Monthly Archives

June 2017

ACT's euthanasia bill 'dangerous' – professor

By | Recent News

Radio NZ News 26 June 2017
A Welsh professor of palliative medicine and cross-bench member of the House of Lords has arrived in New Zealand to challenge David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill.
The ACT leader’s euthanasia bill was pulled from the members’ ballot earlier this month to go before Parliament.
The End of Life Choice Bill would allow for assisted dying in cases where people are terminally ill but still mentally sound.
Ilora Finlay said that going by what had happened in Oregon and Belgium, the legalisation of assisted suicide in New Zealand would lead to 120 cases a year, while legalising euthanasia would lead to around 1200.
Baroness Finlay said Mr Seymour’s bill was dangerous.
“It isn’t restrictive at all, it also goes beyond physician-assisted suicide and it goes to euthanasia, but you do fundamentally change the relationship between the doctor and the patient when you go down that road.”
Ilora Finlay will take part in a public panel discussion at Parliament on Wednesday.


Call for Guidelines on Euthanasia Media Reporting

By | Media Releases

Media Release 27 June 2017
Family First New Zealand has made a submission to the Strategy to prevent suicide in New Zealand calling on strict guidelines around the media reporting of assisted suicide & euthanasia.

In their submission, Family First has warned the Ministry of Health that the public debate over assisted suicide presents a serious risk to public health and safety because there is a ‘social contagion’ aspect to suicide – assisted or non-assisted – and that the discussion should be focused around suicide prevention.

Family First is also warning that guidelines around the media reporting of suicides are being widely ignored in the reporting of recent instances of assisted suicide, with the subject’s decision to end his or her life frequently presented in the media as inspiring and even heroic, and the means of committing suicide being clearly spelt out.

“You don’t discourage suicide by the promotion of assisted suicide. Suicide is already a public health crisis. This will just confuse the message to vulnerable people,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Many of us are concerned with the impact on elder suicide and youth suicide as a result of ‘normalising’ the concept of so-called ‘rational suicide’. There is a risk to young and to vulnerable people and to elderly people as a result of the current obsession in New Zealand with promoting assisted suicide / euthanasia. The reporting of cases related to this topic should be restrained and should come under the same restrictions as the reporting of any forms of suicide. A New Zealand Medical Journal report by New Zealand suicide researchers Annette Beautrais and David Fergusson says reporting on suicide in any way puts vulnerable people at risk.”

Commenting on Brittany Maynard’s suicide which has been a cause de celebre for euthanasia advocates, social scientist Dr. Aaron Kheriaty from the University of California argues that “given what we know about suicide’s social effects, and given the media portrayal around her death, we can anticipate that her decision will influence other vulnerable individuals.”

Family First is calling on the Ministry of Health to create and adopt strict guidelines around the media reporting of assisted suicide / euthanasia, to ensure that restrictions on reporting are in place to protect those who are already vulnerable. Reports of any forms of suicide can give vulnerable people “triggers or pictures” around potential methods.

“Promotion of assisted suicide is a message that will be heard not just by those with a terminal illness but also by anyone tempted to think he or she can no longer cope with their suffering – whatever the nature of that suffering. This is the real risk to young and to vulnerable people and elderly people if NZ follows the path of promoting – and allowing – assisted suicide,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Most abusers are family members

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Stuff 26 June 2017
Family First Comment: “Age Concern statistics show about 75 per cent of alleged abusers were family members – more than half the alleged abusers were adult children or grandchildren. Family situations were often complex and elderly people relied on the care of the abuser, so instead of reporting the abuse, they put up with it.”
Assisted suicide laws would simply add to the pressure.
Age Concern is reporting a worrying increase in the number of older Manawatu people suffering abuse and neglect.
Often it’s from those closest to them and it’s a trend not limited to the region, with Age Concern’s chief executive Stephanie Clare saying elder abuse is a problem nationally.
Examples of abusive situations include children and grandchildren taking advantage of an older person’s home and money, as well as  online scams and door-to-door scams.
Clare said elder abuse in New Zealand was under-reported, especially as people often felt ashamed after being scammed and did not want to come forward.
There were 311 referrals to Age Concern for cases of abuse and neglect in the Whanganui, Manawatu and Horowhenua region between July 2015 and June 2016 – about six referrals a week in each area.
This was up from 297 referrals for the same period the previous year and 309 referrals between July 2013 and June 2014.
Clare said society was ageist, with grandparents not always being treated with the respect they deserved.


Catherine Byrne: Palliative care a kindly end-of-life right

By | Recent News

NZ Herald 24 June 2017
Family First Comment: From a palliative care specialist who knows…
“All the genuine and compassionate reasons people have for being in favour of euthanasia can be met by good palliative care and that removes the obligation for doctors – till now only concerned with enhancing life – to instead be responsible for killing people.”
• Dr Catherine Byrne is a Tauranga GP who has worked at Waipuna Hospice for 15 years. She is married and has four children.

, husband of Lecretia Seales, who died last year, shortly before the Health Select Committee set up an inquiry to investigate the issue of assisted dying.

The article was headed by a big, beautiful and evocative photograph of the pair on their wedding day.

For reasons of privacy it is not possible to publish pictures of the many people who have been helped by the care and attention they have received at Waipuna Hospice, but as a doctor who has worked there for many years, I felt I could not let this article go past without pointing out that euthanasia is not the only answer to the serious concerns people have about the end of life, nor is it the most compassionate.

Death, even from cancer or other frightening diseases, does not have to be “lonely, violent and concealed from family”, nor does it have to be “excruciatingly painful”, as Governor Jerry Brown fears. The whole point of the hospice movement is to prevent those very things, by excellent medical care and by warm, compassionate psychological and social support.There is no need to legislate for euthanasia to initiate “frank and honest conversations about death” – we have these conversations every day with people at the hospice. As Vickers points out, having those conversations brings comfort and relief to people previously afraid to articulate their fears.

There is no need for anyone who receives good palliative care to die in excruciating pain; nor to die with loss of autonomy or dignity. Palliative care practitioners, from nurses and doctors to cooks and cleaners, spend their whole working lives doing everything they can to prevent any suffering at the end of life, and most people who have had contact with a hospice would support that statement. The way forward with difficult deaths should be to encourage the Government to ensure every single New Zealander who needs it has access to ever-better palliative care services.

Opponents of euthanasia are not “religious zealots”, primarily concerned with “vulnerable, passive victims”. They are people who care about the value of all lives, including the disabled, the mentally ill, the very young, the very old and, most of all, the very sick.

Based on my own experience, the people who ask for euthanasia are not those who are in an agony of pain – that has been dealt with by good medicine. They are articulate, intelligent men and women who fear they will be a financial and emotional burden to their family and friends.

The Oregon data, which Vickers quotes, shows that 61 per cent of people requesting euthanasia stated “being a burden” as their main reason for doing so. At the moment, they cannot kill themselves legally, but if they could no amount of “protective legislation” would be able to prevent them. As it is we are able to help them physically and emotionally and allow them to reach a place where they see how precious the time they all have left together can be to their family and to themselves.

Vickers states how delighted Lecretia would have been to see David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill drawn from the ballot. This bill requests legalised euthanasia not just for those dying from a terminal illness but for anyone with “a grievous and irremediable condition who experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner they consider tolerable”. This would cover just about anything from cancer to severe arthritis.

With such weak criteria, anyone suffering from anything would be entitled to take their case to the Court of Human Rights to say they were being discriminated against if they were NOT allowed to be considered for assisted suicide. In Oregon in 2013, 17 per cent of those completing euthanasia did not have a terminal illness at all but suffered from chronic disease such as diabetes and depression. In Belgium the percentage of deaths due to euthanasia is rising by 15 per cent every year and already constitutes 2 per cent of all deaths – and legislation there now allows euthanasia for babies and young children as well as consenting adults.

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Seymour’s Bill called ‘political stunt’

By | Recent News

Otago Daily Times 23 June 2017
Family First Comment: Labour MP gets it right!
Dunedin North MP David Clark has labelled David Seymour’s voluntary euthanasia Bill a “political stunt” and will vote against it.
He said he also had ethical concerns about the risk to vulnerable people if the Bill passed. But his Labour colleague, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran, will vote for change — at least on the first reading.
“I will support it [on its first reading] to select committee.
“Agree that it’s timely for Parliament to again scrutinise the issue. I’ll make my final decision based on the outcome of the select committee process.”
Dr Clark said he supported the health select committee investigation into euthanasia. It had been a productive process involving a large part of the community in a “mature discussion”.
“[The Bill] risks distracting from what is already a good select committee process.
“It is a political stunt that will give profile to [Act New Zealand leader] David Seymour.”
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Canada's Assisted Dying law – one year later.

By | Recent News

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition 20 June 2017
Family First Comment: An excellent analysis – and warning – on what’s happened in Canada after 12 months of assisted suicide.
On June 17, 2016; Canada’s Senate passed euthanasia bill (C-14) in time for their summer break.
More people are dying by euthanasia than projected.
Even though we are well into 2017, the data from 2016 indicates that there were 970 reported assisted deaths in Canada. Other than Québec, where there were 463 deaths in the full year, these deaths occurred in 6.5 months (June 17 – Dec 31). The percentage of assisted deaths is highest in British Columbia, where there were 188 assisted deaths, where they have two euthanasia clinics, as compared to 189 assisted deaths in Ontario. The 970 reported assisted deaths represented 0.6% of all deaths in Canada.
There may be more assisted deaths.
According to the report, not every province has a legal requirement to report assisted deaths while Nunavut and the Yukon territories did not submit information based on privacy concerns and the small number of assisted deaths. A CBC news report (April 20) stated that there were more than 1324 assisted deaths since legalization. The number of deaths is high in comparison to Belgium where there was 235 reported assisted deaths in its first full year (2003), 349 in its second full year and 393 in its third full year after legalization. Currently Belgium is approximately 1/3 of Canada’s population. In 2015, there were 2021 reported Belgian assisted deaths, up from 1924 reported assisted deaths in 2014. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 2015) found that more than 40% of the assisted deaths were not reported in 2013.
Conscience rights for medical professionals are not protected.
Bill C-14 did not protect conscience rights for medical professionals. The Coalition for HealthCare and Conscience launched a legal challenge to the Ontario College of Physicians policy that forces physicians, who oppose killing, to “effectively refer” their patients to a physician who will kill. Effective referral is defined as referral for the purpose of the act. The court case was heard (June 13 – 15) in an Ontario court. Some physicians will leave Ontario if they are forced to participate in euthanasia. At the same time, the Québec government has pressured palliative care units to participate in euthanasia. Conscience rights are recognized in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom but the euthanasia lobby claims that patients have a “right to access” euthanasia and thus claim that conscience rights must be limited.
Expansion of euthanasia law.
Before the ink was dry, the first court case was launched to expand Bill C-14. Recently two people from Montreal launched a similar court case to expand Canada’s euthanasia law to people who are not terminally ill. Canada’s federal government did not waste time to announce that they were conducting research into expanding euthanasia to people with dementia, who stated in their advanced directive that they wanted to die by euthanasia, children, and people with psychological suffering alone.
Abuse of the law.
The law requires the physician, or nurse practitioner, who lethally injects their patient to self-report the act. Self-reporting systems enables those who lethally inject their patients in questionable circumstances to cover-up abuse of the law. In late September 2016, Dr Will Johnston reported on two British Columbia deaths that appear to abuse the euthanasia law. In November I was contacted by a man who stated that his Aunt, who died by euthanasia, may only have had a bladder infection. According to the Québec government first year report 14% of the assisted deaths did not comply with the law. Further to that, a Canadian bioethicist is already promoting euthanasia / organ donation, a study was published explaining that up to 138 million dollars can be saved by euthanasia. Once society crosses the line and decides that it is acceptable to kill people, the only remaining question is who will be killed. Meanwhile a Toronto study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that requests for euthanasia were based on existential distress and not uncontrolled pain.
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MPs should not take Horizon survey seriously

By | Recent News

Media Release Euthanasia-Free NZ 19 June 2017
Family First Comment: Self-selected. Not random. Loaded questions. Vague question. Emotive wording.
Moving on……
The recent Horizon Research ‘poll’ commissioned by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society should not be taken seriously,” says Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
“It is in fact a self-selected online survey. Only people who had signed up to Horizon had the opportunity to respond, and the survey was not even sent to all of them.
“The raw data was not collected from a random scientific sample of all New Zealanders.”

Survey results depend on question wording

A study by Parkinson et al found that subtle changes in wording are associated with a massive 48% difference in the level of support for euthanasia and assisted suicide:

79 % stated that they “support the idea of euthanasia”.
70% agreed that “a doctor should be able to assist a patient to die”.
However, only 31% agreed that “a doctor should be able to deliberately bring about a patient’s death”.

“The latter is an accurate description of euthanasia: It indeed involves one person deliberately bringing about another person’s death, usually by means of lethal injection,” says Ms Joubert.
In the Horizon survey respondents were asked whether they supported allowing “medical practitioners to assist people to die”. This phrase is very vague. Some could have understood the phrase to refer to existing practices such as discontinuing unwanted medical treatment.
The question also referred to “irreversible unbearable suffering”, which paints a highly emotive picture of terminal illness that’s far removed from the reality people experience when receiving good care.
Palliative care is holistic care for the whole person and their family: physical, psychological, social and spiritual care tailored to the needs of the individual. It’s virtually impossible that with all the tools at the dispense of a multi-disciplinary specialist team, a person’s suffering would remain “unbearable”.

The questions ignored the wider and practical implications of a law change

As Narelle Henson wrote in a recent Stuff article, “After all, for every social change we make there are people who benefit and people who are harmed. In this case, harm means murder. And that is very serious because once we are dead, we cannot come back.”

Theory vs practice

In theory legal assisted suicide may sound to some like ‘a nice option to have’. However, the reality of writing and implementing a good law is fraught with difficulties. For example:

  • Any eligibility criteria would be arbitrary and discriminatory. There would always be someone on the other side of the line saying, “But what about me? I’m also suffering!” Does a person with six months to live suffer more than a person with seven months to live? Does a person with a terminal diagnosis necessarily suffer more than a person with a chronic illness?
  • Relationship abuse and elder abuse are real and growing concerns. How could emotionally vulnerable people be protected from being pressured or coerced to request death? If they were pressured by a skilled manipulator, nobody else may ever find out.
  • The mere existence of legal assisted suicide as an option would put societal pressure on some people to ‘do the right thing’ and choose death – Death would be cheaper than treatment.

“Our criminal law is not broken and doesn’t need fixing”, says Ms Joubert. “A blanket ban against assisted suicide is the safest option.
“Once the law crosses the line from a blanket ban to one which allows assisted suicide for certain exceptions, there would be no logical defence against adding more and more exceptions.
“In jurisdictions that legalised assisted suicide and/or voluntary euthanasia there has been ‘bracket creep’, often without such extensions being debated by parliament. The law is simply interpreted more loosely over time to include more categories of people.”

Euthanasia-Free NZ urges all MPs to reject David Seymour’s bill at its first reading.

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Renowned UK Neurosurgeon on Assisted Dying and His 'Suicide Kit'

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Medscape 27 April 2017
Family First Comment: This should disturb everyone!
“He described the arguments from the anti-euthanasia group as being “grotesque.” “They argue that grannies will be made to commit suicide,” he said. “Even if a few grannies get bullied into it, isn’t that the price worth praying for all the people who could die with dignity?”
Renowned British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, CBE, FRCS, is back in the news with the publishing of his second volume of memoirs, in which he reminisces on 40 years of resecting brain tumors, as well as performing other complex neurosurgery procedures.
His latest book, Admissions: A Life in Brain Surgery , comes 4 years after his first book, Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery , was published in 2014 to wide acclaim, with glowing reviews in the Economist, the New Yorker, and the New Statesman .
Both contain reminiscences of the surgeries that he performed during the past 40 years, but in particular, he discusses the cases that went wrong. “As I approach the end of my career I feel an increasing obligation to bear witness to past mistakes I have made,” he writes.
When he retired in 2015, Mr Marsh (surgeons in England are traditionally addressed as Mr or Ms rather than Dr) was a senior consultant at St George’s Hospital, London, where he worked at the Atkinson Morley Wing, one of the country’s largest specialist brain surgery units.
His specialty was operating on the brain under local anesthesia, while the patient remained awake, in order to minimize damage to neural structures ― a technique that was portrayed in an award-wining 2004 television documentary that broadcast as part of the BBC series, Your Life in Their Hands.
He was also featured in another documentary, The English Surgeon, which portrayed the pro bono work in Kiev, Ukraine, that he carried out for decades.

In Favor of Assisted Dying

In his latest book, Mr Marsh shares some thoughts on death with dignity, or physician-assisted dying, a topic very much in the news these days. Several American states now allow this, and the views of the medical profession have reached a turning point, as suggested in a special edition of JAMA last year.
In England, however, the Assisted Dying Bill was defeated in September 2015, and the vote was not even close, with 330 votes against and 180 votes for.
Mr Marsh was exasperated, and in an interview with the Sunday Times that accompanied an extract from his new book, he described the arguments from the anti-euthanasia group as being “grotesque.”
“They argue that grannies will be made to commit suicide,” he said. “Even if a few grannies get bullied into it, isn’t that the price worth praying for all the people who could die with dignity?”


Elder abuse a real issue in South Canterbury, organisations say

By | Recent News

Timaru Herald 15 June 2017
The number of vulnerable elderly people being taken advantage of is rising in South Canterbury, it has been claimed.
Thursday marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which aims to start conversations about the vulnerability of the elderly.
Family Works elder protection service co-ordinator Geeta Muralidharan believed elder abuse was a growing issue in South Canterbury.
There was a substantial aging population in South Canterbury, and elder abuse was an issue people need to be aware of, and be able to talk about, she said.
Since July 2016, there had been 68 referrals to Family Works about elder abuse, she said. In the full year from July 2015-2016 there had been 81.
“People, they do exploit the elderly, in South Canterbury elderly are especially vulnerable, just like when we talk about vulnerable children, it’s just as significant”, Muralidharan said.
Increasing number of elderly suffering abuse in Nelson
Nelson Mail 14 June 2017
Hundreds of elderly people in the Nelson region are suffering abuse and neglect each year, and the alleged abusers are often those closest to them.
Age Concern Nelson Tasman manager Sue Tilby said the organisation supported elderly people who suffered financial, psychological and physical abuse or neglect on a weekly basis.
“We see a lot of abuse, at least three or four cases a week, most of it is financial abuse and most of it is at the hands of family members.”
Nationally, Age Concern received more than 2000 referrals of elder abuse each year and offered free, confidential elder abuse and neglect prevention services.
Elder Abuse Week is held from June 15 to 22 and Tilby said it was important to highlight the issue in a positive light so people could discuss abuse in a safe environment.
Public urged to speak out against elder abuse
Wanganui Chronicle 13 June 2017
Age Concern is asking Whanganui people to speak up about elder abuse.

The organisation says it is raising awareness of the issue during an awareness week which begins on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June 2017.

Elder abuse often happens within families. Age Concern elder abuse statistics show that:

+ 75% of alleged abusers are family members
+ 50% of the alleged abusers are adult children or grandchildren
+ Alleged abusers are as likely to be female as male

Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive, Stephanie Clare, says that the shame or stigma often means people don’t always report abuse happening within their family.
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