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

By | Recent News

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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