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May 2019

Why I changed my mind on euthanasia

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NewsRoom 27 May 2019
Family First Comment: “The turning point for me came about a month ago. I saw the report of a meeting hosted by disabled people’s organisation, People First (a group run by and for people with learning/intellectual disabilities) in the Central North Island. At that meeting, access to health care was discussed, as this is a key issue – particularly for people within this segment of the disability community – for whom find it difficult accessing care for many reasons, including attitudinal issues on the part of some medical professionals. This was exemplified by the stories shared at the meeting where some people – who had gone to hospital for treatment – had discovered upon reading their files that they had ‘no resuscitation’ orders attached to them. More problematically, these orders had not been requested by any of the disabled people or their families.”
www.protect.org.nz

Chris Ford explains why he’s now firmly in the ‘no’ camp on the voluntary euthanasia legislation

Last Wednesday, David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill (EOLC) was scheduled to come before Parliament for its second reading. However, thanks to some filibustering, it’s been delayed until the next Private Member’s Day when non-government bills are dealt with.

Whatever the reasons for the delay, it’s given opponents of the legislation more time to present good arguments to the public as to why the legislation needs to be defeated. This delay also presents me with a good opportunity to say I’ve changed my mind on it and am now firmly in the no camp.

I know that this will put me in the same column as Christian conservatives who also oppose the legislation for moral reasons. Personally, this makes me feel very uneasy given that I hold otherwise progressively social liberal views on issues such as abortion and reproductive rights, LGBTI rights, women’s issues and indigenous issues, etc. Yet, I want to outline from a socialist, progressive and disability rights perspective as to why I have swung my support to the anti-euthanasia camp.

The turning point for me came about a month ago. I saw the report of a meeting hosted by disabled people’s organisation, People First (a group run by and for people with learning/intellectual disabilities) in the Central North Island. At that meeting, access to health care was discussed, as this is a key issue – particularly for people within this segment of the disability community – for whom find it difficult accessing care for many reasons, including attitudinal issues on the part of some medical professionals. This was exemplified by the stories shared at the meeting where some people – who had gone to hospital for treatment – had discovered upon reading their files that they had ‘no resuscitation’ orders attached to them. More problematically, these orders had not been requested by any of the disabled people or their families.

Personally, this brought home to me one of the key arguments of the anti-euthanasia camp: that people who are already marginalised or devalued (such as older and disabled people) would be at high risk from euthanasia. The pro-euthanasia lobby would counter that people will have the right to exercise real legal choice and that the rights of vulnerable people would be better protected within the EOLC once it goes through the remaining stages of the parliamentary process. In stating this, I acknowledge that when the legislation returns that Seymour is preparing to remove the ‘irremediable conditions’ clause, which was one of my genuine concerns with it.

The way in which society views disabled people is still largely negative and any introduction of euthanasia laws might further diminish our standing in the eyes of wider New Zealand society.

Chris Ford is a Dunedin-based writer and researcher who focuses on disability, economic and social issues and proudly identifies as a disabled person.
READ MORE: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/05/27/602948/why-i-changed-my-mind-on-euthanasia

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Euthanasia bill ‘goes against the ethics of our profession’ – Medical Association chair says

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TVNZ One News 22 May 2019
Family First Comment: “Doctors are still the ones that would be involved in assisting people to die. It goes against what a doctors role is,” Dr Baddock says. She says the reason the Medical Association is opposed to the Bill in its entirety is that it doesn’t address the social issues it needs to. “Particulary those of coersion, competence and vulnerability. It doesn’t protect the vulnerable, the weak, the lonely, those in pain and those that are suffering. It doesn’t protect them from a wrongful death.” She says elder abuse is happening and this Bill only encourages it.
www.protect.org.nz

Newly proposed amendments to the End of Life Choice Bill, which is set to have its second reading in Parliament, have been strongly rejected by the New Zealand Medical Association, with its chair saying it “goes against the ethics of our profession”.

Dr Kate Baddock told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning under the new bill doctors would still be the ones administering the injection for those choosing to end their life through voluntary euthanasia.

“Doctors are still the ones that would be involved in assisting people to die. It goes against what a doctors role is,” Dr Baddock says.

She says the reason the Medical Association is opposed to the Bill in its entirety is that it doesn’t address the social issues it needs to.

“Particulary those of coersion, competence and vulnerability. It doesn’t protect the vulnerable, the weak, the lonely, those in pain and those that are suffering. It doesn’t protect them from a wrongful death.”

She says elder abuse is happening and this Bill only encourages it.

“Apparently approximately 50 per cent of those who choose euthanasia in the Netherlands do so because they feel obligated to die.  They feel their continued existence is a burden either financial or emotional to their families and to society at large. They choose euthanasia even though they don’t want to die,” Dr Baddock says.
https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/euthanasia-bill-goes-against-ethics-our-profession-medical-association-chair-says

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OPINION: Why I’m voting “’No” to Euthanasia

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Times Online 16 May 2019
Family First Comment: Well said, Simeon
“…it is clear to me that no system of euthanasia, no matter how carefully designed, can ensure the protection of the most marginalised and vulnerable in our society. This is deeply troubling to me. International precedents show that euthanasia regimes result in the involuntary death of innocent lives, often those who are marginalised and vulnerable. I cannot support a law which allows the state to intentionally kill its citizens, particularly when innocent lives will be lost in the process. The potential for this particular Bill to go so wrong is too big to ignore.”

Shortly, Parliament will debate and vote on the second reading of the End of Life Choice Bill, which is being sponsored by David Seymour, MP for Epsom.

This is a conscience issue which many people hold strong opinions on. Since the first reading of this bill, I have received thousands of emails on this topic, met with many in Pakuranga who have wished to share their opinion on the issue, spoken with palliative care experts, disability advocates, doctors, lawyers, and I have sat on the select committee to hear submissions on this Bill, 90 per cent of which were opposed.

I want to thank and acknowledge everyone who has spent time discussing this topic with me. It is a highly emotive issue and I believe that there are many well-meaning people who hold widely differing views.

I will however be voting against this bill for the following reasons.

Firstly, it is clear to me that no system of euthanasia, no matter how carefully designed, can ensure the protection of the most marginalised and vulnerable in our society. This is deeply troubling to me. International precedents show that euthanasia regimes result in the involuntary death of innocent lives, often those who are marginalised and vulnerable. I cannot support a law which allows the state to intentionally kill its citizens, particularly when innocent lives will be lost in the process. The potential for this particular Bill to go so wrong is too big to ignore.

I have also considered this issue in the context of what our doctors are saying. I join with the overwhelming majority of healthcare professionals in New Zealand – including end-of-life specialists – who oppose euthanasia.

I find the New Zealand Medical Association’s comments on coercion particularly concerning: “An absolute guarantee that those who choose assisted dying are doing it voluntarily would be extremely difficult to establish in legislation and ensure in practice. Doctors are often not in a position to detect subtle coercion – as is also the case when trying to identify signs of emotional or financial abuse of elders more generally. Coercion also extends to assumptions of being a burden, giving rise to a sense of an ‘obligation’ to die.”

Finally, in a country with dire statistics relating to elder abuse, youth suicide and mental health, euthanasia is a major step backward and represents a threat to the vulnerable in our society.

I understand why an individual who has lived a full life and now faces a painful death would want to be allowed to choose when they will go. But I don’t believe we can allow and celebrate that without creating a terrible side effect for many others, for whom this law would not be so benign. Instead of offering a legal avenue for suicide, we need to encourage and strengthen our families and communities to support those who are lonely and suffering.

I am encouraged by the rapid developments in palliative care, which has only recently been recognised as a medical specialty. As I have engaged with this sub-sector extensively since being elected, I have only grown in my admiration for their work and belief that we must prioritise their role in enabling people to have ‘dignity in death’, not in romanticised suicide.

I appreciate this is a very difficult issue and I know people have many views on this issue, and I always welcome hearing from anyone who wishes to share theirs with me.

Simeon Brown  MP for Pakuranga
https://www.times.co.nz/news/opinion-why-im-voting-no-to-euthanasia/

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End of life choices: The Crown’s duty of protection

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Stuff co.nz 2 May 2019
Family First Comment: Grant Illingworth QC nails it….
“Parliament is presently considering enacting legislation which would significantly diminish the protection currently provided by the law relating to unlawful homicide. The measures being promoted under the End of Life Choice Bill are half-baked, poorly drafted and dangerous. Freedom of choice is an appealing doctrine, and sympathy for the terminally ill and their suffering provides a compelling context too. However, egocentricity and self-interest are irradicable aspects of human nature, and it would be a grievous mistake for MPs to overlook the larger danger of exposing weak, vulnerable and defenceless people to the depredations of those prepared to advance their own interests by influencing others to end their lives prematurely.”
#rejectassistedsuicide
www.Protect.org.nz

OPINION: In the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings, heavily armed police were urgently mobilised as soon as the threat was revealed. The Government acted to protect the lives of every individual in this country, with force if necessary.

It is a fundamental obligation of the government to protect us all. In law, we are all – even visitors and those who do not have the right to live here — subjects of the Crown. This principle, concerning the responsibility of government, was established in 1608 in a famous decision known as Calvin’s case. One of the most important aspects of that case was that it identified the essential features of the relationship between the individual and the sovereign.

The individual, whether resident or visitor, owes allegiance to the sovereign; the sovereign owes a reciprocal obligation, which is to govern and protect the Crown’s subjects. The judgment in Calvin’s case says this: “But between the Sovereign and the subject there is without comparison a higher and greater connexion; for as the subject oweth to the King his true and faithful ligeance and obedience, so the Sovereign is to govern and protect his subjects.”

The Crown’s duty to protect its subjects applies to everyone, but it is naturally most relevant to the weak, the vulnerable and the defenceless, including the elderly, those suffering serious illness and those who have lost the ability to think clearly and make informed decisions for themselves.

It is extremely common for those involved in legal matters to encounter situations where weak or vulnerable people and those who can’t stand up for themselves are taken advantage of by others through acts of dishonesty, intimidation and violence. In designing a justice system to shield everyone from such behaviour, the Crown carries out its reciprocal obligation to govern and protect its subjects.

This form of protection is particularly evident in laws relating to unlawful homicide, including murder, manslaughter and provisions concerning assisted suicide. These have been carefully designed to shield the lives of individuals threatened by the wrongful conduct of others and to provide a general protection for the lives of all members of our community, particularly those most at risk.

Any attempt to diminish the protection that those laws provide must, on any rational view, be subjected to the most anxious examination and scrutiny. As the greatest jurists throughout history have consistently recognised, the safety of the people is the supreme law: Salus populi suprema lex esto.

Parliament is presently considering enacting legislation which would significantly diminish the protection currently provided by the law relating to unlawful homicide. The measures being promoted under the End of Life Choice Bill are half-baked, poorly drafted and dangerous.

* Grant Illingworth is a QC and member of Lawyers for Vulnerable New Zealanders (lvnz.org)
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/112248130/end-of-life-choices-the-crowns-duty-of-protection

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