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.

The value of accepting suffering

Alison Davis and Colin Harte
Alison Davis and Colin Harte

 

One of the most inspirational people I have ever met came in the form of a very fragile woman, Alison Davis.

What a grace and wonderful moment to meet her and her devoted caregiver of more than twenty years, Colin Harte.   Motivational speakers and leaders of all manner and kind can speak eloquent words and bring societal change about through their social and verbal skills.  They can take thousands and even millions of people on a journey in their life that brings a perceived hope and bring change to the world in which they live.  BUT this lady, reached to the very soul of my being.   The only other person in my life having this profound effect was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The very moment I first met Alison, I knew deep within my soul that I was in the presence of a very holy and very grace-filled woman.  Alison suffered with many illnesses in her life including Spina Bifida and being confined to a wheel chair all her life. She required a caregiver – a companion – twenty four hours, seven days a week to assist her with her personal cares.

Alison’s story is a testament to the real value of accepting suffering in our lives.  Alison was always a very joyful and thoughtful woman, full of love and compassion for all those she met. Despite being in constant pain and discomfort a lot of the time and despite not having any physical independence in her life, Alison championed the rights of the disabled and handicapped to be respected and assisted where needed.  Above all she fought for the rights of her fellow disabled community to have the right to life.  She founded the UK Disability Rights group, No less Human and travelled internationally (including New Zealand), to speak on disability rights and against voluntary euthanasia.

Alison grew up as an atheist.  She wanted to die on several occasions and almost succeeded. It was the care and determination of a true lady friend who helped her break the cycle of wanting to die. She would sit with Alison, removing all instruments within reach that she could use to harm herself.  It was this friend who persisted and who remained a faithful and true advocate for Alison’s life, that eventually gave her the hope and trust and a desire to live her life in a happy and meaningful way.

Then Alison was blessed with a new caregiver, who was destined for the priesthood.  He was to take care of Alison for just a few weeks, but continued on, staying at Alison’s home and providing her with the most loving an devoted care imaginable until Alison died in 2013.  She was 58 years old.

In the midst of intense suffering, Alison discovered the existence of God and His great love for her. She became a Catholic.  She accepted completely the Catholic Church as the repository of truth and the giver of life.  With the integrity of much experience she spoke of suffering with Christ as “the greatest privilege possible in the world.”

We had become good friends from the start, and the absolute love and joy given out from Alison to our own three special needs children surpassed any eloquent inspiring preacher or speaker I have ever heard.

From a wretched, unhappy, pain ridden young woman, who had despaired and had so much wanted to die… to a woman of hope, joy, and expectation and simplicity of heart.  Alison had a very intelligent and great mind, and spent her life writing and  speaking to advocate for the most vulnerable, in particular those in danger of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

I will always remember Alison for her amazing capacity to love – always with a gentle smile, regardless of the suffering she was enduring internally.  In her weakness she was very strong.

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.

*******************************

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.

Voting with the most vulnerable in mind

Vote for LifeWith only a few days to go until New Zealand’s General Election most people have likely made their minds up about who to vote for.

Our children attend a Catholic primary school and it has been interesting to hear the comments they have been making over the last few weeks as the election process has been studied.  Yesterday, two came home with the results of a class election.  Given the children are highly influenced by what is being discussed at home, I suspect the class election results are a close indication of how the parents will be voting this coming Saturday!  Unsurprisingly, for this electorate, Labour won with flying colours.

I wonder if these families understand the implications for preborn New Zealanders if they vote Labour this year?  Do they know that a Labour member (Maryan Street) intends to reintroduce a private member’s bill that will legalise the killing of adults who are terminally ill or find their suffering (whatever that may be) “unbearable”?

And it is not just Labour that we should be wary of.  The Green’s wish to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, making abortion easily accessed while removing the rights of pro-life doctors and nurses to follow their own conscience and not subject their second patient (the preborn child) to death.  Crisis Pregnancy Centres are also a target of the Green’s policy.  Labour and the Greens are joined by Internet Mana and other parties and candidates that do not uphold the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life is handy document to refer to.   It can be perused not only by Catholics, but by all people of good will who wish to ensure the common good of all people is upheld.

In it, we are reminded that:

“In the face of fundamental and inalienable ethical demands, Christians must recognize that what is at stake is the essence of the moral law, which concerns the integral good of the human person.  This is the case with laws concerning abortion and euthanasia (not to be confused with the decision to forgo extraordinary treatments, which is morally legitimate).  Such laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death.  In the same way, it is necessary to recall the duty to respect and protect the rights of the human embryo.  Analogously, the family needs to be safeguarded and promoted, based on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, and protected in its unity and stability in the face of modern laws on divorce:  in no way can other forms of cohabitation be placed on the same level as marriage, nor can they receive legal recognition as such.” (#4)

The people whom we elect on Saturday have the power to further strip the most vulnerable in our society – the preborn and those near the end of life – of their intrinsic dignity.  If we vote well, there will be people in parliament to speak up for the most defenseless.

Not so long ago New Zealand’s Catholic Bishop’s released a statement to all the Catholic faithful.  In it they noted that “protecting the most vulnerable members of society is the responsibility of every one of us.”

Our shepherds also noted that “we are challenged as voters to place first in heart and conscience those whose lives are potentially affected by decisions we make as voters.”

Among the people they listed as needing our attention, the Bishop’s mentioned the preborn children and those nearing the end of life.

As we walk into the polling booths on Saturday, everyone must be aware of the grave situation that lies ahead of us if particular political parties obtain the balance of power.

The lives of even more preborn children are at stake; families are at risk of being further breakdown; and those who suffer from terminal illness (or any condition that one finds burdensome) will be at risk of euthanasia.

So when it comes to the political parties and candidates do you know their policies and what they stand for?  Do you know for sure that they will keep their word and not change tack after being swayed by organisations that promote abortion, contraception, euthanasia and the breakdown of the traditional family?

We need strong people in parliament who will speak up for all people who reside in this beautiful country – God’s own.  We must ensure that the parties we vote for have sound policies that uphold the dignity of all people at every stage of life – from the very moment of conception right through to natural death.

Acknowledging the sacredness and right to life of individuals is the foundation for which we can build a strong society.  We ignore the most vulnerable among us at our own peril.

 

Check out Family First’s website Value Your Vote for more information on the parties and candidates.

The Edges of Life

Grandpa and baby

The edges of life are controversial. On one side there are the debates about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of life the debates are about euthanasia, organ transplantation, and its cousin, brain death.

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee is rewriting the rules on brain death. Normally when we see this, it’s someone wanting to declare people dead sooner so their organs can be harvested for transplantation into other sick patients. Peter Rhee is taking the definition in the other direction.

While Dr Rhee’s name might not be that well known, some of his patients are. He was one of congresswoman Gabby Giffords doctors. Dr Rhee knows about death. He’s a trauma surgeon who has seen mass shooting patients in the United States. He’s also been to Iraq and Afghanistan to save the lives of soldiers, even going behind enemy lines to treat the injured. He’s even been selected as a personal surgeon to the president of the US on an overseas trip.

But it’s patients in the US that might be rewriting the rules on when death occurs. He’s part of a team that’s been experimenting on ‘suspended animation’, to save trauma patients. The team has permission to start human trials on trauma patients who have gone into heart failure and can’t be resuscitated by current techniques. The team will rapidly cool the patient’s body to 10°C (50°F), where metabolic activity slows almost to a stop. In this state, the heart is stopped, there is no breathing, and no detectable brain activity. This would be normally be considered clinical death. But the surgeons have 2 hours to repair their patient’s injuries before slowly warming them up and reviving them. If their prior work holds up in human trials, up to 90% of patients could survive the cooling and rewarming procedure itself.

And that 2 hours is time the surgeons wouldn’t normally have for life saving surgery. This technique will only work if they are able to apply it to the patient in the minutes after heart failure before brain damage starts to take place. Previous work has so far shown no brain damage or impaired function from the cooling and rewarming procedure. The team will be following their patients closely to see if this is also the case in the human trials.

Some of Rhee’s comments on the research and his clinical work are telling, “Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution”.

Dr Rhee is saying that the current definition of death is inadequate and often premature. We often see that definitions of life and death are based on what is convenient. Some organs can only be ‘harvested’ from a ‘dead’ person where there is a heartbeat. Some of these ‘dead’ people have woken on the operating table, moments before their organs were going to be harvested.

Definitions also chip away at the other end of life too. Many medical and legal organisations now define ‘established pregnancy’ as starting at implantation, not conception (fertilisation). Once pregnancy is defined at implantation, and abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy, then emergency ‘contraception’ doesn’t cause ‘abortions’. And if you jump through the same linguistic hoops, hormonal contraceptives don’t cause abortions either. Despite the words and definitions, human embryos are still being destroyed by so called ‘contraceptives’.

The extreme view of this is held by Australian ethicist Peter Singer, and Nobel prize winning molecular biologist James Watson, who have stated that new-born infants shouldn’t be declared alive straight after birth. These frightening ideas were put forward to allow new-borns to be left to die, or even directly killed. Pro-abortion organisations have even opposed regulations that protect the life of a child born alive after abortion.

Given these developments, we should applaud the efforts of scientist and doctors where they are true to their profession and work to save lives, especially when they are able to save the life that couldn’t previously be saved.