David Seymour should pull the plug on his private member's bill
• COMMENT: Bob McCoskrie is national director of the lobby group Family First.
Act MP David Seymour should pull the plug on his private member's bill.
Patients facing death have a fundamental human right to receive the very best palliative care, love and support that we can give to alleviate the 'intolerable suffering' that they fear. This is real 'death with dignity'. Assisting their suicide is not the answer.
Assisted suicide would place large numbers of vulnerable people at real risk - in particular those who are depressed, elderly, disabled, experiencing chronic illness, and who feel under emotional or financial pressure to request early death.
They may come to feel euthanasia would be "the right thing to do", they've "had a good innings", and they do not want to be a "burden" to their nearest and dearest. Not a 'right to die' but a 'duty to die'.
A disability rights group in NZ said "There are endless ways of telling disabled people time and time again that their life has no value."
One of the disturbing underlying justifications for euthanasia is that euthanasia could result in valuable savings in public healthcare and geriatric services expenditure. This is a disturbing development, perhaps unintentional, but a real risk.
The push for assisted suicide also presents a serious risk to public health and safety because there is a 'social contagion' aspect to suicide - assisted or non-assisted. We need more discussion about suicide prevention. You don't discourage suicide by assisting suicide.
Politicians in NZ have rejected previous attempts to decriminalise euthanasia because the safeguards, while sounding good, would not guarantee the protection required for vulnerable people.
The international evidence backs up these concerns.
Euthanasia is a problem, not a solution.
Matt Vickers: the argument for voluntary euthanasia
• COMMENT: Matt Vickers' late wife, Lecretia Seales, made her final weeks a test case for reform of the law forbidding euthanasia In New Zealand.
For the first time in 14 years, Parliament will get a chance to debate the issue of assisted dying in the House, with David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill. Seymour's bill would allow a terminally ill person to elect to be assisted to die, provided they meet strict criteria outlined in his bill.
It's about time. Research by John Weaver in his book Sorrows of a Century suggests that up to 3-5% of all annual suicides in New Zealand were terminally ill people seeking to escape the worst of their illnesses.
With legislation like Seymour's, we could see people in that situation being free to speak with their doctors about their wishes, rather than turning away from help and pursuing violent, lonely deaths.
Ideally, our palliative care would be good enough that assisted dying would be unnecessary.
But as proven in Seales v Attorney General in the High Court in 2015, palliative care, like medicine, is not perfect, and can not deal with all forms of suffering in all cases.
It is important that people who may be in situations where they are forced to suffer needlessly against their will have an option to make a choice about how they die - to choose between a merciful death, or a slow and painful one.
That was the choice that my late wife Lecretia Seales wanted, and which three-quarters of New Zealanders believe people should have.
Assisted dying is legal in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Colombia, and seven US jurisdictions. Our legislators should objectively review how those laws are working in practice overseas, and follow suit.
The evidence suggests that assisted dying laws are compassionate, complementary to palliative care, and utterly necessary in helping individuals have choices at the ends of their lives.