Misinformation on euthanasia polls and support

For years polls have indicated significant majority support for legalising some sort of assisted dying/assisted suicide/euthanasia.

Opponents of the End of Life Choice Bill currently working it’s way through Parliament have been trying to discredit the polls and have falsely claimed a majority of submissions on the Bill represents some sort of majority opposition. Groups who oppose euthanasia, in particular the Catholic Church, organised submissions to boost the opposing numbers – see Record number of submissions on euthanasia Bill.

In a debate on Newshub Nation yesterday Peter Thirkell from anti-euthanasia group Care Alliance promoted the submission numbers while dismissing poll history.

What I would say to that figure of 40,000 and your analysis saying 90 per cent was against the bill is that outside of the select committee process, there’s been a lot of polls which seem to indicate that the public is in favour of some form of assisted dying.

Thirkell: Well, polls are fairly whimsical things. They tend to be single-question things. They’re usually framed in a way— They use soft language like ‘assisted dying’, ‘with the approval and assistance of the doctor’, and, you know, ‘given certain safeguards’.

That seems to describe the aims of the bill.

That really doesn’t carry the weight of expert evidence. There were 54,000 pages of evidence that went to the select committee. Over 600 doctors wrote in, and 93 per cent of them were opposed; 800 nurses, 93% opposed. So almost 2000 medical professionals, and 94 per cent of them were opposed, so these are the experts that are speaking out on the bill.

There was not 38,000 experts submitting on the bill – ‘experts’ were only a very small proportion of the overall number of submitters.

The Care Alliance have been disingenuous claiming that a majority of submissions represents public opinion, it doesn’t do anything like that. It  mostly indicts an organised campaign to  boost the number of submissions opposing the bill.

Seymour: Well, first of all, the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders don’t make submissions to the select committee. That’s their choice. It doesn’t mean that their views are less valid. The same with nurses, the same with doctors. And I think Dr Thirkell needs to ask himself, as do most people that oppose this bill, why it is that over 20 years New Zealanders have consistently said…70 per cent, 75 per cent of New Zealanders consistently say that they want choice in this area…

A website called ‘a NEW ZEALAND RESOURCE for LIFE related issues’ on Public Opinion Polls:

Polls have been asking the following (or similar) question regularly since the 1960s and ’70s: “If a hopelessly ill patient, in great pain, with absolutely no chance of recovering, asks for a lethal dose, so as not to wake again, should the doctor be allowed to give the lethal dose?”, and the number in favour has steadily increased from about 50 to nearly 80 percent.

As one commentator said, it would be hard for an uninformed person to say “no” to that question without feeling negligent, dogmatic or insensitive.

But when the current ability of good palliative care to relieve the severe pain of terminal illness is known, though it it also known tragically not to be sufficiently available, the same question could be more accurately put: “If a doctor is so negligent as to leave a terminally-ill patient in pain, severe enough to drive him / her to ask to be killed, should the doctor be able to compound that negligence by killing the patient, instead of seeking help?” 

The question is really about medical standards, not euthanasia.

That suggested question is hopelessly slanted and would be terrible for a poll.

And “the following (or similar) question” is nothing like questions asked in euthanasia polls.

Ironically that website claims in About Us:

ESTABLISHING THE TRUTH

We believe that it is enormously beneficial for the public of New Zealand to be able to establish truth for themselves (with the assistance of a website like this one) rather than to rely on information that may be biased, or that is deliberately kept incomplete.

It has been our firm belief, throughout the development of this website, that people will recognise the truth when it is spoken, and that access to more information will empower them to make wiser decisions than if they have partial information, and therefore have a lesser, or shallower understanding of the issues.

Their lack of truthfulness would condemn them to hell based on Israel Folau’s recent proclamation.

The actual truth

A survey done by Massey University in 2003 showed that 73% wanted assisted suicide legalised if it was performed by a doctor, but if done by others support dropped to 49%. The wording of the questions were:

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

“Still thinking of that person with a painful incurable 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?”

A survey carried out on behalf of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society in 2008 showed that 71% of New Zealanders want to have it legalised. The question read:

“In some countries, though not all, if you have an illness that results in your being unable to have an acceptable quality of life, you are legally allowed to get help from a doctor to help you to die. If you had an illness or condition which resulted in your having a quality of life that was totally unacceptable to you, would you like to have the legal right to choose a medically assisted death?”

Another survey by Massey University in 2008 gave similar results.

Horizon poll in 2017: Q.1  Do you support a law change to allow medical practitioners to assist people to die, where a request has come from a mentally competent patient, 18 years or over, who has end stage terminal disease and irreversible unbearable suffering, e.g. cancer?

  • Strongly support 46%
  • Support 29%
  • Neither support nor oppose 8%
  • Oppose 3%
  • Strongly oppose 8%
  • Not sure 6%

Q.2  Do you support a law change to allow medical practitioners to assist people to die, where such a request has come from a mentally competent patient, 18 years and over, who has irreversible unbearable suffering which may not cause death in the immediate future, e.g.: motor neurone disease?

  • Strongly support 33%
  • Support 33%
  • Neither support nor oppose 15%
  • Oppose 6%
  • Strongly oppose 9%
  • Not sure 5%

The current Bill is unlikely to allow euthanasia in that situation. It is likely to require that an illness is terminal with death likely within 6 months. But there is still only 15% oppose or strongly oppose.

Colmar Brunton in 2017 asked “Parliament is to consider a new bill on euthanasia. Do you think a person who is terminally or incurably ill should be able to request the assistance of a doctor to end their life?”

  • Yes 74%
  • No 18%
  • Don’t know 9%

Newshub in 2018 – 71% support, 19.5% oppose:

So very similar results from Colmar Brunton and Reid Research in recent polls, and similar from Horizon, and their questions were nothing like what was suggested above.

See commentary and poll details at NZ Parliament Assisted dying: New Zealand

 

 

Seymour v Thirkell debate euthanasia and End of Life Choice bill

Act Party Leader David Seymour and Care Alliance Secretary Peter Thirkell were on Newshub Nation yesterday morning (repeated this morning) to debate New Zealander’s right to choose the way they die.

 


Simon Shepherd: The euthanasia debate is gaining momentum as the End of Life Choice Bill approaches its second reading in Parliament next month.The author of the controversial bill – Act MP David Seymour – is planning three changes including limiting it to those with a terminal illness – but will they be enough to sway its opponents? David joins me now, along with Peter Thirkell from anti-euthanasia group Care Alliance. Thanks for your time this morning. To you first, David Seymour. The justice select committee process had nearly 40,000 submissions. Do you accept there are flaws in your bill?

David Seymour: No, I don’t. You know, the bill was examined by the select committee. They’ve come back with a number of minor and technical changes to make sure that the way that it’s written aligns with its intention, and that’s what should happen. That’s why we send bills to select committees, and I’m very pleased.

Yeah, but surely, there are flaws, because you’re proposing changes to them.

Seymour: No. Just because you want to make something better doesn’t mean that it’s flawed. I think the major change that’s occurred and the major change that I’m now proposing is that it’s become clear from listening to people, including the public and also my fellow members of parliament, that there is not support for a bill that is for people who don’t have the terminal prognosis within six months. So that’s an easy fix. That was already one of the criteria — was people who are terminal within six months would be able to access the bill if they so choose. We simply narrow it and make it only that, and that’s the law-making process. That’s listening, that’s changing, that’s improving, and that’s getting a bill passed that everybody’s happy with.

So, Peter, how do you feel about those changes that are being proposed?

Peter Thirkell: Well, the bill that’s going to the parliament for the second reading is in fact in its present form. So David has indicated some changes he has in mind, but that’s all they are. The present bill is the present bill. And as you alluded to, 40,000 New Zealanders wrote in expressing concerns. A lot of expert evidence. Ninety per cent of the submissions were opposed. But importantly, within that, there were sub-groups like doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals — groups, peak medical organisations and such. So a lot of expert evidence, and there isn’t one sub-group constituency within the submissions that supports this bill.

What I would say to that figure of 40,000 and your analysis saying 90 per cent was against the bill is that outside of the select committee process, there’s been a lot of polls which seem to indicate that the public is in favour of some form of assisted dying.

Thirkell: Well, polls are fairly whimsical things. They tend to be single-question things. They’re usually framed in a way— They use soft language like ‘assisted dying’, ‘with the approval and assistance of the doctor’, and, you know, ‘given certain safeguards’. That really doesn’t carry the weight of expert evidence. There were 54,000 pages of evidence that went to the select committee. Over 600 doctors wrote in, and 93 per cent of them were opposed; 800 nurses, 93% opposed. So almost 2000 medical professionals, and 94 per cent of them were opposed, so these are the experts that are speaking out on the bill.

OK. So, David Seymour, what do you say to that?

Seymour: Well, first of all, the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders don’t make submissions to the select committee. That’s their choice. It doesn’t mean that their views are less valid. The same with nurses, the same with doctors. And I think Dr Thirkell needs to ask himself, as do most people that oppose this bill, why it is that over 20 years New Zealanders have consistently said — and this is according to polling companies, such as Reid Research, that Newshub relies on; polling companies that predicted the last election to within one per cent — not that I was happy about that, but they’re good, and they’re accurate — 70 per cent, 75 per cent of New Zealanders consistently say that they want choice in this area, and I would give two-word answer to why that is. Life experience. Because New Zealanders have seen bad death, and they’ve said, ‘If my time comes, I’m in a position where palliative care can’t help me,’ – and for some people, that is a reality, as it’s widely accepted – ‘then I want to be able to choose. It’s my life. It’s my right. It’s my choice to be able to choose how I go and when I go, not to suffer, writhing in agony, to satisfy somebody else’s idea of what a good death is.’

I just want to pick up on something that Peter Thirkell has said about medical professions submitting to the select committee process. One of the issues is that even the medical associations express concern about the reliability of predicting how long someone will live. So they may fall into the eligibility and have a timeframe of six months, and it gets turned on its head. So, I mean, what’s an acceptable level of error there?

Seymour: Well, they’re—

Thirkell: Well—

David first.

Seymour: Can we actually just go back to the fact that this is a choice? It’s your life; it’s your choice; it’s your right. So, yes, it is true that new treatments come along. It is true that people will bad prognoses make miraculous recoveries, and everybody who wants to choose this bill has to weigh that up. But what is not right is that people who don’t have that kind of fortune have to suffer just in case. This is about a personal choice. It’s not about imposing one person’s morality on everybody else.

So is that what you’re saying, that Peter’s imposing his morality on everybody else?

Seymour: Well, if you accept that this bill is safe, and that is the position of the Supreme Court of Canada, it’s—

Thirkell: That is highly contested.

Seymour: Well, no.

Thirkell: That is unsafe, based on overseas evidence. People who are vulnerable are at risk.

OK, gentlemen. Let’s just pause there.

Seymour: Which one of us would you like to answer the question?

I’d like to ask Peter a question. What about choice, as David is saying?

Thirkell: Well, choices have consequences, and the harsh consequence of this bill is that a medical practitioner, a doctor, has to take a lethal injection and put it into a patient and end their life. Although, it is not a choice for the person alone. By definition, it implicates someone else. If you create a moral opportunity for someone to elect to die, then you create a moral duty for someone to actually carry that out. You can’t act alone, and—

Serymour: Well, with the greatest of respect—

Thirkell: …therein lies the rub.

Seymour: The bill is incredibly clear. Nobody has to do anything they don’t want to do. If you’re a doctor, and you want nothing to do with this, then you can conscientiously object. Now, I’d just like to come back to the evidence about doctors — the New Zealand Medical Association’s done a survey, almost 40 per cent of doctors are in favour. Two thirds of nurses are in favour.

Thirkell: Well, I contest that.

Seymour: Well, OK. People can look it up for themselves.

All right. We’ll let people—

Seymour: That’s what the data is.

Thirkell: The NZMA says this is an unethical practice, and it will remain unethical even if the law passes. So what the Parliament is at risk of doing is imposing on the medical profession an unethical practice.

Seymour: Well, the Canadian Medical Association has just elected a doctor who is in favour of their legislation.

Thirkell: We’re talking about New Zealand. There are lots of problems in Canada.

Can I ask something about Canada? You’ve brought Canada up. Now, Canada — one of the major concerns about enacting this kind of legislation is whether it’s going to be a gateway or a slippery slope to people like minors or people with disabilities or who have a mental illness being able to access this. Now, that’s not allowed under the bill at the moment, but is that a possibility? That’s one of the concerns, isn’t it, David?

Seymour: Well, no, it’s not. Frankly, it’s one of the weakest arguments that people make.

But Canada’s looking at that right now.

Thirkell: There are over 2000 submissions.

Seymour: When the Canadians passed their law, they passed a law that said, ‘In a couple of years, Parliament must review the law.’ My bill does the same thing. That’s right, and that’s democratic. You’ve now got people submitting and saying, ‘Well, maybe it should change this way, maybe it should change that.’

So that’s a possibility.

Seymour: But to say because somebody in Canada has raised the possibility is a bit like a Canadian saying, ‘Well, I’ve read the ACT Party website, and New Zealand’s about to get a flat tax.’ The fact that some Canadian says it doesn’t mean that Canada’s going to do it.

It sounds like, Peter, you say that more than just ‘somebody says it’. You say it’s overwhelming. Is it?

Thirkell: Yeah, well, just on this issue alone, there were over 2000 submissions from those who were opposed, and we had Dr Leonie Hertz out last week — a palliative care physician from Canada on the ground. She says we paint a rosy picture. It was the same in Canada two and a half years ago, but actually the ground has shifted. It’s become normalised. They are already talking about broadening the criteria. It is simply unstoppable, and she says it’s not actually a slippery slope — it is a logical progression. You open the door, you let the genie out of the bottle, you can’t complain.

Seymour: I’m not sure that one avowedly spiritually-motivated Canadian doctor speaks for the country, but there you go.

Okay, and one last quick question, Peter, even if this bill’s not successful, the fact that it’s got this far, does it indicate a public shift on this issue?

Thirkell: No, I think, again, I come back to the submissions. It’s all very well to talk about polls, they’re whimsical, they’re not informed.

Seymour: Well…

Thirkell: There’s a huge amount of expert evidence and evidence from the public saying please don’t do this. It puts vulnerable people at risk, it disrupts the doctor/patient relationship and requires them to participate in a system that would be unethical. The overseas experience certainly is not reassuring.

Seymour: Well, Simon, if I can come in on that. Simon—

Thirkell: And palliative care is another alternative, we’d be much better to put our energies into that life-affirming—

Seymour: Simon, it’s widely accepted that palliative care is great, but it does not work for everyone. There are many countries that have considered these laws, and they have not voted them in…

Thirkell: It’s not widely accepted.

Seymour: …because the lawmakers were spooked and fear mongered by the kind of arguments we’ve heard this morning.

Thirkell: It’s not fear mongering, it’s evidence.

Seymour: But of those countries that have put an assisted dying law in place, none of them have gone back. And that tells you the reality is far better than the rhetoric you hear.

Well, we’re going to continue this debate as the bill goes towards its second reading. David Seymour, thank you for your time, Peter Thirkell, thank you.

Seymour: Thank you.

Thirkell: Thank you, Simon, appreciate it.


Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

Full video here: David Seymour clashes with anti-euthanasia advocate

Justice Committee undecided on End of Life Choice Bill – report

The Justice Committee report on the End of Life Choice Bill (the euthanasia bill) has been tabled in Parliament, with the committee undecided on whether the bill should be passed.

RNZ:  Euthanasia bill report tabled in Parliament

After 16 months’ worth of submissions, a report on euthanasia legislation has been tabled in the House and sponsor David Seymour says he’s quite confident he’ll have the numbers to pass it.

Parliament’s justice committee reported its findings this afternoon after nearly 39,000 submissions were heard by MPs on the bill that would allow assisted dying for those terminally ill, likely to die within six months and experiencing “unbearable suffering”.

The report said that 90 percent of the 36,700 written submissions opposed the bill.

“We note that the majority of written submissions discussed only whether assisted dying should be allowed in principle.”

The vote is one of conscience, so individual MPs can cast their vote according to their personal views.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be voting in favour.

“I understand those deeply held convictions that means they’ll be opposed to it, my view is the best way that I can allow people to make their own decisions is actually giving them access to that choice,” she said.

Probably more important than Ardern’s influence will be which way NZ First MPs decided to go, and more so how national MPs will decided. Simon Bridges, and Maggie Barry and Nick Smith who were on the committee, are all strongly opposed to the bill, but as it’s a conscience vote all MPs are free to support or oppose as they choose.

It is still not clear whether the bill will have enough support once it returns to Parliament.

National MP Maggie Barry sat on the committee and said she thought political opposition to the bill may have hardened after the lengthy, and often harrowing, consultation period.

Mr Seymour will put amendments forward in the House – probably in June – which will include restricting the bill to those who have a terminal prognosis only and introducing a referendum.

“There’s some [MPs] still to work on to get it across the line,” he said.

The first reading passed with a 76-44 margin and Mr Seymour said that gave him confidence that MPs would line up with the majority of New Zealanders and support the bill.

Asked whether Ms Barry was the right person to deputy chair the select committee given her active campaign against euthanasia, Mr Seymour said: “I’m the tinder paper to Maggie Barry’s inner volcano so I’m probably not a natural observer on her.”

Full report on the End of Life Choice Bill

Recommendation

The Justice Committee has examined the End of Life Choice Bill and the Report of the Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the End of Life Choice Bill. We recommend that the amendments set out below be passed.

We were unable to agree that the bill be passed.

Conscience vote

This bill is expected to result in conscience votes by members in the House. In previous situations where a bill was expected to result in conscience votes, committees have recommended amendments that left the policy content of the bill largely intact, while trying to ensure that the bill was a coherent and workable piece of legislation— particularly regarding consequential amendments and amendments to related legislation.

The eight members of this committee hold diverse views. We decided to report the bill back with minor, technical, and consequential amendments only. We leave it to the full membership of the House to resolve the broader policy matters

The End of Life Choice Bill (as it currently stands)

Parliamentary committee report on euthanasia to be tabled this week

After a lengthy period for public submissions and a record number of submissions (38,000) David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill is due to have it’s select committee report tabled in Parliament tomorrow.

Most submissions opposed the bill, but many were organised by churches opposed to the bill.

NZ Herald:  Report due back on Act leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill

With a parliamentary committee due to table its report on David Seymour’s euthanasia bill on Tuesday, the Act leader is “quietly confident” about its future.

“This is something that is becoming increasingly normal around the world and something that New Zealanders overwhelmingly want,” Seymour told the Herald.

“However, as we can see from the select committee process, we face a very well-orchestrated campaign from a motivated minority who are extremely committed to defeating the bill,” he said.

The bill as it stands would give people with a terminal illness or a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” the option of requesting assisted dying.

“It allows people who so choose, and are eligible under this bill, to end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.”

But speaking ahead of the report’s public release on Tuesday, ahead of the bill’s second reading, Seymour said he was “quietly confident” of its future.

I hope that MPs do the right thing and progress this Bill, and put the final decision to all of us via a binding referendum that would support or reject the Bill.

Changes proposed for End of Life Choice Bill

David Seymour is recommending changes to his End of Life Choice Bill after getting feedback from public submissions (a record 37,000) – and by the sound of things, to get sufficient support from MPs.

NZH: Act leader David Seymour recommends changes to End of Life Choice Bill

Seymour has written a report on his End of Life Choice Bill for the Justice Select Committee considering the bill containing proposals he says seeks to put the best possible version of the bill forward to MPs to ensure it gets through its second reading.

Seymour’s report set out both minor and substantive issues raised by submitters on the bill and the public during the select committee process and during consultation, analysed overseas evidence and proposed a range of changes to the bill.

“My findings are that there is high public support for legislative change in New Zealand, there is no risk of coercion of the vulnerable, and that the provision of palliative care is complementary to the provision of assisted dying,” Seymour said in the executive summary.

But due to concerns on those matters he recommended the following :

• A binding referendum at the next election

• Limiting eligibility to the terminally ill

• Clarifying that access cannot be by reason of mental health conditions and disability only

• Incorporating the Access to Palliative Care Bill sponsored by National MP Maggie Barry.

The report also suggests an amendment to clarify the role and protection of pharmacists, nurses and medical practitioners.

The proposed law change as it stands would give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of “requesting assisted dying”.

“It allows people who so choose, and are eligible under this bill, to end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.”

If it is to go too a binding referendum then Parliament shoukd be putting the best possible Bill forward and then leave it to the people to decide. The people should be able to decide how they die if they get an opportunity to make a choice.

Government considering triple referendum:

On Q+A last night Andrew little revealed that the Government is considering a triple referendum that would include questions on Euthanasia, Cannabis and MMP Electoral reform.

Hopefully the MMP question would be on lowering the threshold.

Little didn’t say whether this would be before or with the next General Election, but I think it would be far opreferble to have a separate non-postal referendum.

I guess it would be to much to expect also including a referendum on becoming a republic.

How a cannabis referendum might look

With the possibility of a referendum on personal use of cannabis, perhaps as soon as next year, there has been discussion on how a legislation followed by referendum approach might work.

In January Graeme Edgeler posted:

There is a good way to conduct government-initiated referendum, and there are bad ways to conduct them.

Yesterday he tweeted suggested wording for a cannabis referendum adapted the language used in the 1993 MMP referendum.

I think that would be a good approach on cannabis, and similar on euthanasia.

Parliament debate and vote on legislation, to be approved by a binding referendum  – binding in so far as a commitment by MPs and parties to abide by the result and allow the legislation to come into effect.

This wouldn’t stop later changes in law, as can happen with any law.

Possible double referendum – cannabis and euthanasia

The prospect of a referendum to accept or reject legislation decided in parliament for the personal use of cannabis has already been raised – with the referendum possible by late next year. See Cannabis legislation and referendum in 2019?

Now it has been suggested that a similar democratic process be used for euthanasia.

Newshub: Kiwis could vote on euthanasia and cannabis at the same time

New Zealand First said it would support the voluntary euthanasia Bill currently before Parliament if a conscience vote allowing a binding referendum on the law could be held.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the referendum goes ahead, it could make sense to combine the two referenda.

“If you’re gonna do one, you might as well do a job lot,” he explained. “It would make sense to not have to spend a lot of money on a succession of referenda.”

It does make sense to have a combined referendum.

And for conscience issues like these it makes a lot of sense to have Parliament decide on possible legislation – with the usual public input via submissions and lobbying – and then to put that to referendum to let the public vote to accept or reject the legislation.

This is a very good way to improve public participation in politics.

It should also help focus MPs in Parliament on coming up with the best possible legislation for any given issue.

There’s no decision yet on when the referendum on cannabis will be held.

“Cabinet just hasn’t got around to considering the details of it,” Mr Little told Newshub.

“Obviously, when we consider a date for it, we need to weigh up [whether] we run it at the same time as the general election – there would be some cost saving with that – or the other question is, do we want the general election dominated by the referendum?”

Important public issues like cannabis and euthanasia would be better addressed in a referendum separate from an election, so that the influence of party politics, by design or by association, was minimised.

The Greens have different preferences on when the cannabis referendum should be held.

Green Party leader James Shaw would prefer to hold the referendum at the same time as the election.

“People are going to be going to the polling booths anyway,” Mr Shaw said.

Shaw should rethink this – he should consider what is best for public participation in democracy rather than what he thinks might work best for the Green Party.

As to whether the referendum could end up dominating the election period, Mr Shaw said “there are ways you can stay out of the politics of it.”

Get real. There is no way of avoiding politics dominating general elections, and it is unlikely any party – including the Greens – would not put their own interests ahead of referendum choices.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has shown some support for a separate referendum.

Greens spokesperson of drug law reform Chloe Swarbrick said if it’s held in 2019, that could avoid politicising the issue.

“If we hold it in 2019, it may not be deeply politicised, polarised or pigeon-holed – and we are hopefully able to have more of an evidentiary discussion.

“If we hold it in 2020 we might end up with something where it dominates the issues and we don’t end up talking about things like housing, criminal justice or healthcare.”

She also liked a Tweet of mine yesterday that applauded the legislation-referendum approach separate to the general election.

I think that it would provide a very good template for improving public democratic participation, and and excellent way to decide on what to do about cannabis and euthanasia law.

And I think that having two issues to vote on at the same time would enhance the process, as long as it was separate from a general election.

Guilty of importing drugs, not guilty of assisting suicide

In a topical trial in Wellington Susan Austen  has been found not guilty of assisting suicide, but guilty of illegally importing drugs that can be used for suicide – but can also be used for alleviating suffering.

ODT (NZH): Euthanasia campaigner acquitted of aiding suicide

Wellington woman Susan Austen has been found not guilty of assisting suicide.

A jury delivered the verdict at the High Court in Wellington on Friday afternoon where she had been standing trial over the past two weeks.

The 67-year-old has also been found not guilty on a representative charge of importing the Class C drug pentobarbitone. However, she has been found guilty on two other charges of importing the drug.

Austen, a Lower Hutt teacher, was accused of assisting Annemarie Treadwell to take her own life in 2016, along with two other counts of importing Class C controlled drug pentobarbital, on two occasions between 2012 and 2016.

Police launched an investigation into the case after Treadwell (77) was found dead in her bedroom at a retirement village in Kilbirnie in June 2016.

The euthanasia advocate died from an overdose of pentobarbitone.

Susan Austen’s lawyer Dr Donald Stevens, QC, argued during the trial that Austen did not intend that Treadwell should commit suicide, but assisted her to obtain the pentobarbital.

“She intended that Mrs Treadwell should have control over her end of life issue – having that [drug] could have had a profound palliative effect to reduce suffering.”

Clinical psychologist Professor Glynn Owens said merely possessing “end of life” drugs, such as pentobarbital, could actually ease suffering.

“Just having the drugs reduced anxiety and can focus someone on quality of life,” the court heard.

This case highlights issues around euthanasia as David Seymour’s ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ progresses through Parliament – it passed it’s First Reading on 13 December 2017 and is now at the public consultation select Committee stage.

Poll: most support euthanasia

Parliament is considering passing a euthanasia law that would allow terminally ill patients to choose to die, with the help and approval of their doctors. Do you support it?

  • Yes 71%
  • No 19.5%
  • Don’t know 9.5%

So three and a half times as many people support euthanasia as oppose it.

Newshub: Most New Zealanders support euthanasia

The vast majority of New Zealanders support euthanasia, according to the latest Newshub Reid Research poll.

A Bill to legalise assisted dying is currently before Parliament and it has 71 percent of the country’s support, with 19.5 percent against it and 9.5 percent unsure.

Written by ACT MP David Seymour, the End of Life Choices Bill seeks to give adults suffering a terminal illness or a grievous or incurable medical condition the option of medically assisted death.

The Bill passed its first reading in December through a conscience vote – 76 MPs voted in favour and 44 voted against.

The Bill argues some people are suffering unbearably at the end of their lives, and allows adults suffering from a terminal or irremediable illness to ask for a medically assisted death.

It’s currently being examined by Parliament’s Justice Select Committee, which is due to report back to the House in September.

Under the End of Life Choice Bill, a person wishing to end their own life must meet all of the following criteria:

  • be 18 or older
  • suffer from a terminal or grievous and irremediable illness
  • or be in an advanced state of irreversible decline
  • be in unbearable pain that can’t be helped by medication
  • be of sound mind to give consent

If those criteria are met, the applicant must be assessed by two doctors.

A dying person has no responsibility to extend their life in order to allow visitors to see them suffering and losing their dignity.

In the whole scheme of things, someone dying a few days or a few weeks earlier than they otherwise might is not a big deal.

People’s lives are commonly and frequently extended beyond when they would naturally end due to the intervention of drugs, technology and doctors. It is likely that most people who chose to end their lives slightly earlier would, in an earlier age (not that much earlier) have not lived as long as they did anyway.

It is common for people’s lives to end sooner than modern medicine would force them to live. ‘Do not resuscitate’ is one choice already available.

My father’s life was extended a number of times. He had two operations, and he had six or seven blood transfusions in the last few years of his life that kept him alive. And then his end was hastened with morphine.

My mother was allowed by doctors to starve herself to death. She could have been force fed or put on a drip, but fortunately she wasn’t. It was still awful to see her suffering in her last week.

A legal choice to end ones own life a bit sooner than might otherwise occur, with adequate checks and balances, seems like a no brainer to me, and it seems that most other people agree. We should have the right to choose a slightly sooner death if that’s what we want.