Why I oppose the End of Life Choice Bill, in plain English

By November 13, 2019 Recent News

Stuff co.nz 13 November 2019
Family First Comment: A superb summation of why politicians should vote NO to assisted suicide.
But are they listening?
1 No protection from coercion
2 Broader than other o/s legislation
3 Given our suicide epidemic, this is too risky
4 Weak review system
5 Will reduce end of life care – esp to low income

OPINION: Later today, our MPs will cast their final vote on the End of Life Choice Bill. It all comes down to deciding whether the bill, with its changes, will ultimately deliver what it says.

My position on euthanasia is well known. I have spoken many times about why I am opposed in principle. But to my former colleagues I say, even if you agree in principle, this is not the bill to deliver euthanasia and assisted suicide to New Zealanders.

This bill, if it passes, will make New Zealand a less safe place for the old, the vulnerable, the depressed and the disabled, and here are five reasons why.

Firstly, it does not provide real protection from coercion. Talk to any doctor and they will tell you it is virtually impossible to detect subtle emotional coercion, and even overt coercion, at the best of times. Yet many people will be “signed off” by medical practitioners with little or no understanding of the patient’s family or social history, let alone medical history. The law requires doctors only to “do their best” – hardly an adequate measure of robust clinical care standards.

Secondly, I know that many MPs will be finely tuned to the “hard cases”. However, for all the talk about narrowing the legislation down, this bill is much broader than the new Victorian law, as well as those states in the United States where only assisted suicide is available. We know that, when euthanasia is included, the numbers accessing it are at least 10 times greater. This bill is “overkill” – if the argument was really about the hard cases, then it would be a much tighter bill.

Thirdly, there is the contentious and vexed question of the relationship between suicide rates and assisted dying. As 21 mental health practitioners and academics recently argued, there is mounting statistical evidence from Oregon, Belgium and the Netherlands to suggest that, as the numbers using assisted dying rise, so too do suicide rates. The onus is on David Seymour and the likes to prove it is safe, and he cannot do this. Until then, given our suicide epidemic, sensible and caring thinking says it is too risky to proceed.

Fourthly, the review system does not include access to patient records, as is the case in the Netherlands. So it is a much weaker law in that regard. Even then, after nearly 20 years, up to 23 per cent of euthanasia deaths are not being reported there. We can only guess what it would be like here with a less robust system.

Fifthly, there is growing evidence from Canada and the US that people are choosing euthanasia or assisted suicide because of a lack of access to proper end-of-life care – in other words because of a lack of real choice. To me that is unacceptable, especially when it is most likely to affect people in lower socio-economic areas. No-one can rightly claim that as a compassionate choice.

Five reasons why this bill will not deliver compassion. Five reasons to vote “No”.

* Former prime minister Sir Bill English has opposed the End of Life Choice Bill since its first reading.

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