More on euthanasia

Links to further information on euthanasia (thanks PK):

RNZ (audio):

Andrew Denton is probably best known here as an Australian television presenter and comedian, but his new role is a much more serious one. He’s become a leading campaigner for physician-assisted dying, better known as voluntary euthanasia. He shares his own story of how watching his own father die led him to his views

Andrew Denton – Euthanasia

TVNZ Q+A (video):

Andrew Denton is in NZ to speak to the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. Talking about his personal campaign …

Euthanasia – Your Choice


Euthanasia another ‘not a priority’ policy for Labour

Andrew Little has signalled no interest from Labour in doing much to promote euthanasia as a policy.

Stuff: Legalising euthanasia not a priority for Labour, says Andrew Little

The Labour Party is supporting an inquiry into the euthanasia debate, but it’s not a priority.

A record-breaking public response to a petition to legalise assisted dying has renewed calls for politicians to take action. 

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) said it has received 22,000 submissions on a the petition that sought an inquiry into public opinion and a law change. The final tally of submissions is yet to be confirmed by the Health Select Committee.

Labour leader Andrew Little said other issues such as homelessness, employment and healthcare that would be put before a euthanasia campaign.

“It would be nice to be able to do everything from Opposition but we can’t, we have to focus on those things that are about building a better nation,” he said.

“That’s gonna be our priority, I make no apology for that.”

Euthanasia is a tricky issue when it comes to seeking popularity and votes. Like cannabis law reform parties tend to put lip service to it but won’t go out of their way to initiate or promote discussion or change.

Last term Labour had a Members’ bill on euthanasia but I think it was Little that took it off the agenda for Labour.

David Seymour appears to be the only MP wiling to actively seek discussion and change with right to die with dignity and euthanasia.

But this shows one Labour MP and one National MP at least showing an interest.

Went along to public meeting organised by VES this arvo to hear Andrew Denton speak.



‘Care Alliance’ careless

The so-called ‘Care Alliance’ has issued a very careless press release attacking the husband of Lecretia Seals.

Matt Vickers has been attacked for considering an invitation to speak at the Euthanasia 2016 conference in Amsterdam in May.

NZ Herald: Widower of Lecretia Seales attacked for attendance at euthanasia conference

His possible attendance has been slammed by the Care Alliance, which issued a press release asking if he would now lobby for suicide pills for all over 70s.

Matthew Jansen, secretary of the group, which formed in 2012 and includes Family First NZ, Hospice New Zealand and the Salvation Army, said Mr Vickers’ attendance showed “what a slippery slope the so-called right to die really is”.

“The Dutch organisers of the conference are campaigning for everybody over the age of 70 to have access to a suicide pill as a matter of right. Will Mr Vickers be speaking for or against such a law change here?”

This is a very careless attack by Jansen, and Hospice New Zealand, Family First and the Salvation Army should be very concerned to be seen as associated with him.

Mr Jansen said he was not attacking Mr Vickers personally, but publicising the fact he had been invited to the conference, and the views of conference organisers and some attendees.

“He has allowed his name to be associated with that [Euthanasia 2016]. I am pointing out the facts.

“[Assisted dying advocates] start with the thin end of the wedge, but I think people are entitled to understand what the thick end of the wedge looks like.”

Jansen is not pointing out facts, he is making fairly despicable connections between Vickers and more extreme measures that Vickers has not had any link to.

Mr Vickers, who is writing a book about his wife’s dying quest, told the Herald that the criticism was unfortunate.

He was still deciding whether to attend the conference, but should he do so it would be “simply fallacious” to assume his attendance was an automatic endorsement of the views of organisers or attendees.

“I think in New Zealand we probably want more moderate laws, laws that are more similar to some of those in the US states, rather than some of the laws in the Netherlands and so on.

“I am interested in getting to the bottom of what is happening in the Benelux countries [Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg] — understanding more about some of the assertions from people like the Care Alliance about just how unsafe they think that these laws would be.

“It is much an understanding thing, if I do decide to go, as it is talking about Lecretia’s story.”

Mr Vickers said recent attacks from the Care Alliance and its allies were “deeply undignified, insulting to Lecretia’s memory, and unfortunately lowering the quality of the public debate”.

“That they’re resorting to such tactics indicates they must be losing faith in the quality of their arguments and their ability to debate fairly.”

It is very undignified and insulting.

Hospice New Zealand, Family First and the Salvation Army should disassociate themselves from Jansen’s attack, and possibly from Jansen altogether if he is this careless with his press releases.

We should debate euthanasia in New Zealand but Jansen isn’t doing any credit to his arguement, nor to the so called ‘Care Alliance’.

Herald New Zealander of the year

NZ Herald has named Lecretia Seales as their New Zealander of the year.

Courageous woman who sparked euthanasia debate New Zealander of the Year

She was brave and inspiring, sharing something as personal and private as her death for the advancement of a human right.

Instead of spending her last months quietly with family and friends, she spent them in a legal battle – fighting for the right to choose how she died.

For that courageous effort, the late Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales is the Herald‘s New Zealander of the Year.

She died, aged 42, on June 5 from brain cancer. Her death came just days after learning she had been unsuccessful in her High Court bid for the legal right for a doctor to help her end her life. She wanted the right to not die a painful death.

As the result of the debate she prompted, Parliament began the first public inquiry into the issue of medically assisted dying.

It’s a good choice.

The finalists were:

  • Richie McCaw and Steve Hansen
  •  broadcaster Rachel Smalley
  • spy boss Rebecca Kitteridge
  • road safety campaigner Sean Roberts
  • cot death specialist Ed Mitchell
  • Teina Pora advocate Tim McKinnel
  • activist architect Julie Stout;
  • Lisa King and Michael Meredith for feeding hungry kids;
  • Tania Billingsley, who stood up to sexual violence.

Other awards:

  • Sporting Achievement of the Year – All Blacks
  • Business Leader of the Year – IAG chief executive Jacki Johnson


Why Seymour turned down a ministerial position

Duncan Garner asked David Seymour yesterday why he turned down a ministerial position offered by John Key.

Garner: When offered a promotion today the Prime Minister offered him a Cabinet role if you like, a Ministerial role anyway, Minister of regulatory Reform and Associate Minister of Education that was probably outside Cabinet. He declined the offer. Why was that? He joins me now.

There’s not many MPs in life that turn down Ministerial roles. Why have you done it?

Seymour: A couple of reasons. One is that if I was to become a minister I could not have a Private Member’s bill in the ballot, and I ‘ve got a Private Member’s Bill in there to legalise euthanasia.

Now amazingly enough nobody else in Parliament is either prepared to put a bill in, or their leaders won’t let them put a bill in, and I think it’s a critical issue for New Zealand, that we shouldn’t leave people, it’s a very small minority of people to be sure, who have basically reached the end of their life and their only choice is a violent amateur suicide, or to suffer on intolerably. And I think we’ve got to move on that.

Garner: So you to me look quite principled on this.

Very principled, especially considering the chances of having his bill drawn from the ballot are low.

Garner: It’s something you believe in, it’s something you believe should be pushed through Parliament, and you’ve put that ahead of some sort of personal privilege, which was being a minister.

Seymour: Well look I just say who knows how political careers end, most of them peoeple say end in failure. If I can get this bill through and convince my Parliamentary colleagues to support it then i will have done something that I think makes New Zealand a better place, and that two thirds of New Zealanders in the most sceptical polls say Parliament should be doing something about it. T

Which should be the aim of all MPs, which I’m sure just about always is but others are more likely to put personal ambitions ahead of a commitment to try and make a difference on something like euthanasia.

The alternative is if I became a Minister then yep, get a limo, yep, get a bit more cash, ah yep everybody calls you Honourable apparently, but I wouldn’t be able to do that.

Now staying as an under-secretary I’ve still got my hands on the tools for regulatory reform and partnership or charter schools. In a more limited way sure, ah but look I gotta rebuild the ACT Party and be a good MP in Epsom, it’s my first year, ah, can’t do everything.

Seymour has done an extraordinary amount for a rookie in his first year in Parliament establishing himself in an electorate plus resurrecting a severely ailing ACT Party in Parliament.

Not only does he seem to have managed that adeptly, he has also made some notable gains albeit in minor ways as prepared and able to negotiate legislative changes like the World Cup bar opening.

Some have already named seymour as MP of the year. This principled stand, putting his commitment to an issue that’s important to him and others first, and putting the good of his electorate and party first, before short term personal ambition (how many MPs have been appointed Minister 14 months into their first term?)  – he must surely rate at the top of the Parliamentary pile this year.

Transcribed from RadioLive audio: The real reason David Seymour declined a ministerial position from Key


Health select committee agrees to euthanasia inquiry

In response to a petition presented to Parliament by the Voluntary Euthanasia  the Health Select Committee has agreed to investigate matters raised by the petition.

NZ Herald reports: Parliament to hold euthanasia inquiry following Lecretia Seales’ death

An inquiry into voluntary euthanasia is to be carried out by Parliament – a process supporters hope will be an important step towards a law change.

Today’s announcement comes after a petition from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society was presented to Parliament by supporters including Matt Vickers, the husband of the late Lecretia Seales.

The petition, signed by former Labour MP Maryan Street and 8,974 others, asked that Parliament’s health and select committee “investigate fully public attitudes towards 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”.

It will set-up an inquiry to “fully investigate the matters raised by the petition”, health committee chair Simon O’Connor said.

The terms of reference will be drafted over the next few weeks, which will form the outline of that investigation.

“This is an important subject and the committee needs to think carefully about the best way to examine it,” Mr O’Connor said.

“I would like to see a thorough investigation that covers as many aspects of this topic as possible in a responsible and robust manner.”

It’s impossible to know where this may lead, if anywhere, but i think it’s time Parliament properly and comprehensively looked at the pros and cons of voluntary euthanasia, the right to choose how we die etc.

Dunne supports discussion on end-of-life issues

Another thoughtful blog post from Peter Dunne on ‘end-of-life’ issues which although not named includes euthanasia.

The issue of end-of-life care is on the agenda again. I am not one who believes that doctors should be able to kill terminally ill patients, but then I doubt many New Zealanders do either. In any case, the issue is far more complex than that, which is why a wider inquiry is justified.

All of us who have experienced the pain of watching someone close to us suffer a lingering and often painful death have felt the anguish and powerlessness of wanting to do more to help, but being unable to do so.

We have admired the dedicated and compassionate efforts of those involved in palliative care and know of the medications now available to ease pain and make the last stages of life more comfortable, and are hugely appreciative of that.

But, at the same time, we are becoming more aware that end-of-life care is but one aspect of overall health care. Advanced care planning, where people discuss with family at earlier stages of life what their expectations are when they become old and/or frail or suffer from a terminal illness, is becoming equally important.

Similarly, understanding people’s expectations is also a significant consideration as well. At a time when the bulk of health spending occurs in the last five years of a person’s life, are we certain that is what they want, or do they simply want a dignified, managed exit?

Medicines management is another factor. For years now it has been an open secret that doctors manage the demise of terminal patients through adjustment to medication levels to ease suffering and assist gentle death.

Nor is it a new practice – King George V’s doctors reportedly managed his death nearly 80 years ago so that it could be announced in the morning papers. But doctors managing life as it ebbs away is different from actively securing its end.

Nevertheless, the moral argument about the sanctity of natural life and that no-one has the right to interfere with it begs the question somewhat. While I have sympathy with that view in an absolutist sense – hence my vehement, unwavering opposition to capital punishment – I acknowledge that in many terminal cases, it is questionable (as a consequence of medication and other life support measures) whether a patient is actually living a natural life any more. Therefore, the morally absolutist argument may no longer be relevant in all cases.

And then there is the question of free will. I was always taught that the most precious gift we possess – which defined us as human beings – is free will, the right to be able to decide for ourselves.

Any debate about the end of life cannot overlook this fundamental point. What a patient “wants” should rank ahead of what “we can do” for the patient in such circumstances, provided the patient’s decision is rational and informed, which brings us back to the advanced care planning argument. In such instances, do the rest of us have the right to override a patient’s wishes?

Providing a patient who requests it with the means to end life in such circumstances is arguably different from another person deliberately ending that life. The ultimate recognition of free will is, after all, respecting people’s exercise of it.

A public discussion about all these issues would be welcome and timely. Ideally, an independent expert panel should be established, with a wide-ranging brief to consider and advise upon all aspects of end-of-life care and how it should be managed. This inquiry should undertake widespread public consultation leading to the presentation of full and thorough recommendations to Parliament for action. For its part, Parliament needs to show its willingness to both lead and respond.

It’s good to see MPs contribute to thoughtful discussion, especially Ministers.

Binding referendum an awful option for euthanasia

Tracey Martin said on The Nation that she didn’t have a position of euthanasia and didn’t think Parliament should vote on it, and that it should go to a binding referendum.

I think euthanasia would be one of the worst things to be decided by a binding referendum.

This issue is complex and has very serious implications. It needs a very thorough investigation into all aspects of it and then MPs should do what they are elected to do, represent all of us responsibly.

It would be possible to get popular support for “euthanasia should be a personal choice in consultation with a person’s doctor” in a referendum, and it would be highly irresponsible of Parliament to allow something like that.

Referendums are fine for things like flags, but not for protecting a small vulnerable minority.

A binding referendum would be an awful option for euthanasia.

Martin is either severely misguided suggesting a public vote – or she is trying to avoid stating a position on euthanasia. Possinble both.

David Seymour on ‘end of life choice’

It was announced yesterday that the Health Select Committee will carry out an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia – see Select committee to consider euthanasia – after a petition was presented to the committee.

ACT MP David Seymour was one of a number of MPs who were present when the petition arrived at Parliament. He is drafting a Member’s Bill to try and initiate debate on euthanasia. He has also just posted his thoughts on this difficult topic.

Free Thoughts – End of life choice

The contentious issue of voluntary euthanasia is one I have been considering for some time, and I want to explain here why I am preparing a private member’s (End of Life Choice) Bill to lodge for ballot in Parliament.

The primary motivation for this Bill is compassion.

Many of my constituents have urged me to proceed with a Bill, particularly in light of the withdrawal last year of a similar Bill sponsored by Iain Lees-Galloway, originally introduced by former MP Maryan Street. Two previous Bills on this issue have in the past failed to gain Parliamentary support, but the clear international trend since the 1990s is towards the legalisation of medically assisted end of life choice.

The motivation for this Bill is the very real anguish faced by people with terminal illness, as they anticipate the prospect of intolerable suffering, and the indignity of the final few days and weeks of their lives. While pain can be ameliorated somewhat, the suffering and indignity of that final period of life remains a profound concern to many people.

The intention of the Bill is to allow people with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” to obtain medical aid to die if they should so choose.

I appreciate that within our community there is a wide range of religious and philosophical views which influence attitudes to this issue. What is unthinkable for some, is considered by others the most compassionate way to address the inevitability of end of life, and the realities of terminal illness.

The Bill I intend to lodge will offer choice that is currently prohibited, for those in our community who are grievously and irremediably ill and who wish to have the option, as they near life’s end, to choose the manner and timing of their final days.

The protections designed to avoid potential abuse are crucial, and would need to be fully examined before any final Bill was to return to the House. A Select Committee process considering specific proposals will enable all these matters to be considered in detail and in public, will provide an opportunity for the full range of views in our community to be heard, and will allow us to examine the international experience.

There are several key considerations behind my intention to lodge a private members Bill.

In my view it is politically, morally, legally and, in terms of public policy, the right thing to do.

I will consider each of these in turn.

Legally this is the right thing to do.

As noted in the recent judgement on the Lecretia Seales case, the issue of end of life choice is a matter for Parliament to determine.

Likewise, earlier this year the Canadian Supreme Court determined unanimously that “The prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes on the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

But the Court suspended its judgement for 12 months, giving the Canadian Parliament a year to draft new legislation to reflect that judgement.

This reflected a view that it is a matter for Parliament to decide, not the Courts. Legislation to give effect to assisted dying will involve very many detailed ethical, legal and practical considerations.

The scrutiny of a select committee process, examining a concrete proposal, is the best and most thorough way of considering this issue.

In terms of appropriate legal process, introducing a Bill to Parliament is the right thing to do.

Morally this is the right thing to do.

The difficulty with assisted dying is that we are attempting to balance competing values, each of great importance.

The first is the sanctity of life and the need to protect the vulnerable. The second is the autonomy and dignity of a competent adult who seeks to end their life as a response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

The difficulty is that an absolute prohibition on assistance in dying effectively creates a “duty to live” rather than a “right to life”.

An absolute prohibition on assisted dying also calls into question the existing legality of any consent to the withdrawal or refusal of lifesaving or life-sustaining treatment. Yet already there is a degree of societal consensus that the administration of palliative sedation and the withholding or withdrawal of lifesaving or life-sustaining medical treatment, which can have the effect of hastening death, are ethically acceptable.

Protracted dying was once rare; death typically came swiftly. But medicine has advanced, and now a protracted death is common.

By acknowledging this reality, the argument can be advanced that it is also ethical for voluntary adults who are competent, informed, grievously and irremediably ill, and where the assistance is clearly consistent with the patient’s wishes and best interests, and in order to relieve suffering, for them to have the option of physician assisted end of life.

In short, an absolute ban on assisting another person to end their own life can amount to condemning a person to a life of severe and intolerable suffering.

It was for that reason the Canadian Courts concluded that the ban on assisted dying was too broad – by justifiably attempting to protect the vulnerable, it denied the rights of some individuals in a way that bore no relation to the object of the law.

As the Court said, “A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”

That is why the international trend since the 1990s has been for Parliaments to recognise that, in certain well defined circumstances, an individual’s choice about the end of their life is entitled to respect.

The international evidence was closely examined in the Canadian courts. There it was stated that an absolute prohibition on assisted dying would have been necessary if:

  • The evidence showed that physicians were unable to reliably assess competence, voluntariness, and non-ambivalence in patients;
  • That physicians fail to understand or apply the informed consent requirement for medical treatment;
  • Or if the evidence from permissive jurisdictions showed abuse of patients, carelessness, callousness, or a slippery slope leading to the casual termination of life.

But after an exhaustive examination of the evidence these possibilities were rejected. The judgement found that properly designed and administered safeguards were capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error, that the elderly or people with disabilities are not at a heightened risk, and that there was no evidence of a slippery slope.

Before any changes to New Zealand law are contemplated, these issues should be considered afresh by our Parliament.

Morally, reconsidering the law on end of life choice is the right thing to do.

Politically this is the right thing to do.

My job as a Parliamentarian is to represent the voters, and that involves reflecting the will of the public, insofar as that “will” makes sense and is not inconsistent with my fundamental beliefs.

On this issue, for some MPs, there will inevitably be a clash with some profoundly important religious or philosophical beliefs.

That said, the public clearly wish this issue to be debated, so that regardless of one’s personal view on the matter, this is an issue which deserves to be placed before the House – as I will seek to do with my Bill – and which deserves also to be taken at least to select committee for the sort of thorough review that the Canadian case examined.

Advancing the consideration of End of Life Choice through a Bill to be thoroughly examined via select committee, is the best way to respond to the wishes of the NZ electorate.

I concluded therefore that, politically, introducing my Bill is the right thing to do.

In terms of public policy this is the right thing to do.

The law against assisting somebody to end their life, is of course a ‘generally sound law’. But it is also one which has an extraordinarily harmful effect on a small number of individuals.

As the Canadian judgement determined, that law is overly broad.

As a matter of public policy, we need to reconsider the situation of that small number of persons who:

  • clearly consent to the termination of their life, and
  • have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual.

The eventual scope of any Bill which might be returned to the House from a select committee review is not to be determined here.

My case is that New Zealand needs and – as is evident from recent opinion polls – wants this debate.

Our Parliament should facilitate this discussion by considering this issue afresh through the mechanism of a Bill passing its first reading in the House and proceeding to select committee review.

All New Zealanders should have the opportunity to be heard on this matter. The discussion and review should not be rushed.

My End of Life Choice Bill, when lodged and if drawn from the private members’ bill ballot, will allow this much needed review to occur.

It is the right thing to do.

David Seymour
ACT Party Leader

This is thoughtful and politically gutsy stuff from Seymour. Some people will strongly oppose making any changes on law around euthanasia and other parties have not been prepared to promote debate on it. In fact Seymour has picked up a Labour Member’s Bill carried over from last term by Iain Lees-Galloway after Andrew Little had it withdrawn as ‘not a priority’.

Select committee to consider euthanasia

It was announced yesterday that the Health Select Committee will carry out an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia. Stuff reports:

Voluntary euthanasia to be examined by Parliamentary inquiry

Announcing an inquiry on Wednesday, chairman of the health select committee, Simon O’Connor, said members were “ready to engage” on what was an “important conversation that needs to be had”.

This follows a petition on euthanasia being presented to Parliament on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, former Labour MP Maryan Street and Matt Vickers, the husband of Lecretia Seales, who died of a brain tumour on the same day she lost a High Court bid, presented the End-of-Life Choice petition to MPs.

The petition was delivered to the health select committee on Wednesday and will now be part of a wider inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.

This is a partial posthumous victory for Seales.

It would take a couple of weeks to come up with a plan for the inquiry, O’Connor said.

The inquiry would consider how best to involve the public and what questions and terms of reference need to be included, he said.

The petition, which has 8975 signatures, garnered cross-party support with Seymour, Green MP Kevin Hague, National MP Chris Bishop and Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway all turning up on Tuesday to receive it.

This is a difficult topic to deal with but it’s something that our Parliament should seriously look at so this is a promising announcement.


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