By Ken Orr
Act Party leader David Seymour MP is seeking support from Parliament to have his contentious End of Life Choice Bill passed at its first reading. It would then be sent to a select committee which would invite submissions from the community.
Right to Life is opposed to this bill, as is the World Medical Association, the New Zealand Medical Association, the Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, the New Zealand Nurses' Organisation and Palliative Care Nurses, all of whom wish to uphold their ethics to cure and not to kill.
We believe the bill should share the same fate as the two previous attempts to pass legislation that would change the Crimes Act to allow doctors to terminate the lives of their patients or assist in their suicide.
The first was Michael Laws' "Death with Dignity" bill in 1995, defeated 61 to 29; the second in 2003 was defeated 60 to 58, while a third bill by Maryan Street was withdrawn from the ballot in 2014.
Assisting in suicide or terminating the life of a patient with a lethal injection are serious crimes under the Crimes Act. These laws are there for the protection of the most vulnerable members of our community -- the aged, the disabled and the seriously ill.
We believe that Parliament does not have authority to legislate to empower the strong to kill the weak. Should this bill be passed, it would be a very dangerous precedent, as a future Parliament could withdraw the protection of the law from another group of vulnerable people, such as those with dementia and Alzheimer's. Advocates for euthanasia claim that public opinion polls reveal 70 per cent support. Right to Life challenges this contention.
In 2015, a petition on assisted suicide presented by Ms Street and 8974 others was referred to the health select committee for submissions. The committee received an unprecedented 21,277 submissions and heard more than 1200 oral submissions.
A careful analysis of written submissions revealed that 16,411 -- 77 per cent -- were opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. Oral submissions were also overwhelmingly opposed. The health select committee and the community have engaged in this conversation for more than two years. The written and oral submissions constitute the most authentic expression of public opinion on the issue.
The Government has a suicide prevention strategy to reduce suicides. Right to Life asks how can members of Parliament seriously support this strategy and, at the same time, support the End of Life Choice bill.
If passed, the legislation would recognise that there are some lives not worthy of living. The message that Parliament will be giving to the community and youth is that Parliament approves of suicide and recognises your right to kill yourself if you are finding life intolerable. There is no need for doctors to kill the patient in order to kill the pain -- New Zealand has world-class palliative care, which is ranked third in the OECD.
The community should be aware that this bill is a Trojan Horse that will ultimately result in the termination of the lives of many who do not choose to have a doctor administer a lethal injection. The strategy of the advocates for euthanasia is to engage public sympathy by presenting cases like Lecretia Seales who was fearful of enduring a painful death. Right to Life requests that Parliament act in the interest of the common good and defeat this bill at its first reading.
Ken Orr is a spokesman for Right to Life, an incorporated society that supports the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death.