Two anti-euthanasia campaigners say a law change to allow assisted deaths would take New Zealand into irreversible "dangerous territory".
More than a 100 people gathered at the Central Baptist Church yesterday to hear Dr John Kleinsman, director of NZ Catholic Bishops Bioethics Nathaniel Centre, and Waipuna Hospice chief executive Dr Richard Thurlow share their views on the subject.
Dr Kleinsman said saying yes to voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide would take New Zealand into dangerous territory, and was open to significant abuse. "The legalisation of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide is not merely a matter of individual choice and should not be based on high-profile individual tragic cases, such as the Lecretia Seales case which has been reported widely in the media," he said.
"It would be a dangerous and unnecessary path for New Zealand to go down."
Dr Kleinsman said once the door had been opened it would be impossible to prevent abuses, no matter how many safeguards were written into a law change, and there were already examples in the Netherlands and Belgium which New Zealand needed to heed. Dr Thurlow said while Ms Seales' case was "very sad and hard", any move to legalise physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia would be "detrimental to society".
Ms Seales died on the day she learned Justice David Collins ruled against her bid to have the option to choose whether to allow a doctor to assist her to end her life without prosecution. A Parliamentary Health Committee is calling for public submissions after receiving a petition from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society signed by Ms Seales' husband Matt Vickers. Both Dr Kleinsman and Dr Thurlow said it was vitally important that the public made submissions as the select committees findings were likely to influence the wording of any bill.
A Bethlehem woman in the audience, who wished only to be known as Wendy, said Dr Kleinsman had helped to crystalise her main concerns.
"While people have a right to die with dignity, this talk has only reinforced my view that a law change to legalise assisted deaths would be the wrong move for New Zealand."