Matt Vickers to euthanasia inquiry

The inquiry into euthanasia, instigated by a 8795 signature petition to Parliament after the death of Lecretia Seales, started hearing submissions today. First to speak was Seale’s husband (now widower) Matt Vickers.

NZ Herald: Lecretia Seales’ husband makes emotional appeal to MPs about voluntary euthanasia

The husband of Lecretia Seales has made an emotional appeal to MPs to reform the law on voluntary euthanasia – saying fear and religious opposition should not deny others a choice.

Matt Vickers has travelled from his new home in New York and presented to Parliament’s health committee this morning, in front of a large number of media and members of the public.

“Why do we accept that the laws as they are force people to suffer against their wishes,” Vickers asked.

“I want to be crystal clear that Lecretia valued her life very much. She did not want to die…but she felt it was right for her to be able to choose the circumstances of her death.

“Assisted dying legislation is not a threat, but an opportunity.”

A large number of submissions against changing the law were based on religious reasons…

Probably organised opposition, as often happens with submissions to try and play the numbers card.

…Vickers said, and that was not a good enough.

“We live in a country with a plurality of religious beliefs and I think assisted dying legislation is the only way to respect that plurality.”

While a majority of submissions on voluntary euthanasia were from those opposed, Vickers said that was not a representation of wider society. Rather, it showed the depth of feeling on the issue.

Vickers urged members of the committee to examine the evidence on assisted dying in some US states and in European countries. Oregon’s experience proved there was no “slippery slope”, he said.

“In most cases it is impossible to justify the status quo,” he said.

“Why do we prohibit assisted dying when we know, both from [Lecretia’s court case] and now illustrated by examples in some of the submissions you have received, that between 5-8 per cent of all recorded suicides are ill New Zealanders who might have lived longer had assisted dying laws been in place.

“Why do we accept that the laws as they are force people to suffer against their wishes, when we know that palliative care can not help all people in all cases.”

There is video at Lecretia Seales’ husband makes emotional appeal to MPs about voluntary euthanasia.

Stuff also reports in Matt Vickers calls on MPs to have open mind about euthanasia:

‘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.

 

The Nation on euthanasia

This morning on The Nation they interviewed two people with opposing views on euthanasia.

Is the current law forcing good people to die badly?

Voluntary euthanasia hit the headlines last year when the Lecretia Seales case divided public opinion.

As a result, Parliament launched an inquiry into legalisation. So far more than 20,000 public submissions have been received.

So is it time to allow euthanasia or are the risks of getting it wrong too great?

The Nation spoke with Aussie TV and radio host and pro-euthanasia campaigner Andrew Denton and Matthew Jansen from lobby group Care Alliance.

Euthanasia submissions due 1 February

Today’s Herald on Sunday editorial focusses on Lecretia Seales and euthanasia, and it points out that Health select committee public submissions on euthanasia close in a week.

New Zealanders have just a week left to voice their opinions on voluntary euthanasia and whether it should be considered under law.

It is not an easy subject. The very term we use to understand the process is altered – and sometimes manipulated – to serve a purpose. Euthanasia, assisted dying, suicide.

It is one of the most difficult questions of our age but one that needs to be asked and considered.

Public feedback to Parliament’s health select committee closes on February 1. In a little over a week, the chance to have a say will be gone.

Regardless of the opinion – or the outcome – it would be to our shame to choose not to contribute to that debate.

 Herald on Sunday

It is a difficult and important issue, covering an individual’s right to choose how they may end their life versus protection of vulnerable people.

The Herald shows how out of date they can be by not providing links to the submission page.

The Parliament website for the Health Committee isn’t helpful either. Business before the Health Committee doesn’t mention it, and if I follow it’s Submissions link I get:

Server Error

Oops – there has been an error. This error has been automatically emailed to our website team and we will endeavour to fix it as soon as possible.

But there is a page:

Petition of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others

Public submissions are now being invited on the Petition of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others.

The closing date for submissions is Monday, 1 February 2016

The Health Select Committee has received a petition requesting “That the House of Representatives 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.” The petition asks for a change to existing law. Therefore the committee will undertake an investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand. In order to fully understand public attitudes the committee will consider all the various aspects of the issue, including the social, legal, medical, cultural, financial, ethical, and philosophical implications. The Committee will investigate: 1. The factors that contribute to the desire to end one’s life. 2. The effectiveness of services and support available to those who desire to end their own lives. 3. The attitudes of New Zealanders towards the ending of one’s life and the current legal situation. 4. International experiences. The committee will seek to hear from all interested groups and individuals.

The committee requires 2 copies of each submission if made in writing. Those wishing to include any information of a private or personal nature in a submission should first discuss this with the clerk of the committee, as submissions are usually released to the public by the committee. Those wishing to appear before the committee to speak to their submissions should state this clearly and provide a daytime telephone contact number. To assist with administration please supply your postcode and an email address if you have one.

Further guidance on making a submission can be found from the Making a Submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee link in the `Related documents´ panel.

There’s a much more helpful site – Lecretia’s Choice

 

The Health Select Committee is taking public submissions on assisted dying and suicide.  They want to hear from New Zealanders about their beliefs and concerns about end of life choices.  It is your chance to tell our politicians how you feel about end of life care and the choices you want to have.

The Parliament website has a helpful guide that explains the Select Committee Process (PDF) and how it affects Parliamentary decision-making. They also have a longer guide on how to make a submission, the key points of which are covered at the end of this page.

The original petition was “That the House of Representatives 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.”

We are not happy with the terms of reference created by the Health Select Committee in response to this, as they imply that someone seeking assisted dying wants to die, which couldn’t be further from the truth. They have also brought the issue of suicide into scope, even though this wasn’t part of the request of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society petition. However it is not possible for the terms to be changed at this point, so it is not worth debating this as part of your submission. It is best to focus on the terms as written. The terms of reference are:

      • The factors that contribute to the desire to end one’s life.
      • The effectiveness of services and support available to those who desire to end their own lives.
      • The attitudes of New Zealanders towards the ending of one’s life and the current legal situation.
      • International experiences.

The Committee intends to consider “all the various aspects of the issue, including the social, legal medical, cultural, financial, ethical and philosophical implications.”

More details at:

Lecretia’s Choice

‘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’.

Two polls strongly support euthanasia

Both One News and Three News have done polls on euthanasia with strong support for changing the law and allowing euthanasia.

One News/Colmar Brunton:

Should a patient should be able to request a doctor’s assistance to end their life?

  • Yes 75%
  • No 21%
  • Undecided 5%

1000 voters questioned

3 News/Reid Research

Should law be changed to allow “assisted dying” or euthanasia?

  • Yes 71%
  • No 24%
  • Unsure 5%

Patrick Gower asked John Key if the Government would heed public opinion and do something about it. Key said they wouldn’t, but if a well drafted Member’s Bill was put before parliament he said he would support it.

The chances of a Member’s Bill being drawn is low – ad at this stage there isn’t a Bill in the ballot anyway.

One News had a report with their poll result: Lecretia Seales’ widower praises Kiwis for poll showing support for doctor assisted euthanasia

Lecretia Seales’ widower Matt Vickers is welcoming a ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll which shows the majority of New Zealanders want dying patients to be able to rely on their doctor for help to end their lives.

“We’re glad to see that New Zealanders agree that it is appropriate, respectful and compassionate, and we hope that Parliament does their job and achieves legislative change that the majority of New Zealanders clearly want.”

“Through her High Court case, Lecretia hoped to raise awareness of the appropriateness of physician assisted dying legislation in some form,” he says.

The debate about euthanasia was back in the headlines last week when the results of a study of General Practitioners was released, showing some had made decisions likely to hasten the death of their terminally ill patients.

The study was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal and asked 650 GPs about the last death they’d attended.

There seems to be everything that’s needed except any political will to address euthanasia.

And Stuff reports: Doctors and nurses more involved in patients’ ‘end-of-life’ decisions – study

A University of Auckland study anonymously surveyed 650 GPs.

Sixteen reported prescribing, supplying or administering a drug with the explicit intention of bringing death about more quickly.

But in 15 of those cases, it was nurses who administered the drugs.

Researchers acknowledged the actions of the GPs would generally be understood as euthanasia, but the survey did not use that term.

In the survey, led by Auckland University senior lecturer Dr Phillipa Malpas, GPs were asked about the last death at which they were the attending doctor.

Of the 650 to respond, 359 (65.6 per cent) reported that they had made decisions, such as withdrawing treatment or alleviating pain, taking into account the probability that they may hasten death.

Some made explicit decisions about hastening death.

Of the 359, 16.2 per cent withheld treatments with the “explicit purpose of not prolonging life or hastening the end of life”.

A total of 316 doctors gave pain medication taking into account that death might come sooner, but it was not the intention. Rather, the doctor may have taken the decision to make the dying patient more comfortable in their final hours.

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.

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.

What now for Lecretia Seales?

Of course there’s little left for Lecretia Seales except her funeral. Except that in her memory it’s possible she might prompt some political action on assisted dying or euthanasia.

In a media conference today her husband Matt Vickers said how disappointed Lecretia and he were with the news that her legal action had been turned down by the court (Judge Collins).

NZH reports Lecretia Seales’s husband: ‘Her reaction utterly broke my heart’

“On Tuesday night I relayed Justice Collins’ decision to Lecretia. I explained she would not be able to seek assistance to die, and nature would need to run its course, and that her mother and I would do everything we could to make her comfortable and pain free.

“Lecretia listened to me as I explained the decision. Even though she couldn’t speak, she was able to share her feelings through her expression. There was no mistaking her response.

“She was hurt and disappointed. She fixed me with a stare with her good eye as if to say, ‘isn’t this my body? My life? Her breath slowed and she turned her head away. Her reaction utterly broke my heart.”

Very sad but not really surprising. Judge Collins has said that Parliament needs to deal with it.

Mr Vickers said the judgment was not what they wanted, but did make it clear that the law is “paternalistic, overly-protective and rooted in the past”.

He said Parliament had to work across party lines to ensure the issue reached select committee stage. That would enable the facts and overseas evidence to be properly examined and debated.

“We must respect the autonomy and dignity of terminally ill people like Lecretia and say, ‘yes, we respect your wish to go your way’. Anything else is paternalistic. Anything else says, ‘I know better than you’.
“I implore our Prime Minister, who only two weeks ago said publicly that he would welcome a debate, to actually initiate that debate and to not defer it and wait for a private member’s bill, which may not see it debated for months or years.

“This debate needs to happen now. Prime Minister, I urge you to give the public what they want and start the debate. I urge you to follow my wife’s example and to be a courageous leader…let us give Lecretia her legacy.

That sounds like something worthwhile for Lecretia’s legacy.

It’s now up to the MPs and the parties to do something about it.

Lecretia Seales has died

It was revealed last night that Lecretia Seales was given the judgement in her case by Justice Collins, and that their would be a media conference at 3 pm today.

This morning it is being reported that Lecretia died overnight.

NZ Herald reports Euthanasia case: Lecretia Seales dies hours after family received judge’s decision.

Lecretia Seales, the 42-year-old Wellington lawyer with terminal brain cancer, died of natural causes at 12.35am this morning, just hours after her family and legal team received the judgment on her case.

Seales’ health had deteriorated rapidly in the days since her appearance in the Wellington High Court last week

Seales’ death came just hours after her family and lawyers received Justice Collins’ full judgment. The judge has embargoed his decision until 15.00 hours today.