David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill

Say no to euthanasiaDavid 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:

Committee Secretariat
Health
Parliament Buildings
Wellington

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.

Euthanasia not on the horizon… for now

Say no to euthanasiaNews that Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway will not resubmit the End of Life Choice Bill is warmly welcomed.

The bill had been inherited by Lees-Galloway, as its earlier sponsor, Maryan Street, failed to be re-elected into Parliament in the recent general election.  But any attempt to resubmit the bill by Lees-Galloway has been squashed by new Labour leader, Andrew Little.

Although Little is not opposed to euthanasia he believes there are more important issues to deal with as the party attempts to rebuild.  In a Herald article he is quoted as saying:

It’s not about avoiding controversy but it’s about choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time. That stuff on euthanasia, it isn’t the time for us to be talking about that.

So for the time being, it looks like euthanasia will not be on the political horizon.

However, this does not mean that we should rest.  There is much work to be done.  The pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby are working very hard to change the general public’s view of end of life issues.

It should also be noted that another MP, either from Labour or another political party, could also take the opportunity to submit the End of Life Choice bill – or a similar one.

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Euthanasia Free NZ released an excellent press release on the issue, which I publish here in full:

Labour congratulated on withdrawing bill

Euthanasia Free NZ – Press Release

Euthanasia-Free NZ congratulates Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Iain Lees-Galloway for resisting sponsorship of the ex-Maryan Street voluntary euthanasia bill.

The End-of-Life Choice Bill proposes legal assisted suicide and euthanasia for anyone over 18 who has either a terminal condition which could end their life in 12 months, or an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that the person feels makes their life unbearable. It would effectively legalise euthanasia for anyone with a chronic physical or mental illness, disability, ageing-related condition or any condition for which a person refuses further treatment.Euthanasia-Free NZ congratulates Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Iain Lees-Galloway for resisting sponsorship of the ex-Maryan Street voluntary euthanasia bill.

“Public support for voluntary euthanasia is overestimated and based on unscientific online polls that ask an uninformed public to respond to leading questions couched in euphemisms”, says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.

“Hence, many people confuse “assisted dying” (a euphemism) with switching off life support, withdrawing or refusing treatment and ‘do-not-resuscitate’ orders. However, euthanasia actually involves a doctor administering lethal drugs by injection in a way similar to overseas executions. Assisted suicide involves a person swallowing lethal drugs prescribed by their doctor.”

Many are ignorant of studies showing that up to 35% of doctor-assisted deaths involve complications such as uncontrolled vomiting, epileptic fits and delayed death. It is hardly ‘death with dignity”. Many don’t know that witnessing the assisted death of a loved one carries the same risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as Iraqi war veterans have.”

A common misconception is that euthanasia and assisted suicide are purely private matters. That is not so. Both require the involvement of another party to execute, hence are public matters. Legalising euthanasia means making it legal for one person to be involved in deliberately ending the life of another person. Calling it “mercy killing” can hide a multitude of motives, including elder abuse.

Many are unaware that uncontrolled pain is not the reason why people request euthanasia or assisted suicide. The actual reasons are existential, such as being less able to engage in enjoyable activities and fear of being a burden. A high proportion of requests are from depressed people. A UK study of the terminally ill showed that 98% of those wanting to die changed their minds after being treated for depression.

The unintended consequences of euthanasia legislation are unknown to many. Several depressed, but otherwise healthy, Belgians have been euthanised. Many naively believe that legal euthanasia can be regulated and that safeguards can prevent coercion and subtle pressure on vulnerable people to request death. It is not so.

Two 2010 studies on assisted deaths in Flanders, Belgium, show that only 53% of cases were reported and of these, less than three-quarters followed legal requirements. 32% of euthanasia deaths were without the patient’s request. In half of these, death was the wish of family. In 20% of cases improvement in the person’s medical condition was still possible. 92% of victims killed without consent were 65 years or older.

Dr Theo Boer, who initially supported euthanasia and reviewed about 4000 cases as a member of a Dutch Regional Euthanasia Commission, is now warning other countries not to make the mistake The Netherlands did in legalising euthanasia. Our parliamentarians would do well to heed his advice.

ENDS

Potential Labour leaders show where they stand on euthanasia

Euthanasia: Killing or Caring?Andrew Little, who is vying for the Labour leadership, has made it clear that he does not think the End of Life Choice Bill should be returned to the ballot.

The controversial End of Life Choice Bill which was once championed by Maryan Street, is now in the hands of Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway (Labour).

Street failed to garner enough electorate votes in the September general election and the Labour party’s poor take of the Party vote meant that she also didn’t get into parliament on the list ticket.

Little, who only scraped into parliament himself, is not opposed to euthanasia, however, he believes that the Labour party needs to focus on more important issues rather than those that had the potential to cause controversy.

According to the NZ Herald, Little noted that

The challenge for the next three years is for us to emphasise issues of priority to a broad cross-section of New Zealanders and I’m not sure [euthanasia] is one of them.

There are mixed feelings from other contenders for the Labour Party leadership.

Grant Robertson advised Lees-Galloway to take the issue forward by creating a cross-party group.

Nanaia Mahuta fully supported the reintroduction of the End of Life Choice Bill to the ballot.

David Parker did not want to comment on the issue.

But Lees-Galloway believes that the euthanasia debate was not a party issue and would not detract from the bigger issues that the Party faces.

He was going to gauge the support the Bill would have in parliament before entering it back into the ballot.

Maryan Street withdrew the End of Life Choice Bill from the ballot last year under pressure from the Labour party which did not want to have to discuss the issue during an election year.

The new leader of the Labour party will be announced on November 18th.

Maryan Street fails to make it back into Parliament

Maryan StreetLabour candidate, Maryan Street, who is a staunch euthanasia and assisted suicide advocate, has failed to make it back into Parliament after the general election on Saturday.

Street, who has been an MP since 2005, had placed the End of Life Choice Bill into the Member’s Ballot in July 2012.

Late last year, Street came under pressure from her party to remove the Bill as it was deemed too controversial a subject to be debating in an election year.

Street withdrew the Bill from the Ballot, vowing to reintroduce it after the election.  However, once again she failed to win the electorate seat of Nelson.  Her position on Labour’s List should have seen her re-enter Parliament for another term, but their support has deteriorated to its lowest since 1922 and they did not gain enough seats for Street to be selected.

Considered by many to be filled with loopholes, the End of Life Choice Bill, if passed, would have legalised physician assisted suicide for those who were suffering from an “irreversible physical or mental medical condition” who were experiencing “unbearable” pain.

Doctors who object to euthanasia and assisted suicide would have been obliged to refer patients to other practitioners who could carry out their wishes.

Most concerning to those against the Bill was the clause granting immunity from civil and criminal liability for any person acting in good faith who failed through act or omission to follow the law.

There are still 300,000 special votes to be counted which could potentially change the situation. However, it is unlikely that Labour will gain another seat, bringing Street back into Parliament.

The possibility that another MP will take up the cause cannot be ruled out.

New Zealand MP withdraws euthanasia bill from ballot

Maryan Streetby Michelle Kaufman
Reposted from LifeSiteNews.com

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, September 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a dramatic move, New Zealand’s Labour MP, Maryan Street has withdrawn her End of Life Choice Bill from the parliamentary ballot box.

The draft euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation would, if drawn from the ballot, have seen the issue being debated in an election year. The Labour party earlier asked Street to consider withdrawing the bill as it was seen to be a negative distraction.

Many leading groups have already expressed opposition to the legislation, including the New Zealand Medical Association and Hospice New Zealand.

Street explained that she did not want her bill debated in an election year saying, “I’m concerned that it would not get the treatment it deserves. It needs sober, considered reflection, and that’s not a hallmark of election years in my experience.”

While Street has vowed to put the End of Life Choice Bill back into the ballot after the 2014 elections, groups who oppose the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide are seeing this as an opportunity to further educate the New Zealand public and MPs about the dangers.

Euthanasia Free NZ’s spokesperson, Professor Emeritus David Richmond, called for a redoubling of efforts on the part of all groups and organisations opposed to the bill to alert the public of the danger to society, including the loss of human freedom.

Richmond also said that the one-sided nature of the debate held so far in New Zealand has led to the situation where a majority of residents have said in polls that they support legalised euthanasia. He put this down to the media, the simplistic nature of the questions asked and ignorance among the general public of the wider issues involved.

According to critics, the draft legislation had major loopholes which would have seen just about anyone being able to request drugs to end their life. They also charged that it provided opportunities for elder abuse, already is a big problem in New Zealand.

A highly contentious provision in the bill that would have provided immunity from civil and criminal liability for any person, whether professional or lay, who failed to carry out the law properly through act or omission “in good faith.”

The End of Life Choice Bill: Legalising killing

USA assisted suicide cartoon April 12Labour MP Maryan Street currently has a Private Member’s Bill in the Ballot entitled “End of Life Choice” which seeks to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in New Zealand.  Although asked by her party to withdraw the Bill, which could serve as a distraction in the coming election year, she has not done so yet.

As the Bill is still in the ballot, and there is a possibility that at any time it could be drawn, it is worthwhile looking at the draft law to see what some of the potential pitfalls in the legislation are.

One of the tactics used by the pro-euthanasia advocates is to emphasize the safeguards that will be put in place. This is a diversionary tactic to take the emphasis away from the real issue, which is the sanctity of life itself. It is important to remember at all times that the End of Life Choice Bill is solely about legalizing the killing of another person, or assisting someone to commit suicide.

Some would argue that by saying it is wrong to kill another through euthanasia, one is imposing their view on others. However, we weep with tears of sadness over tragic murders and want the perpetrator found and given a just sentence; we wonder “why” someone takes their life and say “if only I had known… I could have helped… what a waste”.

Yet, here we are discussing a Bill which would make doctor’s commit murder. Doctor’s who pledge to “first do no harm”.  What are we, as a society, asking of those who are supposed to care for us? What mixed message are we sending our youth when we allow some people to take their own lives? How much easier it will be for the young person struggling to think that the only solution to their problems is to take their own life.

The pro-euthanasia lobby have been “very careful” in drafting the End of Life Choice Bill to ensure there are many “safeguards” which will encourage every-day New Zealander’s to believe no abuses will occur. But experience shows that no amount of “safeguards” will ever stop the abuse of a law which fundamentally is about killing.

This draft law has many loopholes, many ways in which abuses can occur, many opportunities for involuntary euthanasia to creep in. The following are only a few of the implications of the proposed law:

The criteria allows for euthanasia and assisted suicide on demand
Most notably, a person can request euthanasia or assisted suicide if they have an “irreversible physical or mental medical condition” that in the person’s view is “unbearable”. This leaves the option of euthanasia or assisted suicide open to just about anyone. People who are depressed could easily fit into this category, as could those who are paralysed, and those who are intellectually impaired. “Unbearable” is a subjective term. Remember the Belgian twins who were suffering “unbearable pain” because they would not be able to see each other?

The written requests can open the door to involuntary euthanasia
The draft legislation requires that the requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide be in writing and signed by the applicant. However, someone else can write the request and an “X” is a sufficient mark to show consent. In the case where an End of Life Directive is in place, and it has not been signed, a medical practitioner can decide if it is in “accordance of the patient’s wishes”. All of these situations leave the door open for others to decide if a person is to live or die and under what circumstances.

Exposes vulnerable people to choose euthanasia over living
When euthanasia or assisted suicide are an option, people who think that they are a burden, feel obliged to choose this option. In the US state of Oregon the number of patients requesting assisted suicide who have stipulated that they do not want to be a burden on their family rose from 12% in 1998 to 42% in 2005 and 45% in 2007.

No requirement for palliative care to be trialled
There is no requirement in the draft legislation that someone who wishes to be euthanized or assisted in suicide should have a trial of palliative care.  Professor Richmond (Geriatric Medicine) notes that “it is well recognized that when a person’s fears in the realms of the physical, psychological, social or spiritual domains are identified and assuaged in the hospice situation, their request for euthanasia is often not repeated”.

Reporting process will only tell some of the story
It is most likely that cases of terminal sedation* won’t be recorded as euthanasia.  Doctors are not required to report complications (one of which is the failure of the person to die).  Euthanasia or assisted suicide will not be recorded on the death certificate as the cause of death, instead the underlying condition will be stated, allowing doctors to cover up involuntary euthanasia.

Relationships are broken down
Family members or friends do no need to be informed of a person’s wish for euthanasia or assisted suicide. It can happen without their knowledge.  They cannot overturn a person’s wish to be euthanized.  This removes the important human need for relationship and support.

Immunity from civil and criminal liability offered to those involved in the process
Anyone involved in any part of the process laid out in the Bill and who fails through act or omission, in “good faith” is immune from any civil or criminal liability. This applies to professionals and lay people.

No real conscientious objection
Although it is stated that one can object to assisting, the objector is still obliged to participate by referring the person to another who will carry out their wishes.

End of Life Choice Review Body will be a sham
The End of Life Choice Review Body will be a sham, just like the Abortion Supervisory Committee, they will be protecting the interests of those who do the killing.

The legislation blurs the lines between medical treatment and euthanasia/assisted suicide
The language of the legislation turns euthanasia and assisted suicide into normal medical practice.  It makes doctors, whose role should be to heal, into killers.  Medical care is redefined so that euthanasia and assisted suicide become “treatments”.  Evidence suggests that ordinary means such as food and water are taken away from those who are not in the advance stages of passing on and newborn babies who have Spina bifida are left to die.   How much easier these practices will be to carry out with legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide?

The draft legislation, presented as the End of Life Choice Bill is dangerous, and has the potential, if passed, to destroy New Zealand society.

*terminal sedation is the practice whereby a patient is sedated and food and fluid is withdrawn with the intention of ending the person’s life.  It does not refer to when someone is sedated to alleviate severe pain for a time and they are adequately hydrated, or where a person is in the final stages of life.