An article by Matt Vickers promoting the End of Life Choice Act (NZ Herald, September 4) attempts to denigrate those who understand the threat that this Act represents to the vulnerable in our community.
Totally ignored in his article is that the majority of our medical professionals oppose it, including; The New Zealand Medical Association, the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, and Hospice NZ.
For the most part, Vickers resorted to ad hominem attacks, peripheral to the real issue, and on the points where he talks about the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide, he fails to address any of the real concerns many have expressed.
The EOLC Act is dangerous in that it seeks to establish two principles. The first is that Parliament has the authority to decide who may be killed and the second that doctors have the right to kill their patients.
This Act coming into force would represent an unprecedented change to the current total prohibition against taking the life of another innocent human being. Our current statutes, established by the 1961 Crimes Act, are there to protect the vulnerable in our society and are foundational to our laws and the practice of medicine. We change these statues at our peril.
This Act has many significant flaws, not addressed during its passage through Parliament. These include that no independent witnesses are required at any stage of the process; there is no requirement for a person to be mentally competent at the time of the lethal dose; there is no cooling-off period before the lethal dose. Unlike other countries, which have a significant safety time-frame, this Act means the patient can be dead 48 hours after a prescription is written.
Richard McLeod, the spokesperson for a group of 200 lawyers has this to say. "It gives the illusion of choice and that while there will be choice for the powerful and the privileged, it is not the same for the poor, the weak, the defenceless and the vulnerable."
This Act runs totally contrary to the Government's Suicide Prevention Strategy. Many are concerned that promoting suicide as a response to suffering may send a message to those suffering from non-terminal conditions or even depression.
This Act would exacerbate elder abuse, which is difficult to detect and which is already rampant. The reality is that some individuals or families do not always have the best interests of their parents and others at heart. This Act does not protect vulnerable New Zealanders from being manipulated or pressured into requesting euthanasia. Through subtle pressures, difficult to detect, the right to die will become a duty to die.
This Act is a Trojan horse. It could easily be extended to include euthanasia for the disabled, for those with dementia such as Alzheimer's and for children and new-born babies with even mild and moderate disabilities. The Act also sends a less than subtle message to the disabled that there are some lives not worthy of life.
Overseas experience reveals many patients will ultimately be deprived of their lives without their knowledge or consent. The safeguards that are said to exist simply either don't work or have been gradually eroded. In the Flanders region of Belgium in 2013, non-voluntary euthanasia accounted for 1.7 per cent of all deaths.
Polling suggests that the Act is poorly understood. Polling conducted by Curia Marketing in November 2019 found that 74 per cent of New Zealanders think the Act would make it legal for people to choose to have life support machines that are keeping them alive turned off. This is in fact already legal.
Similarly, 70 per cent of respondents thought the Act would make it legal for people to choose not to be resuscitated, when people can already ask for such a request to be added to their medical file.
Seventy-five per cent of those polled thought that the Act made euthanasia available to terminally ill people only as a last resort, after all treatments have been tried to control their pain. This is untrue; there is nothing in the Act requiring any patient to have sought treatment for depression, or palliative care, or any other pain control treatment.
On the Government's official referendum website under the section, "Who would be eligible for assisted dying", one of the criteria is that a person must "experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased". This misinformation has been pointed out to the Minister of Justice, Andrew Little. He refuses to make a correction.
Right to Life joins many organisations and individuals who ask that you protect your family and your community by voting no to the euthanasia referendum.
• Ken Orr is the spokesperson for Right to Life NZ.