Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Sick patients not fit to choose euthanasia, MPs told

The Beehive, Parliament, Wellington. 1 April 2016 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Mark Mitchell. RGP 23Jul16 - BIG STAGE: Rotorua Youth MP Ngahaki Gardiner, 17, made a big impact with his rousi
The Beehive, Parliament, Wellington. 1 April 2016 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Mark Mitchell. RGP 23Jul16 - BIG STAGE: Rotorua Youth MP Ngahaki Gardiner, 17, made a big impact with his rousi

A woman who recovered from Stage 3 cancer has warned MPs against legalising euthanasia, saying that seriously ill patients are not capable of making rational decisions about dying.

Parliament's Health Committee is investigating public attitudes towards voluntary euthanasia in response to a petition by former Labour MP Maryan Street.

In hearings held today at Parliament, MPs heard several highly personal submissions.

One submitter, Wellington lawyer Bernadette Scanlon, told MPs she was "not unfamiliar with death", having lost a brother to cancer before being diagnosed with cancer herself.

During her second round of chemotherapy, the 28 year-old said she was often "hugely vulnerable" and "mentally weak".

"I recall feeling utterly helpless, physically awful and alone. I hated the situation I was in, a situation I couldn't escape from ... This mindset unfortunately has continued from time to time, post-treatment, when I get a bad result, when I compare my current life to where I expected it to be, or when I look at my friends' lives.

"During all these points of time, had the choice of death actually been available, for once in my life, I may have taken it into consideration.

"And that is exactly what I didn't need or actually want.

"And that is the exact type of person who you as a committee don't want to capture."

Scanlon, who is now in remission, said others in the same situation might be more vulnerable than her.

"I was surrounded by support and love, I had an expectation of a cure, and I am young, I am educated, I am self-aware.

"Imagine if that wasn't the situation ... By condoning death as being an acceptable solution to a problem, we will shift the moral standpoint for a number of highly vulnerable patients."

She concluded by saying that death "should always be left as an outcome, not as a medically-administered and legally-condoned choice".

Another submitter, Wairarapa woman Tracey van de Raaij, gave a contrasting view.

She said she supported a law change because of an experience several years ago in which she witnessed the aftermath of her neighbour's suicide.

The terminally ill man took his own life after a struggle with cancer, and van de Raaij said she was asked by emergency services to assist his distraught partner.

"I turned up at the house to a very distraught neighbour and a naked man covered in blood and under bodily fluids."

After the incident, her neighbour was treated like a criminal, van de Raaij said, adding that a law change was needed to avoid similar cases.

The Health Committee has received 22,000 submissions.

In a rare move, it has agreed to hear from every person who asked to make an oral submissions - around 1800 people.

- NZ Herald

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