David Seymour, the sole MP for the political party ACT, submitted a new “End of Life Choice” Member’s Bill to Parliament on Wednesday.
The submission was not a surprise as he had announced earlier this year, after the high profile High Court case of Lecretia Seales, that this was a project he was working on.
Seales, who had terminal brain cancer, had sought approval from the Court to have her doctor assist her suicide. However, the judge decided that it was not his role, but that of Parliament to decide whether euthanasia and/or assisted suicide should be legalised.
This new End of Life Choice Bill will, if it is selected from the ballot, force MPs to discuss the issue and decide if this is a path they want New Zealand to take.
“This Bill gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying” the explanatory note says.
Using emotional language, the Bill talks about “compassion” being the “motivation” so that “people who so choose, and are eligible under this Bill, to end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.”
It is attempting to hide the reality of what it is legalizing by using emotional and illusionary language. Using terms like assisted dying, compassion and choice appeal to the sentiment, to the emotion, and not to reason.
What Seymour is proposing is a law which allows doctors to assist someone to commit suicide or to actually directly kill their patient!
A doctor’s role is one of care for their patients – not one of deliberate killing.
The Bill, if enacted, would allow people over the age of 18 to request euthanasia or assisted suicide if they:
- Have a terminal illness and natural death is likely within six months or
- Have a medical condition that is “grievous and irremediable”
- Is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability
- Has “unbearable suffering” that is not able to be relieved or is considered “tolerable”
- Has the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of what they are requesting.
Like its predecessor, Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill, these qualifications would allow anyone to put forward a case.
Of particular concern is that a person can have a medical condition that is “grievous and irremediable” and be eligible for assisted suicide/euthanasia. This is exacerbated by the clause that says the person must have “unbearable suffering” which cannot be relieved or is perceived as not “tolerable”.
People with any number of conditions could fall under this category… Those with Multiple Sclerosis, depression, diabetes.
And if you think that is far fetched we only need to look to these cases in Belgium to see how the law can be stretched to allow for any case:
Seymour claims that “analysis of overseas jurisdictions where assisted dying is permitted demonstrates that concerns, including concerns about abuse of the vulnerable, have not materialized and that risks can be properly managed through appropriate legislative safeguards.”
But the safeguards only make people feel better about the legislation. They don’t work in practice to protect the vulnerable at all.
A timely example of how vulnerable people can be at risk occurred just days ago when a 12-year-old girl in Spain was starved to death by her parents. The law in that region allows “every person suffering from irreversible, incurable diseases, and in a terminal state, the right to reject surgical procedures, including hydration, feeding and artificial resuscitation.”
In Belgium, euthanasia is now legal for all children and also for patients with dementia. In the Netherlands, under the Groningen Protocol, babies under the age of one and often presenting with Spina Bifida or hydrocephals, can be killed.
Also of serious concern is the clause that states “a person is immune from liability in civil or criminal proceedings for acts or omissions in good faith and without negligence in providing or intending to provide assisted dying.” This clause makes it very difficult for anyone who has acted outside the law to be brought to justice.
This is the fourth attempt by MPs to legalise euthanasia and/or assisted suicide in New Zealand. The first attempt was in 1995. That Bill was defeated at its first reading 61 to 29. A second attempt in 2003 was also defeated at the first reading 60/58.
A third Bill, also called End of Life Choice, was introduced in 2012 By Labour MP Maryan Street. However, she was forced to withdraw the Bill from the ballot in 2013, as it was seen by her party to be too contentious a topic to be debated in an election year.
While the new End of Life Choice Bill has many similarities to Street’s original, it is not the same Bill.
It comes at a time with the Health Select Committee is investigating public attitudes toward euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The terms of reference for that inquiry are:
- The factors that contribute to the desire to end one’s life
- The effectiveness of services and support available to those who desire to end their own lives
- The attitudes of New Zealanders towards the ending of one’s life and the current legal situation
- International experiences
All New Zealander’s are able to make a submission on this need to be made prior to Monday 1st February 2016.
Submissions can be made to:
Phone: +64 4 817 9541
Fax: +64 4 499 0486
Submission can also be made online. Details on how to do this can be found on the NZ Parliament website.