‘Govt cowardly on euthanasia’

Not just the Government – some opposition MPs and parties could be seen as unwilling to address an important issue for many people too.

A lead item on Stuff:

‘Govt cowardly on euthanasia’

John Key supports euthanasia but he won’t make it a Government bill – is it time for a rethink?

The actual article headline is less provocative:

Lecretia Seales lives on in a health inquiry into euthanasia that kicks off this week

A petition was handed to MPs at Parliament, which sparked an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.

Wellington was home for Matt Vickers for a long time – it’s also where his love and memories of his late wife Lecretia Seales live on.

Seales died from in June last year after a long battle with cancer that ran hand-in-hand with a courageous fight to win the right to choose to end her own life. Hours before she took her last breath she learned her legal battle had failed.

On Wednesday Vickers will be the first of 1800 people to speak to a parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia, instigated by a petition in the name of former Labour MP Maryan Street and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

The petition, which garnered 8795 signatures and cross-party support, came in the wake of Seales death.

It demanded the committee examine public opinion on 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”.

More than 21,000 submissions later – the most ever received by any select committee – Vickers will pull up a seat at 8am in front of a panel of MPs to explain Lecretia’s story.

“Lecretia was very strong in wanting a choice, that wasn’t a weakness of character. She wanted to be able to exercise her strength by having a choice,” he said.

The submission process is an opportunity for the country to “honestly and unashamedly talk about the end of our lives without fear”.

The problem is that generally MPs and parties don’t want to be associated with discussing euthanasia despite strong public support for change.

And the chair of the Parliamentary committee has caused some concern.

While in Wellington Vickers will also launch his book, Lecretia’s Choice, and already one member of the select committee intends to read it – chair and National MP Simon O’Connor.

The Tamaki MP is Catholic and spent almost a decade studying for the priesthood with the Society of Mary before deciding he couldn’t be a politico and a cleric.

Vickers, much like Street and Seymour, is concerned about O’Connor chairing the committee – all three question how someone publicly opposed to euthanasia can chair an inquiry into it.

But some MPs from different parties are promoting the discussion.

National MP Chris Bishop stood alongside Seymour, Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway and Green MP Kevin Hague when Parliament received Street’s petition in June.

Bishop supports the inquiry and Seymour’s bill and says while O’Connor chairs the committee, “he’s not doing the whole inquiry – he’s only one person”.

Seymour says O’Connor should apologise before oral submissions kick off on Wednesday for “soliciting submissions from a certain point of view which happens to coincide with his own beliefs”.

“If you look at the way Simon’s behaved you’ve got to be pretty concerned … it’s really quite shameful given you get paid an extra $20,000 to be a chair.”

“He’s got every incentive, he’s an ambitious guy like most people in Parliament, and if he wants to be a minister one day then he has to actually play a straight bat and be seen to play a straight bat.”

Seymour versus National:

Even Prime Minister John Key supports euthanasia and Seymour’s bill and said the select committee inquiry is proof “it’s quite possible without a bill being in Parliament to have a good and open discussion about the issue”.

The Government has no intention of picking up Seymour’s bill but Key says “at some point it’s bound to be drawn”.

According to Seymour, every Government is reluctant to pick up controversial issues and this National government isn’t alone – homosexual law reform, abortion law and marriage equality also came out of members’ bills.

“All governments have been cowardly on controversial issues, not just this one.”

And some opposition parties. ‘Not a priority’ is a cop out.

He also blames several senior Ministers in Cabinet being strongly opposed to euthanasia for blocking it.

He wants a public conversation that does some myth-busting.

I hope the committee listens well and does this inquiry justice.

I strongly believe that with adequate legal protections freedom of choice for individuals who are dying should be paramount – and certainly choices about our own lives should not be illegal.

 

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18 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  20th August 2016

    I will follow this with even more interest than before now. With dad, who is blind, having suddenly descended into the hallucinatory stage of dementia – and ma & I knowing, because he has said that he would not want to live in a state where he can’t see, is in an institution, & has no idea what’s going on – that if he was capable of making the decision he would choose euthanasia.

    Yesterday he was having paranoid delusions & was a little scary to be around. It’s possible the anti-psychotic medication that is supposed to help control his hallucinations is also causing them, and maybe when the docs play around with them a bit they can get it right.

    But the hallucinations will inexorably continue to happen, as will his mental deterioration.

    Ma & I have 1st & 2nd power of attorney, & I will be interested to see whether the committee will be considering what should happen in our circumstances, because I understand the implications of allowing avaricious family members to make a decision to end a life where it is not known what the patient would want.

    Off to hospital now.

    Reply
    • Joe Bloggs

       /  20th August 2016

      thoughts are with you and yours Gezza – kia kaha

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  20th August 2016

      It’s incredibly difficult-I wonder how many of those who are for it would be willing to kill the person themselves .

      I would hope that nobody would ask someone else to kill a person in order to hurry up the legacy. If one uses the word kill-which is what it means-it takes on a different shade of meaning. What one is asking is for someone to kill another person, whether that be oneself or someone else. There would have to be the safest safeguards ever seen. There would have to be much, much more than saying that Aunt Flo would have wanted it if there’s no evidence of this. I think that I’d rather be dead than blind, but might well change my mind (probably not, though) But could I ask someone to kill me ? What a burden to place on someone-if I was otherwise all right.

      Alan Duff said that he hoped that someone would do it for him-and hoped that nobody would ask him to do it for them. Me too, Alan.

      No wonder pneumonia’s always been known as the old man’s friend.

      Reply
      • “I wonder how many of those who are for it would be willing to kill the person themselves?”

        Miss Kitty … Umm …. No. This is not what it’s about.

        Allow me to rephrase your question so it is pertinent and perhaps even useful to the discussion.

        How many people would be willing to train for 6 or 7 years to become a medical doctor so as to facilitate an end-of-life decision with their TERMINALLY ILL patient – and that patient alone – and, if that patients elects to exercise their legal right to Death with Dignity, to prescribe along with pain relief the required medication to finally end the pain, by that person ending their own life safely and legally in whatever circumstances that patient elects to do so.

        These are some of the safeguards and benefits, infinitely better than what we have now, because ultimately we can’t stop people taking their own lives. There won’t be any “Aunt Flo would have wanted it” …

        I’m not sure whether Seymour’s Bill considers the possibility of a legal order in the case of a person becoming non-competent or incapable of making the decision, something akin to a non-resuscitation order? If we end up with legislation anything like Oregon I don’t think this is possible? I’ve posted the Oregon FAQs so many times here now I’ll leave it to those who want to become informed as to how such legislation actually works.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  20th August 2016

          I know how the Oregon thing works-the two doctor visits,the barbiturate overdose, the fact that the person has to take it themselves, nobody can give it to them-and that many (most ?) of the people don’t take the overdose of barbiturates in the end, as they don’t need to. Or that’s how it worked when I read about it.

          The Auntie Flo example was simply to show that it could be abused if people have too much control over someone else’s life, as should have been obvious. I believe that if euthanasia became law, it should be voluntary-to protect Auntie Flo from the niece and nephew who want her house in Herne Bay and don’t want to wait too long for it.

          There is a great difference between not reviving and actively killing someone.

          My point about killing the person themselves was meant to make people think about whether they’d support it if they were the ones who had to kill them. One can call it euthanasia, mercy killing or anything else, but it’s still killing a person. It must be very carefully considered.

          And before you say that one has to have known someone with a terminal disease such as cancer….I did. My husband.

          Reply
    • Gezza

       /  20th August 2016

      Thanks for all these kind comments & best wishes people, those are really nice & much appreciated.

      There’s an interesting adjunct to my post above. Ma, dad & me were having that conversation about him preferring to choose to die rather than endure blindness plus institutionalisation in the latter stages of dementia, I think, around the time Lecretia Seales was in the news – so not long ago. His short term memory has been good for about 5-10 minutes max for quite some time now – but his reasoning during those minutes has been ok.

      I mentioned PG’s post to ma on the drive in to the hospital. “Oh, no,” she said, “after you left that night I said, dear, you want to live don’t you?”. He said ‘Yes’.

      And I realised, when I thought about it, that in fact dad has been thinking what ma tells him he thinks for at least two years, maybe three. He simply does, and thinks, whatever she tells him.

      But that’s ok. She loves him, & he loves her. And I love them both. And I can already see that when ma decides he doesn’t want to live any more, that will be the time they will probably let him slip away.

      Reply
  2. Pete Kane

     /  20th August 2016

    Best wishes to your mother G.

    Reply
  3. This is another issue that I do support ACT on ! 🙂

    I emailed Mr Seymour, recommending he ‘pin’ medicinal cannabis reform (which they appear to support also) to his bill.. no reply as yet :/

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  20th August 2016

      I am not surprised. Adding things to such a bill would weaken it.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  20th August 2016

        They are two seperate issues and should be treated as such. Medical cannabis doesn’t kill people, euthanasia does.

        Reply
  4. My best wishes too Gezza.

    @ Zedd – I agree that medicinal cannabis and ‘Death-with-Dignity’ go together like hand-in-glove. We are after all talking about “End of Life Choice”. Respect to David Seymour for standing up about this and for the name of his Bill, while others insist on using “euthanasia” and “assisted suicide” with all their loaded meanings.

    Cannabis law reform should, of course, also be a part of some kind of “Everyday Life Choice” legislation regarding its recreational usage. I fear it will not be and that legalised medicinal while recreational use remains criminalised is going to create a legal miasma.

    A dear friend of mine shot themselves rather than endure any more intolerable pain from their terminal illness. Imagine the trauma, terror, horror, shock, concern and stigma a sensible ethical and legal framework around “end of life choice” could have saved my friend and the whole family plus a bevy of community members … e.g. the person who found them …

    We don’t know exactly how many such ‘suicides’ (and I hate using the word in this context) occur each year. We do know the highest rate of suicide per 100,000 population happens in the over 85 age group, when people are likely to have terminal illness, chronic pain and debilitating disease.

    I made a written submission to this committee.
    I too am concerned about Simon O’Connor chairing it.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  20th August 2016

      Hand in hand might be a better way to put it; hand in glove has overtones of shifty work and dishonesty.

      Thank Heaven most people die before they reach the stage where this would be an issue. With cancer, the heart gives up under the strain-to put in in a somewhat simplistic way.

      Reply
      • IMHO Miss Kitty, you allude to why “End of Life Choice” is a kind of “no brainer”.

        First; out of all terminally ill people how many will remain alive long enough to CHOOSE?

        And second; how many terminally ill people who do remain alive long enough will actually exercise their CHOICE of Death with Dignity?

        I can’t see where the idea of people feeling pressured into taking their own lives comes from?

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  20th August 2016

          That is a total distortion of my views.

          Where did I say that people would be pressured into taking their own lives ?

          If someone dies before the choice is necessary. that is surely a good thing. Nobody would want them to hang on long enough for ir to be a choice between intolerable agony and euthanasia.

          Reply
  5. duperez

     /  21st August 2016

    Our “get some guts” Prime Minister in the past eschewed facing the topic. Electoral bravery about a flag is a lot easier than moral strength and leadership over euthanasia.

    The way things work in the world the “get some guts” rant in Parliament will be remembered and associated with the one it was directed at while the recognition of a clear lack of courage and fear of electoral alienation is avoided by he who deserves it.

    Over a few years the “legacy” Mr Key will leave has been discussed. Here is something for the list.

    Reply
    • Duprez – its a highly contentious issue and a number of high profile Nat MP’s are resolutely opposed. Key can’t force the issue as it would split his caucus.

      This is a perfect issue for Seymour and ACT in reality. ACT will never attract more than 5-7% of the vote maximum if they ever rebuild their vote. So its not a major detriment to them to champion this issue which is a classical libertarian self choice issue

      And I would note Mr Little has backed away pretty quickly as well – not important right now I believe was the sentiment of his comments sometime shortly after becoming LOTNZL.

      Key doesn’t need to show leadership on this – its not a central vote deciding issue

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  21st August 2016

        Is there a contradiction there? It’s not a central vote deciding issue but it will “split his caucus.” So the reason he will do nothing is totally because of politics? And he has no desire go the conscience vote way? Is his leadership so tenuous and caucus cohesion so fragile that seeking some enlightenment on an issue of social importance can’t be faced?

        Years ago John Armstrong pondered the legacy I’ve mentioned. Crown him the King of Pragmatism but give no bouquets for courage and real leadership.

        Reply
  6. duperez

     /  21st August 2016

    Oh, but did I hear there’s a space to do something about missing airport luggage?

    Reply

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