Euthanasia Bill A Risk to Vulnerable?

Hospice New Zealand has said that euthanasia has no place in palliative care. Palliative care, as defined by WHO 'intends 'neither to hasten nor postpone death'.

Hospice New Zealand said it strongly opposes David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill. The Bill sets out a process by which people who are suffering a terminal illness or enduring 'unbearable suffering' can apply to their doctor to die using a fatal medication.

The philosophy of Hospice New Zealand is a cornerstone of hospice care in New Zealand. Palliative care is holistic – physical, emotional, spiritual, social and cultural needs are all valued equally.

The euthanasia referendum highlights the difficulty around consent and undue influence. Elder abuse, depression, mental health issues and undue influence will always make the question of euthanasia open to hot debate.

Support for the End of Life Choice Act is at a record low, according to a nationwide poll conducted this week.

"An increasing number of people supports the idea of euthanasia or assisted dying, but is voting 'no' to this specific Act," says Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.

Supporters are twice as likely than opponents to be uninformed about the details.

Interestingly, 62 percent of people who had already voted 'yes' think that the End of Life Choice Act is about turning off machines that are keeping people alive  –  even though this choice is already legal. Of people who had already voted 'no', 30% shares this misunderstanding.

Interestingly, 67 percent of people who had already voted 'yes' mistakenly think that the Act requires two witnesses when someone signs their request in front of a doctor – compared to 29 percent of people who had already voted 'no'. It's a reasonable assumption since the assisted dying laws in the US, Canada and Australia require this safeguard.

Half of 'yes' voters are unaware that the Act makes euthanasia available to eligible terminally ill people, even if they don't have any physical pain. Among 'no' voters, 29 percent were unaware of this fact.

Given that New Zealand's record on support with mental health and elder abuse is not something to be proud of, adding in the complication of the euthanasia bill in its current form, does not offer enough protection to those most vulnerable.

As the majority of the medical profession has issues with being used as the administrators of fatal medication as it is contrary to their oath of "do no harm", does this then mean that the passing of this Bill will open up assisted dying as a business?

Indeed, under those circumstances, more stringent guidelines would be required, than the current Bill offers.