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Opposing euthanasia right side of history

Opinion Piece

I fully agree with Martin Hanson, May 11 column, that Members of Parliament when voting at the second reading of the End of Life Choice bill on May 22 should vote to be on the right side of history.

History informs us that for 2400 years there has been a total prohibition on doctors killing their patients or assisting in their suicide. The prohibition against the killing of innocent human beings is the foundation of the law and of medicine. May our Parliament have the wisdom and integrity to reject this life-threatening bill.

Euthanasia is about doctors killing their patients or assisting in their suicide. The World Medical Association and its affiliate, the New Zealand Medical Association, uphold the health and wellbeing and autonomy of the patient by upholding the 2400-year-old Hippocratic prohibition against killing a patient. The association cites its Declaration on Euthanasia which states: “Euthanasia that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s own request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical.”

It also refers to its Statement on Physician Assisted Suicide, which declares: “Physician assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. Where the assistance of the physician is intentionally and deliberately directed at enabling an individual to end his or her own life, the physician acts unethically.”

The World Medical Association reaffirms its strong belief that euthanasia is in conflict with basic ethical principles of medical practice and strongly encourages all national medical associations and physicians to refrain from participating in euthanasia, even if national law allows it or decriminalises it under certain conditions.

The international experience is that since 2015, seven countries or states have legalised doctors killing their patients or assisting in their suicide. During the same time over 30 jurisdictions have defeated euthanasia bills, including the UK, Scotland, New South Wales, and at least 26 states in the United States. The British Parliament in 2014 overwhelmingly defeated Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying bill, 330 to 118 — considering it unethical, dangerous and a threat to the vulnerable in society.

The Scottish Parliament in 2015 overwhelmingly defeated an Assisted Dying bill 82 to 36. A Health Select Committee had reported concerns that an assisted suicide law would create a conflict with their country’s suicide prevention strategy. The select committee wrote: “Legislation to permit assisted suicide has the potential not only to undermine the general suicide prevention message by softening cultural perceptions of suicide at the perimeters, but also to communicate an offensive message to certain members of our community (many of whom may be particularly vulnerable) that society would regard it as ‘reasonable’, rather than tragic, if they wished to end their lives.”

New Zealand had 668 suicides reported in 2018, the highest ever recorded. Suicides hurt families and communities. In the event that this bill was passed, providing state funding for assisted suicide, it would undermine the Government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy and give the wrong message to the community and to vulnerable youth that suicide was acceptable.

Tragically, New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the OECD, which impacts severely on Maori and Pacifika youth. If this bill is passed we could expect an increase in suicides in New Zealand.

The European Court of Human Rights found in 2017 that there is no right to suicide or to assisted suicide under the convention, and no positive obligation to provide such. The legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide does not provide individual rights but it gives doctors, or others, the right in law to cause your death.

Ken Orr, Right to Life spokesman