Matt Vickers has never met me, but that didn't stop him from calling me "vile", accusing me of "moral righteousness" and the "crime" of "staggering arrogance" in this page on Wednesday. What prompted such a reaction?

Last Sunday, in response to news that a 17-year-old had been euthanised in Belgium, I issued a media release. It challenged New Zealand euthanasia and assisted suicide advocates to say what they thought about the euthanasia of minors.

I wrote that "once you normalise the idea of euthanasia, there is no logical place to draw the line. New Zealanders urgently deserve to know whether the people advocating for a law change here think Belgium has got it right or got it wrong".

I think that's a pretty fair question. Especially as in 2013 Maryan Street, then an MP and now president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, said "Application for children with terminal illness was a bridge too far in my view at this time. That might be something that may happen in the future, but not now."


Vickers himself sidestepped the question by saying that "my support or otherwise is irrelevant" but went on to say "There is certainly a case for broader laws".

He noted that "few details of [the Belgian teen's] circumstances have been released", but then said that "we can assume" and "I trust and hope" that everything is above board.

The only things we know about this death come from Professor Wim Distelmans, the co-chair of the Belgian Federal Evaluation and Control Commission for Euthanasia. That is the person we are asked to put our trust in.

Distelmans has personally performed some of the most controversial euthanasia cases, including the deaths of 45-year-old deaf Verbessem twins and 44-year-old Nathan Verhelst who was depressed after a failed sex-change operation.

He has been quoted as saying "there are a lot more borderline cases which are not known" but that publicity about them "is not good to convince people that euthanasia should be legal".

Other statements by Vickers are just plain wrong. The Belgian teen was not "euthanised through palliative sedation." Rather, Distelmans said palliative sedation was used "as part of the process".

Palliative sedation is not "a legal grey area" and it is not "a form of legal euthanasia" in New Zealand. It is a temporary and reversible treatment that is used extremely rarely for only the most intractable suffering.

Everyone agrees that overseas experience of legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide is highly relevant to our debate in New Zealand. Advocates of a law change want us to believe that it's all okay, with no evidence of abuses or scope creep.

I say look closer. Look at the official data in all those places and see that it reveals a relentless increase in these types of deaths. Look at the official data in Belgium and the Netherlands which shows that doctors are euthanising the mentally ill, people with dementia, and disabled people, in many cases without explicit consent.

And that's just the official data, when we know that the oversight by people like Distelmans is no oversight at all: not a single prosecution ever.

Vickers, in his oral submission to the Health Select Committee, told MPs that other submitters "will make the case for a bill with broad terms. On a personal level, I largely support those points of view. But I am here to submit to you that there is a minimum case for assisted dying - and that is for the terminally ill".

And there is the problem.

New Zealanders deserve to be told straight up what we're in for. We deserve to hear what the law change advocates really want rather than what they think is politically palatable at the moment. We deserve to hear where this is going, and not just where it begins.

This is an incredibly important debate for all of us. The Care Alliance will continue to respectfully and unapologetically present the argument that euthanasia and assisted suicide is unnecessary and dangerous. And I would be very pleased to meet with Vickers at any time to discuss why he thinks I'm wrong.

Matthew Jansen is secretary of the Care Alliance.