Monthly Archives

February 2018

Ethics dispute erupts in Belgium over euthanasia rules

By | Recent News 17 February 2018
Family First Comment: Why would NZ even want to go near this type of scenario….
“Some experts say the case as documented in the letter amounts to murder; the patient lacked the mental capacity to ask for euthanasia and the request for the bedridden patient to be killed came from family members… Although euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002 and has overwhelming public support, critics have raised concerns in recent months about certain practices, including how quickly some doctors approve requests to die from psychiatric patients.”
Make a submission against euthanasia in NZ – submissions close 6 March –

A disputed case of euthanasia in Belgium, involving the death of a dementia patient who never formally asked to die, has again raised concerns about weak oversight in a country with some of the world’s most liberal euthanasia laws.

The case is described in a letter provided to The Associated Press, written by a doctor who resigned from Belgium’s euthanasia commission in protest over the group’s actions on this and other cases.

Some experts say the case as documented in the letter amounts to murder; the patient lacked the mental capacity to ask for euthanasia and the request for the bedridden patient to be killed came from family members. The co-chairs of the commission say the doctor mistakenly reported the death as euthanasia.

Although euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002 and has overwhelming public support, critics have raised concerns in recent months about certain practices, including how quickly some doctors approve requests to die from psychiatric patients.

The AP revealed a rift last year between Dr. Willem Distelmans, co-chair of the euthanasia commission, and Dr. Lieve Thienpont, an advocate of euthanasia for the mentally ill. Distelmans suggested some of Thienpont’s patients might have been killed without meeting all the legal requirements. Prompted by the AP’s reporting, more than 360 doctors, academics and others have signed a petition calling for tighter controls on euthanasia for psychiatric patients.


Submissions on Euthanasia Failing To Get Through

By | Media Releases

Media Release 11 February 2018
Family First Comment: Please contact us if you have been having issues trying to email your submission.
[email protected]

Family First NZ says that the email system of Parliament appears to be crashing under the weight of submissions being received on euthanasia – and is calling on the closing date to be delayed.

“We have been contacted by a number of submitters who report that their emailed submissions are not getting through and that they are receiving either an error message or are not receiving the automated reply that some submitters are getting. Our own testing of the email address would suggest that there are ongoing problems,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“This means that submitters on both sides of the issue cannot be certain that their submissions are being received and will make the deadline of 20 February.”

Family First is calling on Parliamentary Services to urgently fix the issue, for confirmations to be sent to all submitters, and is also asking for the closing date for submissions to be extended so that submitters can confirm that their submission has been received and accepted.

“It is no surprise that the Select Committee is being swamped with submissions on such a contentious issue – but it is vital that all submissions are received and are part of the full consideration of this bill.”

How many botched cases would it take to end euthanasia of the vulnerable?

By | Recent News

Washington Post 24 January 2018
Family First Comment: And that’s the key question…
“As bioethicists David Miller and Scott Kim of the National Institutes of Health note in a recent paper , “Dutch physicians . . . report difficulty in applying the [euthanasia] laws,” especially when it comes to judging patients’ volition and deciding whether there is any “reasonable alternative” to euthanasia. Between 2012 and 2016 , Miller and Kim reported, there were 33 cases in which Dutch regulators found that doctors had broken at least one rule while ending a person’s life, though not so flagrantly as to warrant criminal referral. Pro-euthanasia activist doctors were overrepresented in problematic cases. “In some cases, physicians knowingly pushed the limits of [the] law,” Miller and Kim noted.”
Make a submission against euthanasia –

The euthanasia of mentally ill or cognitively impaired patients is inherently controversial. Given the risk of fatal error, how many botched cases would it take to discredit the practice completely?

If you said “any number greater than zero,” you would be interested in the physician-assisted death of a 74-year-old woman with dementia in the Netherlands in 2016. The circumstances were so disturbing, even the Dutch regulatory body that retrospectively reviews, and usually rubber-stamps, euthanasias could not countenance it.

The patient, referred to in official documents only as “2016-85,” had made an advance directive requesting euthanasia in case of dementia. But the directive was ambiguously worded, and she was no longer able to clarify her wishes by the time she was placed in a nursing home — though her husband did request euthanasia for her.

Despite the lack of a clear expression from the patient, a physician concluded her suffering was unbearable and incurable — though there was no terminal physical illness — and prepared a lethal injection.

To ensure the patient’s compliance, the doctor gave her coffee spiked with a sedative, and, when the woman still recoiled from the needle, asked family members to hold her down. After 15 minutes were spent by the doctor trying to find a vein, the lethal infusion flowed.

Neither voluntary, painless nor dignified, this physician-assisted death has become the first ever referred to prosecutors by the Dutch regulatory commission — with, so far, unknown consequences.
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Make A Submission – A Guide For ‘Dummies’ :-)

By | Recent News

We’ve been contacted by a number of supporters saying “Help! We really want to do a submission opposing the euthanasia bill – but we’re not even sure where to start.” We can understand the concern. It can all seem a little too technical and overwhelming.

We want to make it as easy and achievable as possible. So here’s your “Make a Submission Guide for Dummies” – not that we would ever imply that you’re a dummy 🙂 If you just don’t know how to get started, follow these simple steps:
1. Open a New document on your computer, or get some writing paper. Start your document with your name, End of Life Choice Bill, and I oppose the End of Life Choice Bill, and then write as little or as much as you want, sharing your views. If you need some inspiration, check our webpage – but simply tell your story and your personal reasons for opposing the bill. If you wish to appear before the Committee to speak to your submission, then state that also (optional).

2. If you’re emailing your submission, ATTACH your submission document (step 1) to the email, and in the email itself, put the heading: End of Life Choice Bill, and your details: Name of Individual / Family / Organisation, Address, Phone, Signature. Don’t put your personal details in the attached submission document as your submission is posted on the government website.
Send it to: [email protected]

3. If you’re posting your submission, once you have completed step 1, do a covering letter (separate piece of paper) with the heading End of Life Choice Bill, and your details: Name of Individual / Family / Organisation, Address, Phone, Signature. Don’t put your personal details on your actual submission (step 1) as your submission is posted on the government website (but not the covering letter). You do not need to send 2 copies as previously advised.
Post to: Committee Secretariat, Justice Committee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160.

4. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee.
It’s THAT simple! But it matters. Please don’t delay. Your voice matters. Your submission counts. The politicians need to get a loud strong message that NZ can live without euthanasia. Submissions close in just over a month (February 20).

PS: If you are feeling really brave, you can also make an online submission via the government website CLICK HERE

Nurses’ unique perspectives on end-of-life choices must be heard

By | Recent News

Nursing Review 1 February 2018
Family First Comment: An excellent commentary from a nurse and cancer survivor:
“surely our government can prevent undignified dying by increasing the palliative care resources.”
Make a submission opposing Euthanasia –

The outcome of last year’s government inquiry into assisted dying left me both hopeful and disappointed that as a society we have not addressed alleviating suffering effectively.

The inquiry’s decision not to recommend law changes allowing legalised assisted dying was welcomed by Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand and Hospice NZ.

Though the concept of suffering is complex much can be said from lived experience. As someone who has been in remission from cancer for a number of years I actually chose to do nursing to help address this issue. Even though I’m hopeful and disappointed I continue to hope that my life can bring courage to others who are suffering.

I have witnessed in my career, the impact of non-physiological issues (e.g. family dynamics, financial, work etc) on individuals who were either dying or living with an irremediable or irreversible condition. I’ve seen these types of issues appear merely non-existent – before the diagnosis/prognosis – to almost devouring the person and their family near the end of the person’s life.

Unfortunately, these are the issues that continue to lack government remedy and have led to many vulnerable persons losing their dignity.

Some have said that suffering is a complex phenomenon that extends well beyond the biomedical model of care. I remember the pain, vomiting, and fatigue from the countless medical interventions I had when I had cancer.

Interestingly, what made me suffer were the broken promises made by close relatives, not being able to interact with my friends, and my classmates being able to write long coherent sentences while I struggled to write my own name. I had to reach the milestone of graduating from nursing school to come to the revelation of how helpless my family had felt and the financial stress they had encountered. Recollection of these events has never ended in a dry eye, especially for my mum (FYI: My mum will never cry in front of anyone – especially her children).

Palliative services running on ‘crumbs’
The topic of end-of-life care without fail brings up the “ineffectiveness” or “effectiveness” of our palliative and hospice Services. I would like to weigh in on this argument as a registered nurse who has seen for seven years the direct impact of resourcing on the delivery of patient services.

Our palliative services have been bandied around the media as being “world class” yet they suffer from the worst resourcing from our government. It astounds me that these scientifically-based professionals who lack resources are meant to deliver their world-class service to every person, every time to every area of Aotearoa with crumbs for sustenance.

In addition, I’ve also heard in debates that these same services are only a means of fulfilling the ethical/philosophical values of certain groups of society. Yet, this argument could be said about all the other specialties in healthcare. The philosophy of palliative care is “improves the quality of life of patients…[provides] relief of suffering by means of identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual1”.

If this indeed is their philosophy, anchored in evidence, then surely our government can prevent undignified dying by increasing the palliative care resources.


Richard McLeod: Make our voices known against the euthanasia bill

By | Recent News

Asia Pacific Report 31 January 2018
Family First Comment: Another excellent commentary – this time from a legal perspective.
Make a submission against euthanasia –

Two years ago, the Parliamentary Health Select Committee investigating public attitudes to euthanasia and assisted suicide in New Zealand received a total of 21,000 submissions, 16,000 (80 percent) of which were opposed to their introduction into New Zealand law.

Last December, however, our Parliament voted through ACT Party leader David Seymour’s End Of Life Choice Bill at its first reading, 76-44. Seymour’s Bill is now before another Select Committee, which has called for public submissions to be filed no later than February 20.

What is Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill?
The Bill seeks to legalise in New Zealand the killings by doctors of patients, if a patient requests it (euthanasia). It will also legalise doctors helping their patients to commit suicide (assisted suicide, or, as Seymour calls it, “assisted dying”).

Both of these acts have been crimes under New Zealand law for as long as we have been a country – the crimes of murder and of aiding and abetting a suicide.

If passed into law, the End of Life Choice Bill will allow any New Zealander who is diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause their death within 6 months, and who experiences “unbearable suffering” (self-defined by the person), to ask to be killed by a doctor or to be given medication enabling them to take their own life.

This “terminal illness” criterion is the one that we hear most about in the media, but it’s not the only criterion in the proposed law.
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Dr John Fox: Assisted dying is not the right cure for suffering

By | Recent News

NZ Herald 31 January 2018
Family First Comment: A superb response – from someone ‘on the frontline’
Make a submission against euthanasia

I read Brendan Rope’s story of his father’s battle with motor neurone disease with sadness.

Stories of such weight are half the argument for assisted dying, and we should take them seriously.

But we should also take seriously the assumptions about disability the article also displays. As a trustee of a disability charity, I know many people who can’t speak. Many people who can’t feed themselves.

As a sufferer of spastic hemiplegia, I too am in daily pain. I too am frustrated, and angry, and crying, and sad. Our elderly in rest homes, dementia units, and hospitals too know the frustrations of not being able to care for themselves: the pain of having to depend on others.

But when you argue that you’d rather be shot than live a disabled life, your argument has profound implications for the value of disabled people, and for those who also have motor neurone disease, spina bifida, or like me, cerebral palsy.

We have two options here: view dependency as a degrading and horrible crime (which puts human beings who are dependent on the same level as a sick sheep), or we can do what we do with all other forms of suicidality: youth suicide or elder suicide, and come around the person with proper medical treatments, family and community solidarity, and meaning.

Mr Rope announces that suicide is a very different thing to euthanasia, but offers no arguments why this is so—from the disabled corner, I argue it’s exactly the same.

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