicide in this country, particularly among young people, Maori and older men. Our youth services are stretched beyond breaking point and it’s a disgrace.

“We think it would be unconscionable for Parliament to give any suggestion to young people that suicide is a proper and approved response to suffering.”

Dr Stephen Child, chairman of the New Zealand Medical Association, told the committee “in principle and practice we do not support a change in legislation”.

“We completely respect patient autonomy, but it needs to be rational, fully informed, and without coercion. Decisions are often influenced by fear and circumstance which can affect decision-making. Decisions can fluctuate but this is irreversible.

“There are also clinical challenges – 10-15 percent show diagnoses are incorrect. Three percent of cancer diagnoses are incorrect. We are not always right in prognoses; our ability to predict is poor,” he says.

“A patient’s capacity can be changed by brain metastases or drugs. Can you write a law to 100 percent protect the vulnerable?”

He said it’s very difficult to determine what rational and irrational suicides are.

“We believe in right of patients to have treatment withheld and prescribing of analgesics to relieve pain and suffering, even if that may hasten death, but we don’t support this law change.”

The Medical Association represents the views of more than 5000 medical staff.

Dr Sandu replied: “50 percent of people in the last census said they were religious, so yes it should be taken into account”.

The Morgan Foundation told the committee it believes in choice within a regulated framework, “unless you have a very good reason to remove that choice”.

“If you don’t allow assisted dying what is the alternative? It’s nil-by-mouth and it’s not pleasant.

“The numbers that would be taken up by this option would be very small but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t grant it.”

Others making submissions included Dr Khalid Sandu, medical doctor and chair of the Interfaith Council, who said we have a responsibility to make the terminally ill comfortable but not to allow them to take their lives.

He cited the case of an 80-year-old diabetic man in poor health who was twice rushed to hospital with low blood sugar.

“He raised his finger and said ‘don’t you do anything about it’. I did as he wished, left his flat, and he passed away that afternoon. This is an excellent example of palliative care with compassion.”

Green MP Kevin Hague, who is on the committee, said many of the submissions opposing assisted suicide came from those with a religious faith.

He asked Dr Sandu: “Is it your belief that a life belongs to God and therefore he decides? And should that shape New Zealand law?”

Wendi Wicks and Robyn Hunt from ‘Not Dead Yet’ opposed assisted suicide on behalf of the disabled, saying attitudes are inherently negative towards the disabled and that “people say our lives are suffering. We don’t want legislation that says our lives are inherently worthy of dying”.

They said the disabled make up 24 percent of the population and are New Zealand’s largest minority.

“Eugenics under the Third Reich killed 6000 disabled people. It casts a long shadow when people say impairments we live with and live with well are worthy of dying.”

Ms Hunt said there have been cases where ‘do not resuscitate’ has been put on a patient’s record without their knowledge.

“It’s not the answer to disability, even when degenerative. They want access to good lives before a good death. Suicide data on the disabled is not gathered and there are no suicide prevention services for the disabled.”

She says the Humanist Society supports non-religious people and a secular state; 41 percent of people declare themselves as not religious.

“People have the right to choose a painless and dignified end.”


Let Family Court decide euthanasia issues – ex-PM

By | Recent News

Radio NZ 1 September 2016
Former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer has waded into the emotionally-charged euthanasia debate, calling for the Family Court to have the final say.
The Voluntary Euthanasia Bill, put forward by the leader of the ACT Party, is being heard before Parliament’s health committee.
Sir Geoffrey said having judges rather than doctors making any final decision would ensure there was a publicly credible system in place.
He said as well as medical standards, legal standards needed to be met too.
“In its essential elements it’s connected to the human rights of the person involved. It’s not for doctors to play god on this matter.”
As well as removing doctors from the ethical conundrum some may be faced with, Sir Geoffrey said the family court was user-friendly, non-invasive and a Skype conference could be used if people were too unwell to attend.
He said it would be reassuring for the public to know the system was guaranteed to be robust and there was no slippery slope towards exploitation.
“That is the appropriate way to go to provide the safeguards that I think are necessary to ensure the public can be guaranteed that this law is not going to be abused.”
However, ACT Party leader David Seymour said there was no need for its inclusion in his bill and it would not add any value.
Mr Seymour said his bill was similar to the system of voluntary euthanasia in Oregon in the United States, which worked well without a family court’s involvement.
“They haven’t brought in an additional layer of bureaucracy or decision-makers and so yes, it’s an interesting idea, but there’s no reason to think that there’s a serious problem to be solved or that the benefits of having additional people involved in this decision would outweigh the costs.”
But family law specialist Erin Ebborn said a Family Court procedure would not be cumbersome, especially when there were clear procedures being outlined.
“I don’t see safeguards as being bureaucracy and cost.
“When you’re talking about such serious issues having reassurances in place – and this isn’t just about reassurances for doctors – it’s also about reassurances for the individual and also the family and friends of the individual as well.”
Matt Vickers – the widower of lawyer Lecretia Seales, who fought for the right to die with dignity – said he had not formed a view yet on the inclusion of the Family Court, but MPs needed to reflect on the idea.
“Sir Geoffrey’s suggestion of the Family Court being involved is a possible safeguard. For that reason it needs to be considered and looked at quite carefully and if that is the thing that gets us over the line with politicians and gets us to a point where we have something in law I would support that.
“It really is ‘what are the right safeguards? What is the right process?’, I think it’s incredibly healthy that we are having this discussion now.”
The Law Society said it would need to consult with appropriate committees before it could consider any comment.

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74% of Belgian mental suffering euthanised were women

By | Recent News 29 August 2016
Family First Comment: “The Dutch and Belgian societies are turning their backs on mentally-ill women, and are quite happy for them to die out of hand. Assurances of informed choice and stringent safeguards to laws for euthanasia or assisted suicide in NZ are as hollow here as they are elsewhere.”
They’re killing psychiatric patients in Belgium and the Netherlands – and most of them are women
Two recent papers in medical journals highlight a worrying aspect of euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands, according to Wendi Wicks, convenor of Not Dead Yet Aotearoa.
“Most of the psychiatric patients being killed are women. So what’s going on-why are there so many disabled women dying?”
The British Medical Journal paper by Dr Thiesnpont – a psychiatrist personally involved in euthanasia – revealed that 74 percent of Belgian patients euthanised for mental suffering were women.
The paper goes on to observe “the concept of ‘unbearable suffering’ has not yet been defined adequately, and that views on this concept are in a state of flux.”
“The attitude seems to be that they’ll just keep killing until they’ve figured it out. It doesn’t give confidence when terms that can’t be properly defined are used in laws to end life. Assurances of fully informed choice are just an illusion ” says Ms Wicks.
The JAMA Psychiatry paper by Dr Kim showed 70 percent of Dutch cases were women, and that ‘Most had personality disorders and were described as socially isolated or lonely.’ We already know that disabled people are greatly at risk from euthanasia-assisted suicide and these studies highlight that it’s even more risky for any women.
Ms Wicks says that these findings should be ringing alarm bells around the world. “The Dutch and Belgian societies are turning their backs on mentally-ill women, and are quite happy for them to die out of hand. Assurances of informed choice and stringent safeguards to laws for euthanasia or assisted suicide in NZ are as hollow here as they are elsewhere.”
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