Thousands of New Zealanders take strong stand against assisted suicide
WELLINGTON, August 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Eighty percent of New Zealanders who responded to a petition on the issue of ending one’s life were opposed to legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, says a report by the Health Committee.
The results were part of a report composed in response to a petition presented to the government in June 2015 by past Minister of Parliament Maryan Street.
That petition, which had 8,974 signatures, requested “that the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable.”
In order to fulfil the request of the petition, a Health Committee was established to investigate assisted death in New Zealand. The Committee began receiving written submissions from the public in August 2015.
More than 21,000 people – including medical professionals and organizations — made a written submission. Eighty percent were opposed to assisted suicide and/or euthanasia legislation.
Opposition was largely based on concerns about vulnerable people, especially the elderly, disabled and those with mental illnesses.
The Committee also noted that some “argued that life has an innate value and that introducing assisted dying and euthanasia would explicitly undermine that idea.”
Widening access to larger groups of people over time was also a concern.
Submissions made in favor of changing the law to allow for assisted suicide and euthanasia often cited the right to individual autonomy. Those who held this view believe they should have the choice to end their life when they wish.
Those in favor of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia also mentioned fear of pain or watching a loved one suffer a painful death as a reason for support.
Loss of dignity was referred to by those who favor a change in legislation. According to the report, “dignity was acknowledged as being specific to each person, so it was up to each individual to define what dignity meant for them.”
While the Health Committee report does not offer a final recommendation to the government on assisted suicide or euthanasia, it did give specific recommendations regarding palliative care.
Troubled by the “uneven access” to palliative care in New Zealand, the Committee suggested the government look into how inequalities to access can be “promptly reduced.” The report requests that a campaign be launched to communicate to the public the role of palliative care.
The Committee also praised hospice services throughout the country and their engagement with the community through fundraising efforts that also allow for family members “to give back.” The opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia is significant at a time when a draft “End of Life Choice” Bill is currently awaiting its first reading in the House after being drawn from the ballot in May. That bill was drafted by David Seymour, the lone elected member of the ACT party.
Past bills in 1995 and 2003 attempting to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia were stymied at the first reading.