Maggie Barry: Euthanasia not the answer

By Isaac Davison, APNZ staff

Maggie Barry. Photo / Greg Bowker
Maggie Barry. Photo / Greg Bowker

National Party MP Maggie Barry says the standard of healthcare for New Zealanders with terminal and chronic illnesses is so high euthanasia should not be considered as an alternative.

Ms Barry's All Party Parliamentary Group on Palliative Care will meet for the first time today and aims to improve MPs' understanding of the care available.

Palliative care focuses on relieving the suffering of patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

Ms Barry was partly inspired to form the group after witnessing the high-quality care her parents received before their deaths.

Her father was diagnosed with cancer and stayed in Mary Potter Hospice until his death 15 years ago. "Mum and I were able to go up there and spend time with him. I had dreaded it but it was as good as it could have been."

But her primary motivation is to oppose assisted suicide as an alternative for seriously ill patients.

She said euthanasia was part of the discussion when she chaired a working party on "Care of people who are dying", but she had concluded it was not a sensible option.

Assisted suicide is illegal in New Zealand, but Labour MP Maryan Street is working on a private member's bill that would legalise some end-of-life options.

Ms Barry said many advocates of euthanasia were unaware of the world-class palliative care available in New Zealand's 35 hospices, palliative care homes, and in hospitals.

The parliamentary group would aim to ensure palliative care remained free and would look to expand and increase hospice services.

Ms Barry said interest had been strong, with 25 MPs planning to attend the inaugural meeting.

Ilora Finlay, a doctor and professor of palliative medicine in Britain, will be talking at the meeting today on why euthanasia should not be legalised.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning she said changing the law would be a public safety issue.

"By changing the law for a small number of people you endanger the lives of many many more people,'' she said.

"In the last few years palliative care has moved along in leaps and bounds...now people understand much better how to provide really good dignified end-of-life care. The trouble is that in our societies, not everybody who needs that sort of care is accessing it at the moment and so we need to roll out that knowledge and skills.''

- NZ Herald

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