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No room for error on assisted dying

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NewsRoom 10 July 2020
Family First Comment: An important commentary….
“I read headlines stating the majority of public (63%) support legalising euthanasia, according to the poll. To the untrained eye, that looks like some strong evidence that the End of Life Choice Act (EOLC Act) is a done deal. But to me it just smacks of the same shallow approach to this vote that many are tempted into making. Hold that poll up against other polls that show 74% of Kiwis don’t know we can already turn off life support, 70% incorrectly think the EOLC Act will legalise the choice not to be resuscitated (which is already legal), and 75% thought it would only be available when all other treatments have been tried… so I wonder what information we are basing our poll voting on?

Most Kiwis aren’t aware that the end of life choice act is not a concept they’ll be voting for, but specific, unmovable legislation. And if we make a mistake, death is a heavy penalty, writes Caralise Trayes. 

A new Colmar Brunton poll revealed last weekend doesn’t do any favours in helping people recognise the binding referendum question they will actually be asked at this year’s election. It only reinforces the point that Kiwis aren’t being equipped to make an informed vote.

I read headlines stating the majority of public (63 percent) support legalising euthanasia, according to the poll. To the untrained eye, that looks like some strong evidence that the End of Life Choice Act (EOLC Act) is a done deal. But to me it just smacks of the same shallow approach to this vote that many are tempted into making.

Hold that poll up against other polls that show 74 percent of Kiwis don’t know we can already turn off life support, 70 percent incorrectly think the EOLC Act will legalise the choice not to be resuscitated (which is already legal), and 75 percent thought it would only be available when all other treatments have been tried… so I wonder what information we are basing our poll voting on?

Us Kiwis need to know we will in fact be voting on a very specific piece of legislation; not the concept of euthanasia. If we vote ‘yes’ in the binding referendum, the law is passed and active. No changes or adjustments can be made to this Act. So we should be examining the piece of law in front of us. However hard it is, we must put aside our view on the topic of assisted dying, and check this is the right law for the job.

We need to carefully assess and analyse this law to ensure it allows the autonomy to choose – something that many of us seek, while protecting those who shouldn’t have access, for one reason or another. And there’s no space for error – if we get it wrong, death is a big penalty.
READ MORE: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/no-room-for-error-on-assisted-dying
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New book examines assisted dying ahead of 2020 referendum

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Radio NZ News 28 June 2020
Family First Comment: This new book is worth checking out…
“[This bill] is intended for very few, the extreme cases probably. I assumed that the people we would be offering this to would be in extreme pain. But internationally, where assisted suicide is legal the motivational reasons for people using this isn’t actually pain. In Oregon, 2019 research shows that the primary motivational factor for people choosing this: 90 percent of people use this because their life is no longer enjoyable, 59 percent are saying they’re worried about being a burden on other people, and only 33 percent are actually in pain, or they’re afraid of the pain.”

The End of Life Choice Act will be put to the vote in a referendum alongside the national election, and has already been a hot subject of debate as it made its way through parliament.

The difficult topic has been explored in a book by journalist Caralise Trayes: The Final Choice, which includes interviews with medical and legal experts, religious leaders, ethicists, and experts on the practice of voluntary euthanasia in other countries.

Trayes’ interest in the debate was pricked when she took a freelance job focused on a meeting where assisted dying was discussed.

“I came away thinking I know very little about this, but what I do know is I’m going to have to vote on this binding referendum and make a really difficult choice. We all come into this discussion and decision with our own personal experiences, what we’ve seen and how other people have died – and that’s a really hard thing to look through.

“So I did some research and the further I got into the issue the more I realised how intricate it is and how many levels there are to it. I came away with questions … and there’s so much misinformation and so much emotion out there, I think it’s hard to find good information to make sure you can make a good choice – it’s really to equip people to make good choices.”

Trays says she can’t call which direction the referendum will fall in September.

“I know that right now, somewhere between 58 and 74 percent of Kiwis sit very on the side of voting for it, but what I’ve also seen is that same proportion of people don’t know much about this.

“Seventy-four percent of people think that this assisted dying law will mean they can turn off life support – that’s already legal. We need to get equipped and educated to make a really informed decision – this is a big decision, this is life and death. It’s worthy of that time and commitment.”
READ MORE: https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/sunday/audio/2018752582/new-book-examines-assisted-dying-ahead-of-2020-referendum
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Assisted dying conscientious objection questions too early – court

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Stuff co.nz 17 June 2020
Family First Comment: Significant concern for groups like Hospice NZ…
“The judge said hospices and other organisations could refuse to provide assisted dying services. But there also had to be a way for health practitioners to meet their obligations if asked by someone in the care of the hospice or organisation. It was not for the court to suggest ways those two positions could work together, the judge said. 
One of the questions was whether Crown funding for hospices could be declined if they were not offering assisted dying because of conscientious objection. The judge said questions about funding would have to await a case where the funding process was in issue.” 
And Hospice will pay the cost! Lose lose.

A judge says it’s too early to clarify how conscientious objection rights for assisted dying might work in hospices.

Hospice New Zealand, an umbrella organisation for all hospice services, wanted answers about how conscientious objection would operate if the End of Life Choice Act was accepted in the referendum in September.

It hoped the answers would help inform debate on the referendum, and it wanted voters to be clear what they were being asked to decide.

Hospice NZ was opposed to euthanasia or assisted suicide and a cornerstone of its care was to neither hasten nor postpone death.

It took a case to the High Court in Wellington asking for declarations on the legal position but Justice Jill Mallon said in general the questions could not be decided until the issues arose against particular facts.

A referendum on whether to put into force the End of Life Choice Act is to be run alongside the general election, and if the vote was “yes” the act would take effect a year after the result was declared.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/121860950/assisted-dying-conscientious-objection-questions-too-early–court

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Grim statistics at forefront as elder abuse awareness week begins in New Zealand

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TVNZ One News 15 June 2020
Family First Comment: Legalising euthanasia would simply exacerbate the potential threat to vulnerable people..
“most cases are psychological, with elderly socially isolated, bullied and humiliated…. the majority of abuse comes from family members”

Up to 10 per cent of people aged 65 and over experience some form of abuse in New Zealand.

The figure comes as the country marks the beginning of elder abuse awareness week.

Around 50 per cent experience financial abuse, where people fail to repay loans or simply take money or possessions.

But most cases are psychological, with elderly socially isolated, bullied and humiliated.

Hanny Naus of Age Concern says the majority of abuse comes from family members.

“Over 2500 cases in the past year that we see, the majority are family members and so it’s not just as easy as saying, ‘I don’t want that person in my life anymore because they’re doing something to harm me,’” says Ms Naus.

“They’re also the people that bring the children, so if you’re getting threatened unless you do that you’re not going to see the grandchildren again, you’re not going to blow the whistle.”
https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/grim-statistics-forefront-elder-abuse-awareness-week-begins-in-new-zealand

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TONGAN TRANSLATION – 20 Reasons to Vote No

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Ki he kau poupou, kaunga maheni mo e kainga Tonga kotoa pe:
Malo e lelei! Koe’uhi ko e teuteu fakaha loto mahu’inga (referendum) ‘a e fonua ‘i Sepitema ‘o e ta’u ni fekau’aki mo e maliuana mo e ‘iufanesia, kuo mau teuteu’i ai ‘a e ngaahi tohi fakamatala mahino mo lelei ma’a hotau ngaahi famili, maheni mo e siasi fekau’aki mo e ongo kaveinga ni. Pea ‘oku ta’etotongi fokii!! ‘Oku ma’u atu ‘eni ‘i he WWW.REJECTASSISTEDSUICIDE.ORG.NZ/translations/ ke mou lau mo vahevahe atu!
“‘Uhinga ‘e 20 ke tali NO ki he ‘iufanesia”
Fakapapau’i ‘oku ke mahino’i ‘a e ongo kaveinga pea ke toki fili!
‘Ofa atu,

 

To our Tongan supporters and friends:
Malo e lelei. In preparation for the upcoming referendum on euthanasia, we’ve prepared the perfect resource for your families, friends and church groups.
And they’re free! Download them today – and share.
“20 Reasons to Vote No to Euthanasia”.

SAMOAN TRANSLATION – 20 Reasons to Vote No

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E fa’atalofa atu i le tatou aiga Samoa potopoto.
A’o loma palota fa’alaua’itele o le Fa’aumafilēmuina (Euthansia) ua matou tapena ai ni tusitusiga e fa’amatala ma fa’amalamalama ia matāupu mo lou aiga, uō ma ē masani, fa’apea fo’i ma Fatafaitaulaga ‘ese’ese o le tatou nu’u.
O nei tusitusiga e lua, e leai se totogi mana’omia. E maua lau kopi i le ‘upega tafa’ilagi’ ua tusia i lalo.
Tusi:
20 filifiliga e tatau ai ona e palota “LEAI’ i le Fa’aumafilēmuina!
Maua lau kopi mai le: WWW.REJECTASSISTEDSUICIDE.ORG.NZ/translations/ 

To our Samoan supporters and friends:
Talofa. In preparation for the upcoming referendum
on euthanasia, we’ve prepared the perfect resource for your families, friends and church groups.
And they’re free! Download them today – and share.
“20 Reasons to Vote No to Euthanasia”.

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

By | Recent News | One Comment

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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