Dr Jonathan Hartfield — as reported in the Chronicle on March 27 — seems delighted to catch me out in what he apparently considers a hanging offence ("hoist by his own petard") for my alleged use of a euphemism.
Or so it seems to him when I make a distinction between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
If it were indeed true — that I failed to be clear and forthright in my word choice — I would have to express regrets to my readers.
In his apparent zeal to attack the End of Life Choice Bill through me, he has not simply misread my column, he has reinvented it.
Dr Hartfield claims: "He [Jay Kuten] asks us to jettison the word euthanasia and talk of assisted dying instead."
No — I asked people to recognise that committed dogmatic opponents of medically-assisted suicide (Dr Hartfield seems to be a spokesman) use the word euthanasia to frighten and confuse voluntary assisted dying with coercive "mercy" killing.
What I actually wrote was: "Euthanasia is not the same as physician-assisted suicide."
As I did not use the term "assisted dying", then where did Dr Hartfield get it?
Why it's the language used in the End of Life Choice Bill to describe hastening death.
Having attributed the bill's "assisted dying" to me, Dr Hartfield goes on to quote six words: "The medical practitioner must administer it", then claims that the bill "defines assisted dying as euthanasia".
This seems convincing until one reads the next six words of the bill, which Dr Hartfield has conveniently omitted — "The attendant medical practitioner must administer it … by providing it to the person." (emphasis mine).
The line refers to four defined methods, two completely by self-administration. Only if the voluntary dying person is physically incapable but competent, does the practitioner act to hasten death.
Dr Hartfield claims he endorses clarity, but his letter is its opposite by virtue of altering my language and the omission of the fuller context of the bill.
The main thrust of my column was to require an inquiry into the illegal surveillance by the police of an End of Life Choice meeting, which is of a piece with the anti-choice faction's stifling of real information.
Dr Hartfield's contribution to this specific police anti-choice behaviour, though he claims otherwise and calls the illegal police action "a disgrace", is to minimise the significance of it by providing a "psychiatric" excuse of their having "emotional thought of death".
Really? A squad of police is struck by a fictitious malady — found nowhere in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual — and, as a result, the group organises an intimidating action on unsuspecting elderly?
What's needed is an investigation, and if Dr Hartfield is wholehearted in his condemnation, he'll join me in calling for it.
The anti-choice faction cites the opposition to the bill of the New Zealand Medical Association. What's omitted is the fact that NZMA's 3000 members represent just 20 per cent of New Zealand's 15,363 medical practitioners.
Even that small number was not polled or consulted before the NZMA hierarchy took that position.
Dr Hartfield's letter does acknowledge the voluntary, consensual requirements under the bill. During the February 28 "informational" meeting in Whanganui, Dr Hartfield advocated for more funding for palliative care, later for mandatory palliative care.
He endorsed the administration of higher doses of pain medication for the dying by a medical practitioner, knowing that those doses might hasten death.
I trust and hope that is not his practice, as — in the absence of the requirements for continuous informed consent which the bill contains — that practice is close to the involuntary euthanasia he and the anti-choice faction are warning everyone about.
Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.