End of Life Choice Bill will erode end of life choices

“We have grave concerns about the unintended consequences of the proposed legislation”, warns Director of The Nathaniel Centre and bioethics researcher Dr John Kleinsman. “It is our view that any attempt to grant people the legal right to choose to have their lives ended prematurely will mean many more will have their control and choice eroded.”

“The people of New Zealand have recently spoken out on the question of legalising euthanasia in unprecedented numbers and they have overwhelmingly rejected any such move as too dangerous by a measure of 4 to 1,” said Dr Kleinsman, referring to the Health Select Committee Inquiry initiated by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society Petition. “This is the real measure of people’s views on the topic and it is paramount that these views inform politicians’ understanding going forward.”

“This is an extremely complex matter and it cannot be decided on the basis of emotion. Many people will likely think of the terminally ill when considering how they feel about it, but this Bill goes much further and opens up assisted suicide and euthanasia to anyone 18 years and over with a grievous and irremediable physical or mental condition, which in their own view makes their life unbearable”, he says.

“This Bill is not designed just for a small number of very seriously ill people nearing the closing stages of their lives, but will encompass large numbers of sick or disabled people living, what most would consider, near normal lives, young and old alike. It’s a recipe for euthanasia on demand.

As our nation struggles to curb a tragic growing epidemic of youth suicide, it will also send a dangerously mixed message to our young people if this becomes law. On the one hand we will be telling young people to see the value in their lives, but then saying it is ok for some people to end their lives as a response to unbearable suffering. It ultimately amounts to a ‘some suicides are ok’ approach.

We must not ignore the suffering that people with irrecoverable conditions or people who are dying face at the end of their lives and good palliative care achieves this. But legalising euthanasia or assisted-suicide is not the solution,” says Dr Kleinsman.

The Nathaniel Centre is the Bioethics Research Agency for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.