Monthly Archives

July 2018

JJ’s final days – and why he campaigned against euthanasia

By | Recent News

During our oral submission against David Seymour’s euthanasia bill, we referenced JJ Hanson.

J.J. Hanson, 35, is a former Marine from New York’s Hudson Valley who did a tour in Iraq. In 2014 doctors discovered he had stage 4 glioblastoma (GBM), one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer—and the same kind of cancer that assisted suicide advocate Brittany Maynard had when she ended her life in late 2014. Three different doctors told Hanson his case was terminal and said he had four months to live. But he was determined to do aggressive treatment anyway. He joined a clinical trial. Hanson who worked in New York state government before turning to the private sector once supported the New York bill to allow physician assisted suicide – until he had a terminal disease. He campaigned against it and it was eventually defeated, like many around the world. He then led efforts against physician-assisted suicide legislation around the USA with the organization Patients’ Rights Action Fund. Why the change in opinion? At month 5 of his treatment, Hanson became depressed. He says he lay in his bed and asked himself if he should give up, if it would make things easier for everyone if he were gone. He decided to continue—but then he imagined what others in his position might do.
Hanson asked. “When you were the sickest in your life, how well were you thinking at that time? Not good, right? Now multiply that exponentially. … Put [the drugs] in a glass of beer, done. In that moment of weakness and difficulty and stress, done. … I don’t think I would have done that, but there’s many people who could’ve or would’ve in that situation.” … Hanson spoke to legislators, emphasising how legalising assisted suicide will change social norms, legitimising the general practice of suicide. Sadly, JJ Hanson died on 31 December 2017 – living 3 years longer than original prognosis of 4 months.

Three weeks before his death, JJ and his wife, Kristen, reflect on their life together and how choosing to live and to fight brought them more joy and love then they could have ever imagined.

Bruce Logan: Euthanasia is Freedom’s Counterfeit

By | Recent News

Bruce Logan 25 July 2018
Bruce Logan warns us that contrary to the libertarian credentials of ACT’s David Seymour, euthanasia will encourage the old, disadvantaged & disabled to undervalue themselves, and will actually decrease individual freedom.
David Seymour, the ACT member for Parliament and sponsor of the Euthanasia Bill claims libertarian credentials (Herald, July 3). Excellent. One could say a number of good things about libertarianism. Not least, its grasp on the notion of citizenship freedom and its suspicion of over-reaching state power.

However, like many libertarians Mr Seymour finds himself advocating something other than what his philosophy advocates. His demand for euthanasia might look like increasing individual freedom, but it doesn’t. It’s quite the opposite.

The confusion lies in a misplaced faith in the law to control our lives and make us better. Unfortunately, the law is not a nurse; it’s a schoolmaster who would discipline us everywhere. There are, however, good laws and bad laws. Good laws encourage conscience while bad laws negate it. The End of Life Choice Bill is bad law because it will compromise first the individual conscience and ultimately public morality.

Implicit in Mr Seymour’s bill is the assumption that law should be used to create new personal freedoms, the right to kill under certain circumstances, when it should be preserving the self-evident freedom of the right to life. It fails to comprehend the transcendent foundation of human dignity. It  is an ideology that presumes universality when its vision is limited by contemporary human rights theory. It is presumptuous in its claim to understand the mystery of human suffering.

Euthanasia might first appear to be an enhancement of freedom by widening the contemporary fixation with choice, but it is not possible in this context, or any context, to distribute choice justly. It will, in fact limit the choice for a great deal more people than for those very few people who might appear to benefit. The very nature of Mr Seymour’s bill undervalues the complexity of human decision making because it will undermine sensitive family dynamics. It creates too great an opportunity for relatives to coerce family members to hasten their own death.

In New Zealand the law says that one citizen must not kill another. Mr Seymour’s Bill would claim that it is permissible, under certain conditions, for some people to kill others. Immediately that compromises the freedom of those citizens the law says we may assist to bring about their death.

Government power, the use of positive law, to influence human behaviour is a very blunt instrument. At best, with some obvious practical exceptions, it can only say what must not be done not what should be done. Every law passed that presumes a utilitarian understanding of human dignity is one more subtle movement towards increasing state power over the lives of its citizens.

At the outset euthanasia might look like an action of mercy, one of compassion when in fact it is probably motivated by pity; an emotion that wants to get rid of pain and discomfort as quickly as possible. Compassion one the other hand will share in the anguish and suffering of the patient. Any law that permits assisted suicide threatens the outworking of that compassion.

The vexatious conflict surrounding Mr Seymour’s bill is that he casts the intimacy of human relationships within a human rights framework. He says, “the end of life choice is the last great human rights issue.”

The language or rights prevails. But as influential French philosopher Simone Weil said decades ago, the language of rights ultimately cannot build or sustain a common life.

“If you say to someone who has ears to hear: ‘What you are doing to me is not just’, you touch and awaken at its source the spirit of attention and love. But it is not the same with words like ‘I have the right . . .’ or ‘you have no right to . . .’ They invoke a latent war and awaken the spirit of contention. To place the notion of rights at the centre of social conflicts is to inhibit any possible impulse of charity on both sides.”

Consequently, it becomes inevitable that a human life will be valued by its usefulness. Mr Seymour’s bill is thoroughly utilitarian. Its internal logic would have us devalue the old, the disadvantaged and the disabled. Indeed, it will encourage the old, the disadvantaged and the disabled to undervalue themselves.

Bruce Logan is a Board member of Family First New Zealand.

Hospices say no to euthanasia

By | Recent News

NewsRoom 9 July 2018
Family First Comment: “As euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are against the ethos of palliative care, we believe this will have a detrimental impact on the workforce.”

The group which represents the 35 hospices in New Zealand says a new bill could require it to host physician-assisted deaths even if it philosophically opposes them.

Hospice New Zealand says it strongly opposes David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill, which sets out a process by which people suffering a terminal illness or enduring “unbearable suffering” can apply to their doctor to die using a fatal medication.

It questions a clause in the Bill which allows a medical practitioner to have a conscientious objection to carrying out a death but then sets up a body which administers the law and which would provide a second medical practitioner.

Hospice NZ says that seems to prevent it from having a policy of not providing physician-assisted suicide. Even if its staff objected to assisted deaths then a patient could ask the administering body, the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand, for other practitioners.

“Could physician-assisted suicide take place in a hospice inpatient unit – provided by a SCENZ member if as an organisation we are unable to conscientiously object?”

The submission is one of a record 35,000 submissions made on the Bill, which are being slowly made public by Parliament’s Justice Select Committee.
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