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Euthanasia referendum: ‘THE SAFEGUARDS ARE INADEQUATE’

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Euthanasia referendum: All you need to know about what your vote means
NZ Herald 25 April 2020
Family First Comment: “The safeguards are inadequate, the principle is unsound. And I think underneath all of this is a frightening fear of what it is to be disabled. People say ‘I don’t want to be wiped, I don’t want to drool, to be dependent. To me, that’s saying ‘I don’t want to be you’. I have a huge problem with that.”
#rejeactassistedsuicide
Protect.org.nz

What are the arguments against?
Many of the arguments against euthanasia also came from deeply personal experiences, including people with debilitating conditions who had recovered to live a long, fulfilling life.

One of the main concerns raised by opponents was that a law change would make disabled and elderly people more vulnerable. They could be pressured into ending their lives, possibly by family members who were exhausted by looking after them, fed up with the costs of care or medicine, or who wanted their inheritance earlier.

Older or disabled people could feel a “duty to die” because they believed they were a burden on their families.

Anti-euthanasia groups said it was simply not possible to safeguard against abuse or wrongful death. Protections which might seem strong in theory had never been tested by the realities of underfunded health systems or stressed families.

Governments could use assisted dying to save health costs. And euthanasia could worsen existing discrimination against poorer or Maori and Pacific families.

Another common argument was the slippery slope, which is mostly based on the experience in the Netherlands and Belgium, where euthanasia was extended to younger people after initially being limited to adults. Opponents say broader laws may not need Parliamentary approval, and instead could be gained through a court challenge.

There was concern about the absence of a stand-down period between first deciding to get euthanasia and when it can occur. “It would be possible for a person to receive a diagnosis of terminal illness on a Wednesday, gain the necessary approvals under the bill that same day, and be dead before the weekend,” said National MP Chris Penk, one of the bill’s most vocal opponents.

Some doctors objected to the change, saying it went against their core principle of not doing harm. They were also concerned about how difficult it was to accurately predict when a person might die, and the potential for misdiagnosis.

Some felt that the law change went against the Maori worldview, in which care and respect is shown for elderly and sick people and life and wairua are valued. Religious groups argued that life was sacred and that only God should decide life or death.

How does it compare to other countries?
New Zealand would become the sixth country in the world to legalise euthanasia or assisted dying. Several states in the United States and Victoria in Australia have also legalised.

New Zealand’s legislation is stricter than in the Netherlands and Belgium. The Netherlands allows people as young as 12 to request assisted dying, and it is available to non-terminal patients. Belgium has no age limit for children, but they must have a terminal illness to qualify.

Canada and the state of Victoria have similar regimes to New Zealand, limiting euthanasia to terminal people with six months to live – though Victoria extends that threshold to 12 months if the person has a degenerative neurological condition. Both Canada and Victoria also have stronger safeguards than New Zealand, because they require written confirmation from witnesses that a person is expressing their free will.

Victoria and some US states also have a “cooling off” period, or minimum time between a person deciding to die and when it can occur.

The Ministry of Justice has not done any analysis on how many people might apply for euthanasia if it were legalised. In a comparable jurisdiction, Victoria, demand far exceeded expectations. It was predicted that one person a month would choose to end their life, and since it has been introduced the rate has been closer to two a week.

‘THE SAFEGUARDS ARE INADEQUATE’
As an Anglican priest and disability advocate, Dr John Fox has been at a few deathbeds.

“I know what disabled life and disabled death looks like and the fairly severe sense of vulnerability that one has,” he said.

Fox, from Christchurch, will vote against the euthanasia referendum this year, saying it puts disabled people and others at risk.

“The safeguards are inadequate, the principle is unsound. And I think underneath all of this is a frightening fear of what it is to be disabled.

“People say ‘I don’t want to be wiped, I don’t want to drool, to be dependent. To me, that’s saying ‘I don’t want to be you’. I have a huge problem with that.”

The 37 year-old has a painful neuromuscular condition called spastic hemiplegia, and believes this would have qualified him for assisted dying under the originally drafted End of Life Choice Act. Eligibility for assisted dying in the legislation has now been narrowed to terminal patients with six months to live.

Fox said no matter how strict the safeguards were, legalising euthanasia meant that there was a fundamental shift to accepting that some lives were “not worth protecting”.

If the circumstances were extreme enough, anyone could understand why euthanasia could work in principle, he said.

“But we’re not talking about a thought experiment in a philosophy class. What we’re talking about is an actual category of people and it will be applied down at Middlemore Hospital in real life, in a place where funding is short, where there are bureaucrats and forms and power dynamics and difficulties.”

Even if he were not religious, he would oppose the bill on moral grounds.

“What I would ask people to think about is what disabled life and death is worth. My position is that if you wouldn’t do it to a rugby player, if you don’t do it to Dan Carter, you shouldn’t do it to me.”
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12318255 (behind paywall)

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Dutch court approves euthanasia in cases of advanced dementia

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The Guardian 22 April 2020
Family First Comment: “The ruling means doctors cannot be prosecuted even if the patient no longer says they want to die”
#slipperyslope
protect.org.nz

Doctors in the Netherlands are able to carry out euthanasia on patients with severe dementia without fear of prosecution even if the patient no longer expresses an explicit wish to die, the country’s highest court has ruled.

The supreme court’s decision followed a landmark case last year in which a doctor was acquitted of wrongdoing for euthanising a woman in 2016 with severe Alzheimer’s who had requested the procedure before her condition deteriorated.

The case caused controversy in the Netherlands because the unnamed woman had to be restrained by her family as she was euthanised, having been given a sedative in her coffee beforehand.

Prosecutors accused the doctor of going through with the euthanasia without properly consulting her client, saying the 74-year-old woman might have changed her mind about dying.

Lower Dutch courts acquitted the doctor of wrongdoing and prosecutors dropped the charges. The case was referred to the supreme court for a legal clarification “in the interest of the law”.

The Hague-based court ruled: “A physician may carry out a written request beforehand for euthanasia in people with advanced dementia.”
READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/21/dutch-court-approves-euthanasia-in-cases-of-advanced-dementia

Dutch Supreme Court Expands Euthanasia Laws for Dementia Patients
The New York Times 21 April 2020
The Dutch Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that doctors could legally carry out euthanasia on people with advanced dementia who had earlier put their wishes in writing even if they could no longer confirm them because of their illness.

The ruling is a landmark in Dutch euthanasia legislation which up to now had required patients to confirm euthanasia requests. This had not been considered possible for mentally incapacitated patients like advanced dementia sufferers.

“A doctor can carry out an (earlier) written request for euthanasia from people with advanced dementia,” the Supreme Court said in a summary of its decision.

Doctors would need to take care that the other criteria of unbearable suffering with no hope of recovery were also fulfilled.

The ruling came after prosecutors brought a criminal case against a nursing home doctor carried out a mercy killing of a 74-year old Alzheimer sufferer, who had a living will confirming she wanted euthanasia. The euthanasia was carried out with the support of the patients’ family.
READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/04/21/world/europe/21reuters-health-euthanasia-netherlands.html

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Marlborough man and ‘inspiration’ Braden Mason dies after long battle with cancer

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Stuff.co.nz 6 March 2020
Family First Comment: In 2005 at age six Braden was diagnosed with ependymoma, an inoperable form of cancer which affected his brain and spine to the point where he was unable to walk. His son had a “stubborn streak”. He was given just a few months, but lived another 15 years

“It didn’t matter how hard things got for him, he’d just try again,” Ray Mason said of his son Braden, who died on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.

“When he could no longer do something because of physical constraints, he’d be upset for a few days and then he’d pick himself up and find something else, until he could no longer do that.”

In 2005 at age six Braden was diagnosed with ependymoma, an inoperable form of cancer which affected his brain and spine to the point where he was unable to walk.

His son had a “stubborn streak”. He was given just a few months, but lived another 15 years, Ray said.

Braden never let his illness or his wheelchair prevent him from loving life and trying new things, his family said.

“Even though he was in a wheelchair he gave jet-skiing a go, he did archery, he did drifting,” his mum Heather Mason said.

“Braden always collected for Child Cancer. He made that his mission.” She said he dug deep and did that even when he was feeling unwell.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/120029958/marlborough-man-and-inspiration-braden-mason-dies-after-long-battle-with-cancer

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New poll shows support for both recreational cannabis and euthanasia dropping

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NewsHub 18 February 2020
Family First Comment: 😊

Support for both recreational cannabis and euthanasia has dropped in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll.

And even if the public votes ‘yes’ on legalising cannabis – MPs may have the final say in a conscience vote.

More than 4000 New Zealanders were charged with cannabis offences in 2018/19, but it’s a struggle for drug reform campaigners to get the public on their side.

The latest Newshub Reid-Research poll asked the referendum question the public will be asked in the referendum this election: do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • 39.4 percent said ‘yes’
  • 47.7 percent said ‘no ‘
  • 11.6 percent said ‘don’t know’

The Bill would make recreational cannabis legal for over 20s, with restrictions.

Euthanasia referendum
Our poll also asked the euthanasia referendum question: Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force?

61.9 percent said yes
23.7 percent said no

ACT leader David Seymour, who’s behind the proposed legislation, says: “The majority of NZers have seen bad death and they’re saying ‘when my time comes not for me it’s my life and it should be my choice’.”

Euthanasia just one of three big choices the public will make on Election Day in September.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/02/new-poll-shows-support-for-both-recreational-cannabis-and-euthanasia-dropping.html
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Support for legalising euthanasia dips, but majority still in favour – poll

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TVNZ One News 14 February 2020
Family First Comment: It will continue to drop as we highlight the deep flaws in the proposed bill.
Even for people who support some sort of euthanasia, they certainly shouldn’t support the bill just approved by the MPs.
Protect.org.nz

Support for legalising euthanasia has dropped, according to the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll – despite still holding a favourable majority.

It comes as the question for legalising euthanasia, or sticking with the status quo, is set to go to the public on September 19.

Those polled were asked, ‘Do you think you will vote for euthanasia to be legalised, or for euthanasia to remain illegal?’

Legalise euthanasia – 65%
Remain illegal – 25%
Will not vote – 1%
Don’t know / Refused – 9% 

The groups of people who were more like likely than average to intend to vote in favour of the legalisation of euthanasia were Green Party supporters, men aged 55 and over, people with an annual household income of more than $150,000 and New Zealand Europeans.

Those who were more likely than average to intend to vote against legalisation were Asian New Zealanders, Pacific peoples and women aged 55 and over.
READ MORE: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/support-legalising-euthanasia-dips-but-majority-still-in-favour-poll

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Dutch euthanasia centre sees 22% rise in requests in 2019

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TVNZ One News 8 February 2020
Family First Comment: “The number of people with dementia who received euthanasia rose from 70 in 2018 to 96 last year, the Euthanasia Expertise Center said. Two of those cases involved patients with dementia so advanced they were considered mentally incapacitated.”
#slipperyslope
Protect.org.nz

A Dutch organisation that carries out euthanasia received 3122 requests last year, a 22 per cent increase from the year before, the Euthanasia Expertise Center said today.

“Every work day, 13 people say: ‘Help me, I can’t go on,'” Steven Pleiter, director of the centre formerly known as the End of Life Clinic, said.

The centre has experts who advise general practitioners in euthanasia cases and teams made up of doctors, psychiatrists and nurses who visit patients to evaluate their requests and administer fatal doses of drugs if they meet euthanasia criteria.

The Netherlands in 2002 became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia. It can only be performed by physicians who administer fatal drug doses under strict conditions.

The centre said it honored nearly 900, or about one-third, of the requests it received in 2019.

 The requests often were in cases of people with dementia or suffering multiple physical complaints linked to old age.
READ MORE: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/world/dutch-euthanasia-centre-sees-22-rise-in-requests-2019
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Belgium euthanasia: Three doctors accused in unprecedented trial

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BBC News 14 January 2020
Family First Comment: Strict? Yeah right. 
“Euthanasia and assisted suicide were made legal under strict conditions in Belgium in 2002. The family argue that her reason for seeking to end her life was because of a failed relationship, far short of the “serious and incurable disorder” as required under Belgian law.”
Don’t do it, New Zealand.
Protect.org.nz

In an unprecedented case, three Belgian doctors are going on trial in Ghent accused of unlawfully poisoning a patient whose life they helped to end.

Tine Nys, 38, died surrounded by her family on 27 April 2010.

Her sisters argue that her death should never have been allowed under Belgium’s euthanasia law, and that it was achieved in an amateurish manner.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were made legal under strict conditions in Belgium in 2002.

Nys’s family argue that her reason for seeking to end her life was because of a failed relationship, far short of the “serious and incurable disorder” as required under Belgian law.

The three doctors from East Flanders who are going on trial have not been named, but they include the doctor who carried out the lethal injection and Nys’s former doctor and a psychiatrist. If found guilty they could face long jail terms.
READ MORE: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51103687

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Wendi Wicks: New Zealand’s euthanasia bill is a step into the unknown for disabled people

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The Guardian 14 November 2019
Family First Comment: Well said, Wendi
“The bill cannot and does not make firm distinctions between personal illness and disability or between terminal illness and chronic conditions, or between terminal illness and depression or other mental illness. It relies on prognosis and diagnosis, which are imprecise arts. It doesn’t protect against coercion, competency or consent abuses. It doesn’t allow for a cooling-down period like Oregon or Victoria have. Safeguards are vague and lax. Worse still, there’s a sense that a certain level of wrongful death is acceptable.”
#protect

Disabled people need to feel safe and this legislation leaves grey areas between terminal illness and chronic conditions

On Wednesday night, New Zealand MPs voted to adopt the end of life choice bill despite any number of warnings that it is a dangerous piece of work. It is risky to disabled people and unsafe to all.

In 2016, Canada passed euthanasia legislation and a consortium of appalled disabled Canadians fought a desperate rearguard action to bring in a vulnerable person’s standard (VPS). We’d not need that sort of thing, I thought. Clearly I was complacent. Disabled Australians, Canadians and Americans are appalled at euthanasia bills while British, Irish and Scots are incandescent.

I feel betrayed by Parliament’s vote. Do we need something like a VPS here, for disabled New Zealanders I wonder?

Now all that stands between us and this bill is a referendum scheduled to coincide with our next general election, in 2020. Then there may be no way for the community of disabled people like me (25% of New Zealand’s population), to feel safe from wrongful death.

The law creates a risk to individuals in our community of disabled people and to our community as a whole. How can any MP be able to agree to a measure that endangers a whole community that they are not a member of? Our legislative safeguards have stepped into the shadows and too many MPs think that’s an acceptable trade-off. A friendly QC commented on my vulnerability to the law thus: “You’re toast.” Me and how many other disabled people?

Our concerns about the bill are many. They include that the bill cannot and does not make firm distinctions between personal illness and disability or between terminal illness and chronic conditions, or between terminal illness and depression or other mental illness. It relies on prognosis and diagnosis, which are imprecise arts. It doesn’t protect against coercion, competency or consent abuses.

It doesn’t allow for a cooling-down period like Oregon or Victoria have. Safeguards are vague and lax. Worse still, there’s a sense that a certain level of wrongful death is acceptable.
READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/14/new-zealands-euthanasia-bill-is-a-step-into-the-unknown-for-disabled-people

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Assisted Suicide / Euthanasia – How they voted (3rd Reading)

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The Campaign To PROTECT has now been launched.

The 3rd and final reading of the assisted suicide / euthanasia bill happened last night. The only way the liberals were able to get the bill ‘across the line’ was to offer a referendum – a tool that normally they want nothing to do with (remember the anti-smacking 87% referendum?). That’s how weak this bill is.

The so-called ‘safeguards’ – many of which were not even allowed to be debated – will not guarantee the protection required for vulnerable people.

We need to apply the precautionary principle: the higher the risk – the higher the burden of proof on those proposing liberalisation of the law. But the risk of abuse simply cannot be eliminated. How many euthanasia ‘mistakes’ are we willing to accept? We say NONE.

That’s why we will be strongly and vigorously promoting a NO vote in the referendum at the end of next year. 



How they voted…..

NATIONAL MPs:

Voted Against Euthanasia:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Maggie Barry, Andrew Bayly, David Bennett, Dan Bidois, Simon Bridges, Simeon Brown, Gerry Brownlee, David Carter, Jacqui Dean, Sarah Dowie, Paulo Garcia, Paul Goldsmith, Nathan Guy, Jo Hayes, Harete Hipango, Denise Lee, Melissa Lee, Agnes Loheni, Tim Macindoe, Todd McClay, Ian McKelvie, Todd Muller, Alfred Ngaro, Simon O’Connor, Parmjeet Parmar, Chris Penk, Maureen Pugh, Shane Reti, Alastair Scott, Nick Smith, Anne Tolley, Louise Upston, Nicky Wagner, Hamish Walker, Michael Woodhouse, Jonathan Young, Lawrence Yule  (38)


Voted For Euthanasia
:

Amy Adams, Paula Bennett, Chris Bishop, Judith Collins, Matt Doocey, Andrew Falloon, Brett Hudson, Nikki Kaye, Matt King, Barbara Kuriger, Mark Mitchell, Scott Simpson, Stuart Smith, Erica Stanford, Tim van de Molen, Nicola Willis, Jian Yang (17)
LABOUR: 

Voted Against Euthanasia:

David Clark, Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, Damien O’Connor, Adrian Rurawhe, Deborah Russell, Jenny Salesa, Aupito Tofe Sua William Sio, Jamie Strange, Rino Tirikatene, Phil Twyford, Meka Whaitiri, Michael Wood, Poto Williams (13)

 

Voted For Euthanasia:

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, Carmel Sepuloni, Jan Tinetti, Louisa Wall, Angie Warren-Clark, Duncan Webb, Megan Woods (33)
NZ FIRST MPs: 

Voted For Euthanasia:

Darroch Ball, Shane Jones, Jenny Marcroft, Ron Mark, Tracey Martin, Clayton Mitchell, Mark Patterson, Winston Peters, Fletcher Tabuteau (all 9 MPs)
GREEN MPs: 

Voted For Euthanasia:

Marama Davidson, Julie Anne Genter, Golriz Ghahraman, Gareth Hughes, Jan Logie, Eugenie Sage, James Shaw, Chloe Swarbrick (all 8 MPs)
OTHER: 
David Seymour / Jami-Lee Ross