Stuff co.nz 1 July 2016
Family First Comment: Good article!
OPINION: Right to Life is opposed to the law being changed to allow doctors to kill their patients or assist in their suicide.
Right to Life is a “whole of life” pro-life organisation, meaning we seek to uphold the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death.The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights upholds our right to life as being universal and inalienable. It is the foundation of our human rights, being inalienable it may not be taken from us nor may we give it up.
In New Zealand two Death with Dignity bills were defeated at their first reading in 1995 and 2003. ACT MP David Seymour has a private member’s bill, “End of Life Choice” in the ballot. And the Parliamentary Health Select Committee is considering an estimated 20,000 submissions on a petition concerning assisted suicide, from former MP Maryan Street. In Holland the Dutch Euthanasia Society is currently lobbying Parliament to change the law to allow providing every 70 year old with a lethal suicide pill.
Street and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society are proposing that the Crimes Act be changed to allow doctors to kill their patients or assist in their suicide. Assisting in suicide or engaging in homicide are serious crimes which may be punished with a term of imprisonment.
The World Medical Association that represents medical associations in102 countries is totally opposed to euthanasia. The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) that represents more than 5500 registered medical practitioners is also opposed as are palliative care specialists and Hospice New Zealand. The medical profession is absolutely clear that euthanasia is about doctors killing their patients. Dr Paul Ockelford, the then chairman of the NZMA, at a public meeting discussing euthanasia in Dunedin in 2012, asked if the NZMA condoned doctors taking a life, would we teach it at medical school? “Would we have a course that teaches students to kill?”
However the NZMA encourages the concept of death with dignity and comfort and strongly supports the right of patients to decline treatment or to request pain relief, and supports the right of access to appropriate palliative care. In supporting patients’ right to request pain relief, the NZMA accepts that the proper provision of such relief, even when it may hasten the death of the patient, is not unethical. The first principle of medicine is to do no harm. It is of the utmost importance that the trust that we have in the medical profession is not threatened. Could we ever trust our doctor if we knew that killing us was a treatment option?
A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Studies reveals that in Belgium thousands of patients are being killed against their will and additionally two thirds of the patients were not suffering a terminal illness. Doctors didn’t inform the patient’s family because they believed medical staff should make the decision. It is clear that the right to die has become a duty to die.
Right to Life encourages the community to take note of the evidence of the overwhelming international rejection by legislatures of legislation proposing to allow doctors to kill their patients or assist in their suicide.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been rejected, in the United Kingdom Supreme Court in 2014, the Irish Supreme Court in 2013 the United States Supreme Court in 2012.and the European Human Rights Court in 2015.
There are dozens of American states where such laws are regularly rejected. There have been 128 euthanasia bills and referenda in Maine and Michigan that have been defeated in the United States.
There have been nearly 40 failed bills in Australia in the last 20 years.
There have been two euthanasia bills defeated in the Scottish Parliament; the first in 2010 was defeated 85 to 16. The second bill was in 2015 and overwhelmingly defeated by 82 to 36.
There have been seven euthanasia bills defeated in the British parliament, the latest being the Marris Assisted Dying bill in September 2015, defeated 330 to 118.
The reason why all these attempts at legislating to allow doctors to kill their patients failed in spite of public support was because legislators realised that this legislation was just too dangerous to implement and would place our most vulnerable members, the aged, the disabled and the seriously ill, at risk of being coerced into accepting assisted suicide or a lethal injection because they believed they were a burden on their family and society. Many patients would be deprived of their lives without their knowledge or consent.
We don’t need euthanasia. New Zealand has world class palliative provided with skill and compassion in 29 hospices. We can live without euthanasia, as the prohibition of intentional killing is a bedrock of both the law and medical ethics.