Editorial: Money key factor in euthanasia debate

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"Death, taxes and childbirth. There's never any convenient time for any of them." We should give a damn about what the character Scarlett O'Hara means by this in Gone With the Wind.

Whatever your religion, it's hard to deny that human life is not completely a story that we script ourselves. We kind of control the middle, but the beginning and end is left to God, to chance, or whatever universal force you believe in.

Letting life run its course means we don't have control over the ifs and whens of our own birth and death.

Some say we should. Carly Gibbs reports today on how the euthanasia debate has been reignited in the Western Bay.

It is a polarising issue but one we need to have robust ethical debate about. On Wednesday, Bay of Plenty Times deputy editor Keri Welham started the discussion with a challenge to law makers to tackle this sensitive issue.

Keri suggested that for the terminally ill, MPs ought to move to a system which places greater emphasis on the wishes of an individual and their family regarding death.

The debate continued online, where opinion was divided. A Bay of Plenty Times online poll attracted a record number of votes, with 80 per cent of voters against the legalisation of euthanasia.

Readers of Carly's report will not fail to be moved by the plight of those facing death and their desire to end suffering. Many adults who have watched loved ones die a painful death of a terminal illness such as cancer argue that this suffering is inhumane.

Such suffering is terrible but assisting or controlling death is more inhumane.

Which is why we need more funding for palliative care of the sick and dying such as the type Waipuna Hospice provides. Its chairman Richard Thurlow is understandably against legalising assisted dying in any form, stating a vital concern for the vulnerable.

He makes an important political point that suffering of the dying is linked to funding, not just hospice care, but the funding by Pharmac of drugs which alleviate pain better than the ones currently available in New Zealand.

Anyone who has visited the hospice will agree with Mr Thurlow's belief is that "a good death is well managed". It involves families and social and spiritual support; the type of support not offered by any proposed assisted death scheme. Yes, there is grief, pain and loss in death but this is part of life.

This "well managed death" costs a lot of money. Waipuna Hospice depends on fundraising and community support. It is planning a local evening with The Chiefs to raise much-needed funds. It is not right that we have to depend on Sonny Bill Williams to make death less painful, rather than the Government and health care system to which we contribute taxes all our lives.

Those who argue that individuals should have a right to decide their own death often focus on their own situation. We can forgive the dying this selfishness, but let us not let individual sentiment determine the morals, ethics and medical laws which frame our society.

Those facing pain are often the face of the pro-euthanasia camp, as they are in Carly's story. But if euthanasia were legalised it could be sought for many reasons, not just the avoidance of pain.

Where would it end? Commercial death shops in the street alongside The Warehouse? Get-dead-quick schemes sold by insurance companies?

In countries where assisted suicide is legal, such as the Netherlands, the medical profession is concerned with developments such as mobile death squads, teams of roving doctors who visit patients in their home to deliver the lethal injection.

Life is sacred and death must remain so, too. The philosophy of hospice care that Waipuna has, which intends to neither hasten nor postpone death, is the correct one.

It is also an expensive one. I do hope MPs have this debate, but that they are strong enough to put funding towards caring for the dying rather than legislating to kill them.

We depend on government and lawmakers to uphold the moral fabric of life and society. As a reader on our online site says:

"I like to think that those that are older, and a little wiser, know exactly what they are doing and will not bow to the pressures of youth to rid the world of those that are a hastle [sic]."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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