Media Release 13 January 2017
Family First NZ is labelling a University of Auckland survey on attitudes to euthanasia as a weak incomplete survey with the authors drawing dubious conclusions by their own admission.
“This survey “Demographic and psychological correlates of New Zealanders support for euthanasia” should be ‘dead in the water’. It suggests support for euthanasia, but then by its own admission acknowledges that its results only measure attitudes in one particular scenario – and that scenario may no longer be valid,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“This survey adds nothing to the debate and simply challenges polling companies to work harder to find out attitudes to euthanasia when the full smorgasbord of options and outcomes are presented along with the potential risks they present to society. As this study admits, the “findings do not represent peoples’ support for the concept of euthanasia per se.” Those relying on it cannot do so with confidence.”
“It also appears to measure attitudes from as far back as 2009 – but there has been a lot of debate and education of the risks of euthanasia since that time, and significant increases in the availability and effectiveness of palliative care,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“..we measured support for euthanasia using the single item “Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the patient requests it?” This item has been used previously in the British Social Attitudes Survey and assesses levels of support versus opposition to euthanasia as a general concept only. As such, our results do not provide information about potentially more nuanced differences in support for euthanasia in different contexts and for different types of illnesses. For example, previous studies using vignettes have found that people tend to exhibit differing levels of support depending on the subject, type of illness and voluntariness of euthanasia.” (our emphasis added)
“It is also important to note that, due to the improvement in palliative care and pain-management in Western countries, most patients today should die without physical pain. As a result of effective palliative care, the avoidance of physical pain may no longer be the central motivation for desiring euthanasia. Moreover, patients’ definition of ‘unbearable suffering’ and reasons for requesting euthanasia now revolve around psycho-emotional and existential factors such as feelings of meaninglessness, loss of self and being a burden on others. The question used in our study included the term ‘painful’ but did not mention any psychological factors associated with desires for euthanasia. This raises the possibility that our findings do not represent peoples’ support for the concept of euthanasia per se, but instead, support for assisted death in the face of severe physical pain.” (our emphasis added)
“The truth is that to legalise assisted suicide / euthanasia 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 early death. Patients will come to feel euthanasia would be ‘the right thing to do’, they have ‘had a good innings’, and they do not want to be a ‘burden’,” says Mr McCoskrie.
As American lawyer and author Wesley J Smith says, once killing is seen as an appropriate answer in a few cases, the ground quickly gives way, and it becomes the answer in many cases.
It is also noted that Auckland University has previously been under fire for euthanasia research, conducted by Dr Phillipa Malpas and Dr Pam Oliver, which was the subject of complaints to the University of Auckland’s Human Participants Ethics Committee.
Family First is calling on ACT’s David Seymour to focus on providing a palliative care regime in New Zealand that is fully funded and world class and is a clear alternative to assisted suicide – and not to remove the protection for vulnerable people, including children.
Media Release 13 January 2017