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April 2019

As a tetraplegic I once supported assisted suicide – but I was wrong

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Stuff co.nz 25 April 2019
Family First Comment: “I had been told ‘if I was in your position, with your disability, I wouldn’t want to live’ by the very health professionals who are there to help suicide survivors. No one ever asked about my toxic mindset and frantic way of living.”
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OPINION: For most of my life I’ve been pro assisted suicide. It was about choice, dignity, and compassion. I think that’s why most New Zealanders are in favour of the End of Life Choice Bill.

I’d consider myself more liberal than conservative, a girl who grew up in a secular family. Growing up, I didn’t really understand the implications of having a ‘choice’.

That all changed when I turned 17 and was in a car crash where a family member fell asleep while driving. As a result, I became a tetraplegic, requiring a wheelchair for mobility, with impaired arm movement.

I attempted suicide a few times in the years following the crash. Each time, I’d end up in a coma in hospital. In 2015, health professionals encouraged me to explore assisted suicide. I signed up to a Swiss assisted suicide group and felt all my suffering and pain would soon be over.

Before I was to leave for Switzerland, I had another operation on my broken neck. The operation was a disaster, leaving me more paralysed. I had to give up my career, I lost financial security, became more dependant and was in more pain than ever.

I spent months in bed reflecting on my life. I had managed to complete my degree, a Master’s and had even worked full time. In hindsight, I realised my biggest problem had been my mindset and a lack of proper support. Prior to the botched neck surgery, to cope with grief, I would take on more work, even volunteering at Youthline as a counsellor.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/112052994/as-a-tetraplegic-i-once-supported-assisted-suicide–but-i-was-wrong

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Voluntary euthanasia should be available to children: civil libertarians

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Brisbane Times 17 April 2019
Family First Comment: Disturbing comments in Australia..
“We would define such a mature minor as a child over 12 years of age who … has a sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed,” he said.

Children as young as 12 should be able to choose to end their own lives, with civil libertarians citing European laws as a model that could be replicated in Queensland.

A Queensland inquiry, led by a parliamentary committee, is examining aged care, palliative care and voluntary euthanasia.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said the views of mature minors about voluntary assisted dying (VAD) should be respected.

“We would define such a mature minor as a child over 12 years of age who … has a sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed,” he said.

“However, we do recognise that children are entitled to extra protection when making their decision.”

Mr Cope said children should be assessed by an independent psychiatrist before their request to die was authorised.

“Secondly, at least one of the independent medical practitioners should have specific qualifications and experience in dealing with children,” he said.

“Thirdly, in the case of children a request for VAD should not be based solely on an underlying psychiatric condition.”

Mr Cope said the suggestion was based on laws in Europe, where 13 minors had accessed voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands since 2002 and three in Belgium since 2014.
READ MORE: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/voluntary-euthanasia-should-be-available-to-children-civil-libertarians-20190417-p51ex1.html

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As a doctor who swore to first do no harm, the End of Life Bill really bothers me

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Stuff co.nz 21 April 2019
Family First Comment: “How we die says a lot about our society. Having held a few hands of the dying, I know that those moments are sacred. I didn’t swear the oath of first doing no harm, to then participate in an activity with multiple harmful effects to both the living and the dying.”
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OPINION: First, do no harm. This is our medical creed.

When our class graduated I was the student who read out our version of the Hippocratic​ Oath, “a declaration of professional dedication”, in te reo Māori.

All brand new baby doctors in the old Maidment Theatre, 20 years ago. The kids were there holding my hands. Te Kaanga Skipper, our med school mother hen, gave us all a pounamu heart to wear around our necks. Merimeri Penfold lent me a korowai. Pineaha Murray and Selwyn Muru put the cloak on me. Karakia were spoken, and an ancient oath was made new.

The End of Life bill has brought it all back in vivid, living colour. Reading the legislation – not everyone’s cup of tea – has been exacting my little grey cells this week. I find it fascinating. And with a new bill like this one the preamble and description of the process to date is insightful stuff.

In essence, the judicial committee who reviewed it were “unable to agree that the Bill be passed”. They concluded members of Parliament needed to resolve the matter.

There are a few things that really bother me.

One is that the law is written as if we are all living completely independently of each other, as if we make decisions alone. This is not true. That there is no compulsion to discuss “assisted dying” with any whānau at all strikes me as fundamentally wrong. This is not reflective of how we – Māori and Pākehā – live, or how we may die.

Many aspects of the law that I deal with regularly provide salutary lessons that are relevant here if we don’t want to make the same mistakes.

* Child and adolescent psychiatrist Hinemoa Elder PhD is a Fellow of the Royal Australia NZ College of Psychiatrists, and Māori strategic leader at Brain Research NZ.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/112099470/as-a-health-professional-the-end-of-life-bill-really-bothers-me

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End of Life Choice Bill report offers only ambiguity for MPs before second reading

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Stuff co.nz 16 April 2019
Family First Comment: “Whatever form the law took, creating legal assisted suicide would confront every eligible person with an entirely new question: is my life worth living? Should I hang on, or end my life now? It’s a question that becomes an undercurrent in conversations with doctors and family members.”

OPINION: After months of thought and argument, the justice select committee has thrown the End of Life Choice Bill back in Parliament’s lap.

We’re in the strange situation where no-one, not even sponsor David Seymour, is supporting the bill as it is. The select committee couldn’t agree that the bill should pass and made only technical changes to it, deliberately leaving major questions hanging. Supporters are trying to invest the procedure with the illusion of certainty, but the bill is now overshadowed by ambiguity.

Seymour has stated that, if the bill passes its second reading, he will propose an amendment limiting eligibility under it to patients with terminal illnesses. But he has also said his amendment would introduce eligibility for neurodegenerative conditions that are likely to cause death within 12 months, alongside the current provision that has a six-month limit.

This example shows that amending the bill would be messy, with MPs voting on a patchwork of proposals that are unlikely to add up to a coherent, watertight law. Not only would each MP vote based on their individual conscience, but party agendas would be at play too. In particular, NZ First has stated that the issue should be subject to a binding referendum and may refuse to support any bill without it.

But let’s imagine that, somehow, the stars align and a cut-back, workable law is passed. Even a narrow version of the bill creates a risk of wrongful death: deaths that would fall outside the bill’s own criteria. For example, the bill is based on the ideal of free and informed consent, but the select committee noted submissions from doctors that “determining whether a person is competent [to consent] is complex, challenging, and subject to error … a person’s competence can vary daily, particularly if they are suffering from a terminal illness”.

There’s also a risk that some people would choose euthanasia because they felt pressure from others, and fear of being a burden was a reasonfor choosing assisted suicide for 63 per cent of patients in Oregon last year – a trend that has been rising steadily.

There’s also no reason to think the law would be set in stone. For example, Belgium introduced a euthanasia law in 2002, then expanded it to terminally ill children in 2014; and after just over two years, the Canadian Government is considering whether to expand its euthanasia law to “mature minors“. Our attorney-general, in his report on the bill, said that limiting eligibility to over-18s was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and that consistency would require lowering the age limit to 16 or removing it altogether.

* Alex Penk is chief executive of the Maxim Institute, an independent think tank.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/111943234/end-of-life-choice-bill-report-offers-only-ambiguity-for-mps-before-second-reading

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Youth worker worried about euthanasia bill’s impact on suicide

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Radio NZ News 15 April 2019
Family First Comment: Exactly what we warned about in our Submission….
“Mr Howard said the conversation around dying as a way out remained. He said many of the young people he worked with were intelligent and articulate, and followed discussions around the bill. Some were using the justifications of euthanasia advocates to inform their own situations.”

A therapist who specialises in youth suicide is concerned not enough is known about how assisted dying may affect vulnerable youth.

The End of Life Choice Bill allows for people in unbearable suffering or with an incurable, grievous condition to ask a doctor to help end their life.

Dion Howard, a nurse and therapist who has spent 20 years working with young people and has expertise in adolescent mental health, wrote a submission to MPs considering the bill.

In his submission, he argued the ripple effects on youth had not been adequately explored.

“Really, my question to the select committee is, ‘Can you be certain this would not impact the suicide rates of young people?’ To which the answer I’m certain is, ‘We don’t know that’.

“So, the next question should be, ‘Well, shouldn’t we know or shouldn’t you be certain before supporting a change?’ ”

He said overseas jurisdictions had grappled with the same issue.

“It was quite remarkable that the Scottish Parliament rejected their similar bill on the basis that they didn’t think they could reasonably prevent and educate on the prevention of suicide and present it as a solution at the same time.

“We need to be cautious about this and we have good grounds to be cautious.”
READ MORE: https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/387102/youth-worker-worried-about-euthanasia-bill-s-impact-on-suicide
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Who voted FOR euthanasia in the 1st Reading?

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NATIONAL

Amy Adams, Paula Bennett, Chris Bishop, Matt Doocey, Andrew Falloon, Nathan Guy, Harete Hipango, Brett Hudson, Nikki Kaye, Matt King, Barbara Kuriger, Mark Mitchell, Scott Simpson, Stuart Smith, Erica Stanford, Anne Tolley, Tim van de Molen, Hamish Walker, Jian Yang

LABOUR

Kiri Allan, Ginny Andersen, Jacinda Ardern, Tamati Coffey, Liz Craig, Clare Curran, Kelvin Davis, Ruth Dyson, Paul Eagle, Kris Faafoi, Peeni Henare, Chris Hipkins, Raymond Huo, Willie Jackson, Iain Lees-Galloway, Andrew Little, Marja Lubeck, Jo Luxton, Nanaia Mahuta, Trevor Mallard, Kieran McAnulty, Stuart Nash, Greg O’Connor, David Parker, Willow-Jean Prime, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Grant Robertson, Adrian Rurawhe, Deborah Russell, Carmel Sepuloni, Jan Tinetti, Louisa Wall, Angie Warren-Clark, Duncan Webb, Meka Whaitiri, Michael Wood, Megan Woods 

NZ FIRST

Darroch Ball, Shane Jones, Jenny Marcroft, Ron Mark, Tracey Martin, Clayton Mitchell, Mark Patterson, Winston Peters, Fletcher Tabuteau

GREENS

Marama Davidson, Julie Anne Genter, Golriz Ghahraman, Gareth Hughes, Jan Logie, Eugenie Sage, James Shaw, Chloe Swarbrick

ACT

David Seymour

INDEPENDENT

Jami-Lee Ross

Email the MPs who voted YES. Ask them to Reject Assisted Suicide.
To email any MP, simply put firstname.surname@parliament.govt.nz
e.g. john.smith@parliament.govt.nz

To find out your local MP/s, go to www.HaveYourSay.nz

Euthanasia bill could threaten vulnerable Māori if it becomes law – advocacy group

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TVNZ One News 10 April 2019
Family First Comment: Dr Hickey says the bill is not fit for purpose. “We’ve just done a massive fundraising campaign for Mike King’s campaign and here we are willing to bring in legal suicide basically…” Dr Hickey says the bill threatens vulnerable Māori already being failed by the health system. “In Oregon 63% of those that were euthanised were from poor backgrounds who were on state insurance and who refused treatments to have kept their lives going well. We do have a public health system that is rationing certain things like dialysis and who are the biggest recipients of dialysis? Māori and Pacific peoples.”

The group of lawyers who specialise in protecting vulnerable New Zealanders say the controversial euthanasia bill is fatally flawed.

Former legal academic Dr Huhana Hickey says the bill is a threat for Māori who are already have high rates of suicide, terminal illness, mental health issues and disabilities.

Speaking to Te Karere, Dr Hickey says the bill is not fit for purpose.

“We’ve just done a massive fundraising campaign for Mike King’s campaign and here we are willing to bring in legal suicide basically,” she says.

In its current form, according to Lawyers for Vulnerable New Zealanders, the End of Life Choice Bill has 35 flaws.

“There is a danger in this legislation and it comes with irreversible, irremediable and terminal. You cannot determine what irreversible, irremediable is,” says Dr Hickey.

“I qualify under that and I still got a lot of life left in me. Many of us will quality for that. Depression after your husband, wife dies will quality under that.”

But the bill’s advocate Act Party leader David Seymour doesn’t agree.
READ MORE: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/euthanasia-bill-could-threaten-vulnerable-m-ori-if-becomes-law-advocacy-group

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No agreement and disappointment after lengthy End of Life Choice bill hearing

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Stuff co.nz 9 April 2019
Family First Comment: “The committee was given 16 months to study the bill, hear submissions, and try to fix it. They simply couldn’t, because it’s a flawed, dangerous bill.” – Family First NZ

It took 16 months, almost 40,000 submissions, and a nationwide tour of 14 cities.

The result was a report that found no agreement on whether the End of Life Choice Bill should be passed, made no substantive recommendations, drew few conclusions and disappointed those on both sides of a hard-fought debate.

Both advocates and opponents of the bill – which seeks to legalise voluntary euthanasia – have resumed their default positions for a familiar battle that will span months to come.

The report, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, did not address any contentious aspects of the prospective law, with the eight Justice Select Committee MPs declining to “consider substantive policy issues on a conscience bill”.

“On the many substantial issues, we did not decide. However, we do agree that the bill is not workable in its present state,” the report said.

End of Life Choice Society president Maryan Street who, in 2012 as a Labour MP, introduced a similar Member’s Bill to Parliament, to allow terminally-ill people to choose when to die. She was among those left less-than-impressed with the committee’s conclusion.

She said the society was “disappointed” the report was not bolder, “given the overwhelming support for a law change New Zealanders have consistently shown in reputable opinion polls”.

However, she believed it was legitimate for the committee to pass the issue to the full Parliament where it would be decided on a conscience vote by MPs.

“It is encouraging that the committee has left the policy content of the bill largely intact, with only minor, technical, and consequential amendments.”

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie, who is on the opposing side, called the bill “a mess”.

He noted that a significant amount of MPs who voted in favour of the bill in its first reading did so in order to allow the select committee to analyse the proposed legislation and make appropriate changes.

“The committee was given 16 months to study the bill, hear submissions, and try to fix it. They simply couldn’t, because it’s a flawed, dangerous bill.”
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/111911395/no-agreement-and-disappointment-after-lengthy-end-of-life-choice-bill-hearing

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Pacific communities rally against euthanasia bill

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Radio NZ News 9 April 2019
Family First Comment: “One of the speakers at the rally, Dr Luatupu Cleverley, said the legislation compounded poor health outcomes for the Pacific community. Pacific people already suffer the worst statistics in the New Zealand health system and the bill goes against their culture and traditions, Dr Cleverley said. It is traditional for Pacific families to look after their own and the government should focus on improving palliative care, she said.”
www.protect.org.nz

People from New Zealand’s Pacific communities have rallied at parliament against a proposal to legalise euthanasia.

The End of Life Choice Bill would give terminally ill people the option of requesting help to die.

About 200 hundred people gathered in parliament grounds to protest against the bill.

One of the speakers at the rally, Dr Luatupu Cleverley, said the legislation compounded poor health outcomes for the Pacific community.

Pacific people already suffer the worst statistics in the New Zealand health system and the bill goes against their culture and traditions, Dr Cleverley said.

It is traditional for Pacific families to look after their own and the government should focus on improving palliative care, she said.

Parliament’s Justice Committee has received thousands of submissions on the proposed legislation and its report is due today.
https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/386661/pacific-communities-rally-against-euthanasia-bill

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Euthanasia Bill Should Die A Natural Death

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Media Release 9 April 2019 
Family First NZ says that the Select Committee considering David Seymour’s assisted suicide bill have been unable to agree that the bill be passed, and warn that the bill is ‘not workable in its present state’.

“No real, substantive changes have been made to the bill – it’s still a mess. The Committee has made no judgement on the Bill, no indication of what substantive changes could make it better, but have simply left that up to the whole House, despite many MPs who voted for the bill in the 1st Reading saying that they would be waiting for the Committee to tell them how to make the bill better and safer before supporting it further. The message to these MPs is now clear – kill the bill,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“ACT MP David Seymour’s significant backdowns on the bill last year also indicate just how weak and flawed the bill is. The backdowns are certainly in contrast to his earlier attacks, including his statements that There’s just so much scaremongering that doesn’t stand up to evidence and One of the biggest obstacles are MPs who are not in touch with their electorates…and also MPs who may have been coloured by some of the scare-mongering from the other side.”

This Bill is just as much of a mess coming out of Committee as it was going in. The Committee was given 16 months to study the bill, hear submissions, and try to fix it. They simply couldn’t, because it’s a flawed, dangerous bill,” says Mr McCoskrie.

The Care Alliance analysis of the almost-39,000 submissions found that 91.8% were opposed to the Bill, but most importantly, 93.5% of submissions received from doctors, nurses and other health care staff were opposed.

“Assisted suicide is not a simple yes / no answer. Those who have taken time to consider the consequences and implications of assisted suicide – and especially those in the health sector – have quickly realised its major dangers, especially to the vulnerable, elderly and disabled. This nuance is difficult to capture with a simple yes / no phone survey, sometimes with leading questions.”
ENDS