Euthanasia bill would be rife for exploitation by the selfish and the abusive, says QC

By June 24, 2019 Recent News

Stuff 23 June 2019
Family First Comment: “Believing that doctors will always be able to tell whether or not someone is making a free choice is a mistake. Doctors are fallible, just like any other human being. And even the best doctors on their best days will struggle to determine, with 100 per cent accuracy, that the patient in front of them is making a free and voluntary decision.”

OPINION: David Seymour makes a good point in advocating for his End of Life Choice Bill – when you get to the end of your life, if the situation is intolerable, you should have a choice about what to do about that. But problems arise when you go from the idea to the application, when you actually have to make a law that allows assisted suicide.

The State has an obligation to protect its citizens – that is part of the social contract we as individuals have with the State. Our laws are based on the idea that human life has a certain sanctity about it which needs protection. Even in our Bill of Rights Act, we have provisions that mean that life has to be protected.

The End of Life Choice Bill is premised on the idea that there are some conditions or characteristics that exclude a person from the need to protect their life. If these are absent, the person’s life is protected in law.

If they are present, the person may gain assistance to end their life. By taking away the protection for each human life, the End of Life Choice Bill breaches the social contract.

Perhaps some people would be fine with the State breaching the social contract in this way if it meant that they could have control over how they die.

They may say it is justifiable for some people to make a self-destructive decision because life for them has become intolerable, but that is not really the issue. The issue is, how do you distinguish those cases from the ones that should not be treated in that way?

Modern societies are often judged by the way they treat their weakest and most vulnerable citizens. The End of Life Choice Bill inherently involves people who are in a state of weakness or vulnerability.

During my more than 40 years of experience as a barrister, I have seen the pressures and abuses that can come to bear upon people who are in a state of weakness or vulnerability.

* Grant Illingworth QC is a barrister-at-law based in Auckland and is taking part in the #DefendNZ movement to try to block the End of Life Bill from passing into law.