Majority support euthanasia – poll

Research New Zealand published the results of a poll in euthanasia last month that show a clear majority support doctor assisted euthanasia but more evenly split for relative assisted euthanasia.

In order to gauge public opinion and support for the legalisation of euthanasia, we decided to conduct a poll with a nationally representative sample of adult New Zealanders between March and April 2015. For this poll we decided to use exactly the same question wording that a Department of Marketing, Massey University survey used in 2008.

Q1. Suppose a person has a painful incurable diseas e. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the patient requests it?

  • Yes 74%
  • No 20%
  • Don’t know 6%
  • Don’t care 0%

Male 72% yes, female 75%.

The 55+ age group was 70% yes, the rest were 76% yes.

2008 Massey University result – 70% agreed

Q2. Still thinking of that person with a painful in curable disease, do you think that someone else, like a close relative, should be allowed by law to help end the patient’s life, if the patient requests it?

  • Yes 51%
  • No 41%
  • Don’t know 9%
  • Don’t care 0%

Male 54%, female 48% yes

18-34 60%, 35-54 54%, 55+ age 39% yes.

2008 Massey University result – 52% agreed

Unweighted base = 500 – margin of error for that sample size:

  • 40%-60%:  ±4.5
  • 25% or 75%:  ±3.9
  • 10% or 90%: ±2.7
  • 5% or 95%: ±1.9

Details (PDF)

Gutless Government and Parliament avoiding euthanasia issue

Stuff reports that Politicians shy away from ‘risky’ euthanasia issue.

It’s more than being shy of a controversial issue. Parties and politicians are gutlessly avoiding addressing a serious issue that literally impacts on people’s lives and their right to choose when and how the may end their own lives.

It’s not an easy issue to debate but that isn’t a reasonable excuse for shying away from dealing with it.

Politicians are lagging a long way behind public opinion on euthanasia but refuse to debate the issue because of the political risk, says a Green Party MP.

…the Government and Labour were steering well clear of any policy around the legalisation of euthanasia, but Green Party MP Kevin Hague said their position came down to the issue being too controversial and divisive.

Greens don’t seem to be doling much about it either. Nor any of the other parties.

This has come to attention again because…

A prominent Wellington lawyer is looking to set a legal precedent by asking the High Court to allow her to die on her own terms.

Lecretia Seales, 41, a public law specialist, is dying of an inoperable brain tumour and is petitioning to uphold her right to die at the time of her choosing.

It’s a real shame someone who is dying and has little chance of any legal assistance in time is left having trying to promote debate.

The chances of the Government addressing it were greater if an organisation, such as the Law Commission, led public consultation on euthanasia, [Hague] said.

“That would kind of relieve some of the political risk that I know governments are scared of.”

Not just governments. All of Parliament is scared of dealing with important issues. Gutless. But not always.

Former New Zealand First MP Peter Brown, who watched his wife die of cancer, drafted a Death with Dignity Bill in 2003.

It was voted down by 60 votes to 57.

That was a close vote, twelve years ago.

Former Labour MP Maryan Street proposed and championed the End-of-Life Choice Bill, which was taken over by her Labour colleague, Iain Lees-Galloway, the MP for Palmerston North, when Street failed to return to Parliament.


However, Labour leader Andrew Little told him to drop it as the party had more pressing issues to attend to.

Yesterday, Little said the party’s priorities were unchanged but it wasn’t up to opposition parties and if public opinion was strong, it was for the Government to respond.

So what are opposition parties for. To put priority on their own self interest and ignore important public issues?  Gutless.

During the election campaign in New Plymouth last year, Little said he heard from a prominent doctor who claimed medical professionals made the decision to increase medication where necessary and in the appropriate situations.

“If we take that at face value, doctors are saying they manage the situation regardless.”

However, Little said that didn’t provide a solution to the gap in the law.

The law serves the rights of dying people – and doctors – very poorly. But Little has chosen to avoid any responsibility for trying to act for those constituents.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said he had a personal interest in Seales’ progress in the High Court but legalising euthanasia was a “notoriously divisive issue” and wasn’t a priority for the Government.

The suffering of dying people and the denial of their rights to choose for themselves is ‘not a priority’ for a gutless Government.

While Hague said his Green colleagues would like to see a debate, the party hadn’t reached an agreement on a euthanasia policy.

“We haven’t worked out how to create a regime that doesn’t have the risk of being abused.”

Another example of Greens talking the talk but not being prepared to walk the walk. They claim to be principled but that looks selective and self-interested.

By avoiding dealing with the issue, by making excuses, by refusing to even discuss possible options for dealing with people suffering as they die, New Zealand’s Parliament, it’s MPs and all the parties are being not just weak. They’re gutless.

I wonder if there are any doctors who would be prepared to assist Lecretia Seales and openly defy the law, and expose the inaction of Parliament?

Poll support for euthanasia

A poll on euthanasia shows 62.9% for and 12.3% opposed:

For euthanasia:

  • men 62.6
  • women 63.1
  • Maori, Pakeha and Indian 65
  • Pacific Island 61.5
  • Asian 55.3
  • aged 45-54 71.6
  • aged 55-64 65.3

The majority of people (66.9 per cent) also supported the introduction of End of Life Directives – legal documents that outline a person’s wish for medically assisted death should the issue arise.

Support grows for euthanasia

A Horizon Research poll released today found 62.9 per cent of respondents supported the move, 12.3 per cent were opposed.

The poll involved 2969 adults who self-selected to participate online between July 5 and 20.

It has a margin of error of 1.8 per cent.

Horizon polls have had a few question marks but this is quite a strong lean towards support.

Husband assisting wife’s suicide

This is a sad case:

No conviction for man who helped wife die

Mr Mott, 61, pleaded guilty to assisting the suicide of his wife Rosie Mott who was diagnosed several years ago with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis, a degenerative condition for which there is no cure.

The 55-year-old’s health deteriorated rapidly and her husband, Evans Mott, agreed to help research suicide methods and assemble a kit with which she could kill herself.

Mrs Mott waited until the birth of a grandchild late last year and spent a final Christmas with her family before making the decision to end her life.

 She asked her husband to leave her alone in their Auckland home, and he returned several hours later to find her dead.

Justice Patricia Courtney ruled that the consequences of a conviction for Mr Mott would be out of proportion to the gravity of the offence. But she emphasised her decision was based on the particular circumstances of Mr Mott’s case.

“I think it’s a miracle. It’s so good that New Zealand has the vision to say what is right and wrong,” said Evans Mott a few minutes after his sentencing at the High Court at Auckland today.

“It couldn’t be a better legacy for Rosie, thank God some good has come of this. What more can I say?

“Commonsense prevails. It’s commonsense. People should have the right to choose [when to die]”

It would make more common sense if we had reasonable euthanasia laws so this wouldn’t have gone anywhere near a courthouse.

Euthanasia, the PM and the current situation

The Prime Minister has been reported commenting on euthanasia and that’s started more discussion, including on Kiwiblog:

PM on Euthanasia – this relates to a Stuff report.

There’s been an excellent comment in the thread at Kiwiblog that I think sums up the current situation very well.

  1. annie  Says:
    August 23rd, 2012 at 2:51 pm Euthanasia: the PM is, quite simply, lying. Presumably he’s the victim of some of the medical misinformation that seems routinely to come his way.Euthanasia in the sense of a permitted, planned death, doesn’t take place in our hospitals, or if it does it is rare and usually involves the rather vile method of witholding fluids from an unconscous patient who will never recover. But who, if the evidence is to be believed, can still experience thirst.

    You may, if you are fortunate enough to have a humane hospital physician who puts your welfare above that of his/her own immortal soul, be given enough opiates to render you pain-free, even at the risk of causing a respiratory arrest. On the other hand, and more usually in busy hospitals, you may just be left to get on with it. However, if you start looking comfortable, forget any further dose increases.

    The hospices encourage the view that they are little oases of calm and comfort, and indeed to a significant extent they are. But not all people have a good response to opiates – for many they don’t do a hell of a lot. You can give 10mg of morphine to a person with severe acute appendicitis and render them comfortable; to another person of the same weight and gender the same dose will just take a tiny edge off. For instance. Cancer pain is no different.

    More importantly, the hospices don’t see, supervise or admit all patients, and in many cases don’t do it well. Te Omanga in Lower Hutt is an excellent hospice; but if you live in other cities you can’t be assured that you will even be seen – some hospices seem to be pretty quick to work to rule if they get full, and to hell with the leftovers.

    This sort of bland ignorance on the PM’s part is not only disappointing, it’s positively harmful to the facts of the debate. We need both decent palliative care and the option for voluntary euthanasia. At the moment we have neither.

There’s an excellent hospice in Dunedin, I don’t know how you can do it better, but I have seen firsthand how that doesn’t necessarily avoid an uncomfortable, anguished and ignominious death.

And I agree – there is some decent palliative care, it needs to be more widely and easily available.

Should euthanasia law be decided by parliament or referendum?

Maryan Street’s  End of Life Choice bill (euthanasia) has been added to the Member’s Bill ballot and will need to be drawn to proceed. There’s been some interesting blog discussion about it.

One question that came up was whether any final decision should be made by MPs and parliament, or by people via a referendum.

Graeme Edgeler has confirmed that the final referendum option is feasible:

July 24th, 2012 at 11:21 am

Basically, you go through a whole Parliamentary process, debate the full implications of everything and come up with a fully fleshed out proposal, which is drafted as legislation. It passes all its readings, but only comes into force if a majority of people voting at a referendum answer the question: do you support the proposed system of legalised euthanasia contained in the End of Life Choice Act 2014? in the affirmative.

However I have emailed Maryan Street about this and she has responded:

No, I would never consider this issue as one to be decided by referendum. It is too complex an issue for that. It is exactly the sort of issue which requires thoughtful legislation, not the kind of reductive approach required by referenda.

This doesn’t rule it out – for example, if enough MPs are in favour then Street’s bill could be amended to make a referendum a final decision.

Graeme Edgeler responds…

MPs will be faced with the same simplistic, reductive question at the third reading. They get one vote on one question: those who think this bill should become law, say “Aye”, those opposed say “No”. Those who wanted it, but in a different form, covering more or less, or having some different scheme of safeguards will be faced with the same question:

given what the select committee and the committee of the whole house have adopted, do I support the bill in its present form becoming law?

That is no more reductive than a referendum.

…and also explains the ‘reductive approach':

What’s a “reductive approach” when it’s at home?

A reductive approach to a matter like this is one that is reduced to a simple yes/no question:

e.g. do you support a law change to provide for voluntary euthanasia for adults with terminal illnesses?

Getting public opinion on such a question is largely meaningless in drafting a law which people may actually agree with.

So, should parliament decide on this (should the bill get drawn from the ballot) or should people make the final decision via referendum?

End of Life Choice bill (euthanasia)

Maryan Street (Labour list MP) has announced she is putting her End of Life Choice bill in the Members Bill ballot this week.

I have, after 6 months’ work, finished my End of Life Choice Bill. You can find it here.

I think the social conversation has moved on from the last time such a bill was debated in 2003 and lost 60-58. The two missing votes at that time were one abstention and one voted not lodged. So that was close.

I hope I have enough specificity and enough safeguards in place for people to support it this time. I am sure it can be improved.

I am equally sure that is time that we approached this issue with compassion and gave people the right to be as self-determining at their point of death as they have been in life. It would only apply to people who were of sound mind and suffered from a terminal illness, or an irreversible condition which made their life unbearable, in their own view.

It also provides for people to register End of Life Directives in the event that these situations occur and they are unable to communicate their wishes to receive life-ending medication.

Other features include:

  • the need for two medical practitioners to attest that the person is of sound mind, has the condition they say they have and have not been coerced into their decision;
  • the need for counselling and a period of reflection;
  • and a Review Body to examine the law after a period of time to ensure it is not being abused and is operating correctly.

Let me know your thoughts.
(Comments on Red Alert blog).

Discussion on this also on:

[This bill is an excellent example of an opposition MP putting their time to good use. Other opposition MPs could do less campaigning and more work developing bills that are important to constituents. – PG]

Odd urge to withdraw euthanasia bill

Labour MP Maryan Street has drafted a voluntary euthanasia bill and plans to put it  in the member’s ballot.

National MP Paul Hutchison is suggesting she should withdraw her bill.

Street’s euthanasia bill untimely and unclear

Media release from Paul Hutchison

It is concerning that Maryan Street said she took up the bill because ‘she could not think of a reason not to’. Though she says the Bill is ‘predominantly to do with terminal physical illness’, part of the Bill refers to ‘end of life directives’ for those that suffer from an irreversible medical or mental condition that, in their view, renders their life unbearable. Including both medical and mental conditions could well lead to confusion.

Dr Hutchison says euthanasia and assisted suicide are complex areas where there are grey zones in law and in practice.  However, modern care and knowledge, along with significant advances in technology, provide huge help.

“In April ‘Hospice New Zealand’ has published a ‘Quality Review Programme and Guide 2012′ of standards for palliative care.  It describes the unique and interwoven roles of primary care services and specialist palliative care services to provide high quality palliative care and end of life care to all people in New Zealand.

“I vividly remember Peter Brown’s private members bill which was narrowly lost in the Parliament in 2003.  Peter spoke passionately and sincerely regarding the awful time his late wife had during her terminal illness.  However, on talking to him, I couldn’t help think that if he and his wife had received the skilled services that are available today, their suffering could well be far less.”

Dr Hutchison says that deep concern has been raised regarding the euthanasia laws in the Netherlands and Belgium where required safeguards have allegedly not been adhered to, resulting in people being euthanized without proper informed consent.

“Like anything as definitive as capital punishment, it is always possible for errors to occur. At least Maryan Street admits this,” says Dr Hutchison.

Labour MP Maryan Street’s ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ is couched in terms that might be liberal and hopeful.  However, Dr Hutchison says her proposal could set New Zealand on a regressive path.  It could also deprive many New Zealanders and their families from taking advantage of the wonderful facilities, compassion and expertise that are available to them during a terminal illness, when the greatest human qualities so often shine through.

“In my view Maryan Street should withdraw her bill.” says Dr Hutchison.

This is odd. Hutchison’s statement is untimely – he presumably hasn’t seen Street’s bill yet.

And it’s unclear why she should withdraw a bill because one MP requests it. Parliament is there for all MPs to decide on issues.

Sure, there are complexities and concerns, but it’s an important issue and surely parliament is the right place to examine the whole issue.

Also covered by TV3: MP urged to withdraw euthanasia bill

TV3 Think Tank Sunday 9.30 am – Euthanasia

On TV3’s Think Tank, Sunday 8 July, 9.30am

Are there dangers we need to be aware of, or is it time we legalised Euthanasia?
John Tamihere and guests:

  • Barrister Charl Hirschfeld
  •  Anglican Priest- Hirini Kaa
  • Labour MP -Maryann Street
  • Euthanasia Advocate -Dr Jack Havill

Euthanasia’s number 1 question

Euthanasia keeps coming up in ducsussion and debate. There is a ‘major anti-euthanasia conference’ in Auckland this weekend. Alex Schadenberg, International Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition was interviewed on Q+A this morning alongside Labour MP Maryan Street, who’s drafting a new law to allow ‘end of life choice’.

There are many pros and cons on this complex issue of end of life issue, including euthanasia.

  • There are problems now with extending lives using modern medicine.
  • There are issues with right’s to choice.
  • There are potential problems with euthanasia.

The status quo is far from perfect. People are forced to die in situations they desperately wanted to avoid. And any change will introduce new potential dangers.

But the main argument should not be pro euthanasia versus anti euthanasia.

Generally speaking, dying is crap, and some people have to suffer very crappy deaths.

The biggest question should be whether any change would overall be better or worse than how things currently are.

More euthanasia links and information.


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