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April 2019

Anti-euthanasia campaigner documents brain cancer battle in film

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Stuff co.nz 8 April 2019
Family First Comment: “Now understanding it was the depression that is a natural bedfellow for terminal illness that made her ever think it was a good idea to hasten her death, she is making a last-ditch plea to stop the End of Life Choice Bill progressing.” 
www.Protect.org.nz 

Tokomaru woman Vicki Walsh has well and truly out-lived her life insurance payout.

Diagnosed with the brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme nearly eight years ago, the prognosis was that she would be dead in 12 to 148 months.

She nearly was.

Not from the cancer, but by her own hand.

She had the pills laid out on the kitchen bench, ready to end the suffering, but changed her mind over a cup of tea.

Now understanding it was the depression that is a natural bedfellow for terminal illness that made her ever think it was a good idea to hasten her death, she is making a last-ditch plea to stop the End of Life Choice Bill progressing.

On Tuesday, the day Parliament’s Justice Committee is due to report back ahead of a likely vote on May 1, the DefendNZ lobby group’s documentary about her remarkable survival will be released.

Called Terminal but not dead yet, Walsh’s story explains her fear that the change of law would make vulnerable ill and disabled people feel worthless, selfish for continuing to be “a burden” and pressured to ask someone to end their lives.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/111835457/choosing-life-despite-a-terminal-diagnosis

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Dr Sinead Donnelly: Canada shows euthanasia soon extended to more than the terminally ill

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NZ Herald 7 April 2019
Family First Comment: “The Canadian law has created confusion about what patient’s lives are worth living and what lives aren’t. This is directly, negatively affecting medical care. Canada has abandoned one of the most important aspects of patient-centred care.”

• Dr Sinead Donnelly is a palliative medicine specialist in Wellington.
COMMENT:  As the time approaches for Parliament’s Justice Committee to report back on David Seymour’s euthanasia and assisted suicide bill, it is timely to carefully review the impact of legalisation in countries like Canada, often cited by Seymour as exemplary.

Seven Canadian doctors published a 2018 World Medical Journal article, “Euthanasia in Canada: a cautionary tale”, endorsed by 57 other Canadian doctors. They wrote, “As Canadians, we are saddened by this situation, but we hope that our experience and observations will serve as a warning for our colleagues in other countries, and their patients”.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in Carter v. Canada (2015) that physicians may provide euthanasia or assisted suicide (EAS) to competent adults who clearly consent, who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including illness, disease, or disability) that causes enduring and intolerable physical or psychological suffering, and that cannot be relieved by means acceptable to the individual.

The Canadian law’s sponsor claimed that EAS would remain “very exceptional”. However, the law also said “qualified patients had a right to euthanasia, and the exercise of a right cannot be exceptional”.

Within a year of the ruling, pressure for “Carter Plus” became so great that the federal Government legally committed to considering EAS for adolescents and children, for mental illness alone, and by advance directive (for those who lack capacity, like dementia patients). Two and a half years after legalisation, strong lobbies are intensifying their push towards expanding euthanasia as a response to those cases.

As Seymour states often in support of his own Bill, the Canadian Supreme Court believed “a carefully designed and monitored system of safeguards” would limit risks associated with allowing physicians to kill patients or help them commit suicide. Canada’s EAS death rate in the first year, about 0.9 per cent of all deaths (1,982), was not reached by Belgium for seven to eight years.

Even supplemented by provincial and professional guidelines, current criteria are so broad it permitted lethal injection of an elderly couple who preferred to die together rather than at different times by natural causes.

Other disturbing stories emerge. A 25-year-old disabled woman in acute crisis in an emergency ward was pressured to consider assisted suicide by an attending physician, who called her mother “selfish” for protecting her. Hospital authorities denied a chronically ill, severely disabled patient the care he needed, suggesting euthanasia or assisted suicide instead.

When the Quebec euthanasia law was being instituted, some Quebec emergency physicians, for a time, were letting suicide victims die even though they could have saved their lives. The president of the Association of Quebec Emergency Physicians stated that the law and accompanying publicity may have “confused” the physicians about their role.

Quebec physicians and health care practitioners now work in environments characterised by an emphasis on euthanasia as a purported “right”. The onus is increasingly on physicians to show why euthanasia should be refused, with health care administrators more anxious about being accused of “obstructing access” than about “killing people who really ought not to be killed”. This is the reality of a supposedly carefully designed system.

The Canadian law has created confusion about what patient’s lives are worth living and what lives aren’t. This is directly, negatively affecting medical care. Canada has abandoned one of the most important aspects of patient-centred care.

As Professor Margaret Somerville explains: “The informing philosophies of euthanasia and palliative care are in conflict. Palliative care is based on a commitment to help people to live as fully as possible until they die a natural death. The informing principle of euthanasia is that it is ethical to intentionally inflict death to relieve suffering or even the fear of future suffering.”

Peer-reviewed, published evidence shows most euthanasia requests are motivated by existential issues, including fear of loss of control, of what comes after death, of being a burden on others, demoralisation, and questioning the meaning, purpose and value of life. None of these can be properly addressed by euthanasia. This is hardly “patient-centred” care.

So what can we learn? “The introduction of euthanasia in Canada has caused doubt, conflict and crisis”. The authors suggest an alternative that new disciplines, new professions and new methods may arise to satisfy new social goals but not in the name of medicine.
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12219801

Patients’ trust in doctors central in End of Life Choice Bill debate

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Stuff co.nz 4 April 2019
Family First Comment: “As someone who works with people in pain every day, I can’t support the End of Life Choice Bill. It takes a vulnerable population, one that experiences depression and anxiety and already worries that their lives hold no value to society, and offers them suicide as a solution to their pain and suffering. It would destroy the trust that some of my patients have in me, as their pain doctor, to be a safe space where they can discuss the causes of their suffering.”
#rejectassistedsuicide
www.protect.org.nz

Dr Conrad Engelbrecht is a doctor in anaesthesia and pain medicine for Waikato DHB and co-head of the Braemar Pain Clinic in Hamilton.
OPINION: In debate around the End of Life Choice Bill, there is a lot of talk about pain and suffering. Is it possible to stop all pain and suffering? Can pain and suffering make a life no longer valuable, and make death a better option than life? What should a doctor’s role be when a patient is experiencing intense pain and suffering?

As an anaesthetist and pain physician working at a pain clinic, it’s my job to help people who are in pain. On a day-to-day basis, I see patients who are suffering, and my job is provide them with an avenue to alleviate their suffering.

I can tell you that pain and suffering are complex experiences. Of course pain can be physical, but it can also be emotional, existential, spiritual or psychological. It can be caused by medical and physical conditions, as well as by emotions and issues held deeply inside a person. Pain often affects people on multiple levels. It affects their moods, their ability to function, their physical activity, how they sleep, their mental well-being, and their social interactions and engagements.

When people experience pain over long periods of time, and when that pain is relentless, people can suffer from low moods and even develop depression and anxiety. They lose things that are important to them: jobs, hobbies, the ability to work, and a sense of self-worth. I have met many patients with chronic or intense pain who feel like they are no longer valuable to their families, their community, or to society – that they’re more of a burden than a blessing.

But these people do still have value, and it is our job, at the pain clinic, not only to help them with their pain, but also to demonstrate to them that they still hold value as people.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/111629784/patients-trust-in-doctors-central-in-end-of-life-choice-bill-debate

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Dame Tariana Turia: Euthanasia would undermine whānau values

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NZ Herald 2 April 2019
Family First Comment: Superb words from Dame Tariana
“It’s a really important time in all of our lives when we are farewelling somebody we love and care for. It is the responsibility of all of us to be at one with one another. The End of Life Choice Bill would invade this sacred space. The bill would allow a person to request a euthanasia death without talking to their family, and a person could be killed without the family knowing. In treating the dying person only as an individual and not as a whānau member, the bill misunderstands what it means to live and to die.”
Protect.org.nz

Life and death are not individual events. There are very few people who are on the Earth by themselves. We exist as part of our families, our whānau and our communities. For many Māori, death is a process the whole whānau goes through together because the whānau is farewelling a part of itself.

It’s a really important time in all of our lives when we are farewelling somebody we love and care for. It is the responsibility of all of us to be at one with one another.

The End of Life Choice Bill would invade this sacred space. The bill would allow a person to request a euthanasia death without talking to their family, and a person could be killed without the family knowing. In treating the dying person only as an individual and not as a whānau member, the bill misunderstands what it means to live and to die.

I feel quite sad about this bill because it undermines the essential things we believe in as tangata whenua, saying that that’s of no consequence. People, whether they be terminally ill, disabled, or old, are still members of families. It doesn’t matter what their circumstances are.

About three years ago my husband George had a heart attack and a stroke. He was in intensive care, and a doctor said to me that she would hope I wouldn’t expect them to resuscitate him. And I thought , “Wow.”

So I said to her, “I don’t think I would expect you to do anything for my husband. In fact, as soon as he is well enough, we will go home, and we will decide what treatment he will receive.”

So we took George home, and right through that first year, we’re being told he could go at any time.

But, you know, he’s still alive. We all care for him. A grandson gave his job up in Wellington and came to Whanganui to help me look after his grandfather. People need to live in a safe, happy environment, to be loved within their family, to have the family there to help them do what they need to do.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12218130

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End of Life Choice Bill will make New Zealand a ‘dangerous place’ – Sir Bill English

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NewsHub 1 April 2019
Family First Comment: “This law will make New Zealand a dangerous place for people who are young and suicidal or old and think they’re a burden, or people with disabilities. If they have a bad day, where they wish they weren’t alive, we should be offering them kindness – but what we’re going to offer is to kill them.”
Protect.org.nz

Sir Bill English has warned against making euthanasia legal in New Zealand, saying descriptions of the End of Life Choice Bill as a “slippery slope” don’t go far enough.

The former Prime Minister says the Bill, initially tabled by ACT leader David Seymour, will make New Zealand a “dangerous place”.

“This is a serious issue that could change the nature of our country,” he told The Project on Monday.

“This law will make New Zealand a dangerous place for people who are young and suicidal or old and think they’re a burden, or people with disabilities.

“If they have a bad day, where they wish they weren’t alive, we should be offering them kindness – but what we’re going to offer is to kill them.”

But Seymour says while it’s easy to “speculate and fearmonger”, data shows countries haven’t seen a rise in youth suicide or back-flipped on their decision to legalise euthanasia. He says the law change won’t put anyone at unnecessary risk.

“What this End of Life Choice Bill will do is put in a regime of safeguards… that will be sufficiently safe and give better protection to people.”

But Sir Bill says any law change on euthanasia sets a dangerous precedent that could give rise to worrying developments – particularly in regards to mental health.

“It’s worse than a slippery slope… once you start saying ‘we’ll drop the ban on killing, some people can choose to be killed’ – how do you stop more and more and more?”
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/04/end-of-life-choice-bill-will-make-new-zealand-a-dangerous-place-sir-bill-english.html
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Slippery slope to kids, mentally ill getting euthanised – doctor

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NewsHub 1 April 2019
Family First Comment: Disturbing
“The largest children’s hospital in Canada – the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children – has already published their guidelines on how euthanasia will occur for mature minors. It includes if the child says they don’t want the parent to know, the parent will be informed the child has died after they’ve received euthanasia.”
#slipperyslope

A visiting Canadian doctor claims if New Zealand introduces euthanasia, it could result in children choosing to end their own lives without their parents’ input.

Canadian palliative care physician Leonie Herx is in New Zealand to take part in a debate hosted by North Shore MP Maggie Barry on ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill, which would legalise euthanasia under strict circumstances.

Euthanasia has been legal in Canada since 2016, where it’s known as medical aid in dying, or MAID. Since then about 8000 have chosen to end their lives this way, Dr Herx says, making up around 1.5 percent of all deaths.

She told The AM Show on Monday it took Belgium 16 years to reach that level, after legalising the practise in 2002.

“How did we get to this place in two years, so rapidly?”

Like Seymour’s Bill, Canada has strict rules around who is eligible for euthanasia, including age, mental state, how much notice must be given, number of witnesses required, approval from medical professionals and their prognosis. There’s a 10-day waiting period, applicants must be informed of other palliative options and consent can be withdrawn at any time – even as the fatal drugs are being readied for injection.

Dr Herx however says there are already moves to widen eligibility.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/03/slippery-slope-to-kids-mentally-ill-getting-euthanised-doctor.html

Majority of submissions on euthanasia bill are against legalising
NewsTalk ZB 1 April 2019 
A series of public debates start tonight to discuss moves to legalise euthanasia, as new figures show a huge majority of people are against the idea.

The justice select committee will report back to parliament on end of life legislation next week and the law’s second reading’s likely to go ahead next month.

Figures released yesterday showed more than 90 per cent of Kiwis who made submissions on the euthanasia bill want the proposed law change scrapped.

Canadian palliative care expert doctor, Leonie Herx, told Mike Hosking assisted dying has been “rife with problems”.

She said the eligibility criteria has changed expanded since the law was introduced.

“Our statistics have been consistent with international statistics [and show] that it’s actually not people who have poorly controlled physical symptoms, it’s people who have a fear of loss of control.”

“They are worried about dying and being a burden on others.”

Herx said it is now a human right in Canada and the Government is looking at bringing in euthanasia for mental health and for mature minors.
READ MORE: https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/mike-hosking-breakfast/audio/majority-of-submissions-on-euthanasia-bill-are-against-legalising/

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Ninety per cent of submissions on euthanasia bill say no to assisted dying

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NZ Herald 31 March 2019
Family First Comment:  “90.2% opposed the bill, 8.1% were in favour and 1.7% were neutral or unclear.” 
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protect.org.nz

More than 90 per cent of Kiwis who made submissions on the euthanasia bill want the proposed law change scrapped.

But backers of the controversial bill say scientific surveys are a better guide on public opinion and have consistently found majority support for euthanasia or assisted dying.

The Care Alliance analysed virtually all of the more than 38,000 submissions made to Parliament’s justice select committee on Act leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill.

It found that 90.2 per cent opposed the bill, 8.1 per cent were in favour and 1.7 per cent were neutral or unclear.

Most submissions were unique, and not form or postcard submissions. Twelve per cent were longer than a page and 90.5 per cent did not use religious arguments.

The bill would legalise voluntary euthanasia, giving people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12217759&ref=twitter

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Overwhelming Majority Tell MPs To Kill The Euthanasia Bill

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Media Release 31 March 2019 
Family First NZ, a member of the Care Alliance which has analysed the almost-39,000 submissions made regarding David Seymour’s assisted suicide bill, says that there is overwhelming opposition to the bill being considered by Parliament and that MPs should vote against the bill at 2nd Reading.

The just-released report provides an analysis of 38,707 written submissions made to the Justice Select Committee, each of which was read by volunteers of the Care Alliance. They say that the submissions “represent the views and stories of a large, diverse and thoughtful cross-section of all New Zealanders; young and old (aged 8–94), different ethnicities (Maori, New Zealand European, Pasifika, Asian), different occupations and walks of life, religious and non-religious, conceptual and experiential. In short, the submissions paint a heart-felt and deeply human picture of the views held by many New Zealanders who have considered the implications of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide, and had sufficient strength of feeling to write in and make their views known.”

The analysis reveals the following:

  • Overall, 91.8% were opposed to the Bill
  • 93.5% of submissions received from doctors, nurses and other health care staff were opposed
  • 90.6% of organisations which submitted were opposed
  • 90.5% of submissions made no reference at all to religious arguments
  • all submissions made by churches were opposed, including a Buddhist group and a Muslim charitable organisation supported by 13 other Muslim welfare groups and organisations within NZ

“Assisted suicide is not a simple yes / no answer. Those who have taken time to consider the consequences and implications of assisted suicide quickly realise 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,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“ACT MP David Seymour’s significant backdowns on his assisted suicide bill last year indicate just how weak and flawed the bill is. The backdowns are certainly in contrast to his earlier attacks on our justified concerns, 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. There was never any ‘scaremongering’. There was – and continues to be – opposition to this bill based on credible research internationally in jurisdictions that have euthanasia available, and from medical professionals in New Zealand who know the effect such a law would have on their work and on society.”

“(The Euthanasia Bill) is a political stunt that will give profile to David Seymour”- Dr David Clark – Minister of Health (June 2017)

The key arguments advanced by submitters opposed to the Bill fell into six main categories:

  1. Implementing the Bill would lead to multiple adverse societal impacts on vulnerable people including the terminally ill.
  2. Experience in the few overseas jurisdictions that have legalised assisted suicide and euthanasia is not reassuring, and it inevitably leads to broadened eligibility criteria.
  3. State-approval through legalisation sends a powerful message that assisted suicide and euthanasia are socially acceptable, undermining suicide prevention efforts.
  4. Ending patient lives is not a part of healthcare, medical treatment or what doctors are trained to do, and it will erode doctor-patient relationships and trust.
  5. Terminating a life through administering lethal drugs is contrary to a medical ethics tradition that can be traced back to the Hippocratic Oath in Greek times.
  6. Palliative care properly implemented and resourced adequately relieves suffering and demonstrates true compassion without loss of hope.

“Even if the bill was limited to just the terminally ill, some people will be euthanised on account of a disease they thought they had but did not. Prognosis is an uncertain procedure. Many people know or have heard of a person who, having been given a pessimistic prognosis, has lived for many years to tell the tale. There will be those who decide for euthanasia on the basis of an unduly pessimistic prognosis. There is also concrete evidence from those countries which have authorised euthanasia that the availability and application of euthanasia expands to situations never initially envisaged as indications for it.”

“The 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, the disabled and the elderly people if NZ follows the path of promoting – and allowing – assisted suicide.”
ENDS