Assisted Suicide

Family First don’t know the difference between suicide and death with dignity

I really have trouble supporting anything Family First do these days. They really only believe in their kinds of families first.

Worse, when Bob McCoskrie willingly gave evidence to support Colin Craig and then had to be recalled to correct his statements you have to wonder whether he and the organisation he represents actually believe what they stand for.

Bob McCoskrie is now pushing a myth regarding suicide.

Family First New Zealand – one of the lead family organisations against assisted suicide and euthanasia – has presented their oral submission today to the Select Committee conducting the Investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand as a result of Maryan Street’s petition.

In their oral submission, National Director Bob McCoskrie has warned MPs that the Inquiry presents a serious risk to public health and safety because there is a ‘social contagion’ aspect to suicide – assisted or non-assisted – and that we need more discussion about suicide prevention.

“You don’t discourage suicide by assisting suicide,” says Mr McCoskrie. “Suicide is already a public health crisis.”

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Is Andrew going to cancel all undercover operations on his first day as Prime Minister?

It would seem that Andrew Little is going to cancel all undercover police operations on his first day as Prime Minister?

That will, of course, be in 10 years time, but it certainly seems that way from his latest pronouncement.

It would be frightening if police had used a parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia as the basis for setting up a “dodgy” breath testing checkpoint to identify euthanasia supporters, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

Questions are still being raised about what prompted police to set up the checkpoint near an Exit International meeting last month as part of their investigation into a suspected euthanasia death.

Act Party leader David Seymour opened Question Time in parliament on Tuesday with the issue, asking Police Minister Judith Collins if the public were right to be concerned about police using roadside breath testing to collect personal information for unrelated investigations.

“Does the minister believe it is a good use of police officers to interrogate law-abiding people at a peaceful meeting of an advocacy group, given an 18 per cent increase in burglaries reported this week?” he asked.

Ms Collins said she couldn’t comment because the matter was being investigated by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

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Whaleoil readers’ feelings on Euthanasia revealed

Euthanasia is a very complex issue so our Whaleoil questionnaire focussed on only two aspects of the debate.

1. The person’s right to make the decision and to take their own life with or without help from another person.

2. The moral difference between assisting a suicide overtly or covertly and actually killing the person at their request.

The question that had the most readers selecting either strongly agree or agree was question four.

Question four. Ann is 50 years old, a cancer patient. She is in the last phase of the disease. It has been decided by her physician that no treatment options will serve any benefit to treat her cancer or reduce discomfort. She has left the hospital of her own free will and wishes to die. She saves up her morphine tablets until she has a lethal amount and then commits suicide by taking an overdose. In regards to Ann’s actions, I

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Before you kill yourself, consider there is dignity in suffering

Lecretia would agree with John Roughan, who said last weekend, “there is in fact dignity in living with pain and incapacity and we should not take it away”. But she distinguished between living and dying, and she would have also said that the dignity of dying with pain and incapacity is subjective. She would never presume to question those who value redemptive suffering until death, but she, like many others, did not.

In December, Roughan accused me of being dishonest about my wife’s death because I hadn’t immediately shared the depth of her suffering in a tribute I wrote shortly after she died, ignoring the possibility that perhaps, as a grieving husband who had just lost his wife, I wasn’t willing to share those details publicly and have the media argue whether she’d suffered enough.

He also suggested that Lecretia could have been palliatively sedated, despite Lecretia being quite clear in her affidavits that that was not what she wanted. Perhaps Roughan could accept that all I want for my wife was what she wanted for herself and others: to have her autonomy respected and to not to be judged by others for it.

Both Roughan and Jansen argue against legalising assisted dying because of the risk of a “slippery slope”, claiming that if moderate legislative change is made then more extreme change will surely follow. It is demonstrably fallacious. When same sex marriage was proposed, opponents protested that it would lead to legalisation of group marriage, bestiality and worse. None of those things have eventuated.

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Matt Vickers is a bit of a hypocrite

On the subject of assisted dying, I have a strong opinion based on watching cancer steal my mother from me over an extended period of dreadful, painful and undignified time.

Last week a young Belgian man aged 17 elected to be assisted to die under Belgium’s assisted dying laws, which have recently been widened to be available to minors. Few details of his circumstances have been released, out of respect for his privacy and that of his family.

What we do know is that he was incurable, and had extreme physical suffering. So extreme that he sought to take the drastic step of ending his life. We don’t know whether his condition was terminal.

What I have been able to determine through various news reports is that he was euthanised through palliative sedation. Palliative sedation is the practice of administering sleep-inducing medication until the patient is in a drug-induced coma.

The coma lasts until the patient dies.

Palliative sedation is legal in New Zealand by virtue of it being in a legal grey area, and is often used when a patient is not responsive to pain management. The patient is put into a permanent sleep state until they starve to death, in order to spare them the worst of their suffering.

It is quite possible this young man would have experienced the same outcome under existing New Zealand law, if he was indeed approaching death. It’s a form of legal euthanasia and is regarded as ethical by the New Zealand Medical Association.

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Labour’s and Little’s cowardice over euthanasia

Before the last election Maryan Street had the Death with Dignity bill drawn from the ballot, but David Cunliffe spiked it saying that Labour didn’t want distractions during election year.

They were, of course, planning their Dirty Politics/Vote Positive campaign at the time and debating euthanasia would distract from their planned political hit job using stolen data.

After the election and Andrew Little’s union-controlled ascension to the leadership Iain Lees-Galloway proposed picking up Maryan Street’s bill and having another go at it, until he too was told to pull the bill.

Again Labour told us they had other priorities, as if a member’s bill was party business anyway.

Now Andrew Little is unrepentant and refusing to apologise for letting suffering Kiwis continue in pain.

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.

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More support for Assisted Dying than a flag change

If the sustained applause assisted-dying advocate Matt Vickers received after his talk at the National Rural Health Conference in Dunedin was anything to go by, his message to health professionals hit the spot on Saturday.

Mr Vickers is the widower of Lecretia Seales, a Wellington lawyer who challenged the Crown in the High Court on her right to choose how she died.

Ms Seales was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2011, and despite treatment died last year.

Earlier in the year, she put a case to the High Court to challenge New Zealand law for her right to die with the assistance of her doctor, asking for a declaration the doctor would not risk conviction.

Her call was declined.

Mr Vickers told the conference his wife spent the last days of her life seeking control over the last stage of her life.

He had been wanting to “speak to New Zealand doctors and nurses for some time”.

He believed anyone facing “intolerable suffering” should have the option of assisted dying. Read more »

Reminder: Death with Dignity/Assisted suicide – submissions end this week

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A few days ago I ran an article about this.  I asked you if you felt strongly about the issue.     Read more »

Oh so now Key cares? Did he get a focus group result he liked?

John Key is making the right sort of noises over euthanasia now…noises he should have been making some time ago.

A push to legalise voluntary euthanasia has been boosted by the Prime Minister’s endorsement.

John Key said he would support a new member’s bill lodged by Act leader David Seymour yesterday if it was drawn from the ballot.

“In all probability if it’s drawn I will vote for it,” he said.

The Government would not pick up the bill, meaning it could be years before it comes before Parliament.

But Mr Key’s endorsement could play an important role in changing minds on the contentious issue.

On the last conscience vote to be held in Parliament, for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, the Prime Minister also confirmed early in the process that he would support the legislation, which later passed easily.

Mr Seymour began work on his End of Life Choice Bill after another bill, originally sponsored by former Labour MP Maryan Street, was removed from the ballot.

His bill had stricter safeguards than Ms Street’s bill, including a requirement that a person was likely to die within six months, instead of 12 months. They would also need to have approval from two doctors.

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ACT to take Euthanasia before parliament

David Seymour is impressing me more and more.

He is using his time in parliament to do meaningful things, like introducing a euthanasia bill, something Labour lacks the courage to do, and a far better use of a referendum than a stupid flag debate.

A bill calling to legalise voluntary euthanasia will be lodged by ACT leader David Seymour in Parliament on Wednesday.

The bill is being presented on the same day former Labour MP Maryann Street, who in the last parliamentary term proposed and championed the End-of-Life Choice bill, will have a petition heard at health select committee.

The petition, which has 8795 signatures, garnered cross-party support when it was presented at Parliament in June by Street and Matt Vickers, husband of Lecretia Seales, who died of a brain tumour on the same day she lost her High Court bid to choose to die.   Read more »