Monday, December 15, 2014
Euthanasia-Free NZ congratulates Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Iain Lees-Galloway for resisting sponsorship of the ex-Maryan Street voluntary euthanasia bill.
The End-of-Life Choice Bill proposes legal assisted suicide and euthanasia for anyone over 18 who has either a terminal condition which could end their life in 12 months, or an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that the person feels makes their life unbearable. It would effectively legalise euthanasia for anyone with a chronic physical or mental illness, disability, ageing-related condition or any condition for which a person refuses further treatment.
Public support for voluntary euthanasia is overestimated and based on unscientific online polls that ask an uninformed public to respond to leading questions couched in euphemisms”, says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
“Hence, many people confuse “assisted dying” (a euphemism) with switching off life support, withdrawing or refusing treatment and ‘do-not-resuscitate’ orders. However, euthanasia actually involves a doctor administering lethal drugs by injection in a way similar to overseas executions. Assisted suicide involves a person swallowing lethal drugs prescribed by their doctor.”Many are ignorant of studies showing that up to 35% of doctor-assisted deaths involve complications such as uncontrolled vomiting, epileptic fits and delayed death. It is hardly 'death with dignity". Many don’t know that witnessing the assisted death of a loved one carries the same risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as Iraqi war veterans have.”
A common misconception is that euthanasia and assisted suicide are purely private matters. That is not so. Both require the involvement of another party to execute, hence are public matters. Legalising euthanasia means making it legal for one person to be involved in deliberately ending the life of another person. Calling it “mercy killing” can hide a multitude of motives, including elder abuse.
Many are unaware that uncontrolled pain is not the reason why people request euthanasia or assisted suicide. The actual reasons are existential, such as being less able to engage in enjoyable activities and fear of being a burden. A high proportion of requests are from depressed people. A UK study of the terminally ill showed that 98% of those wanting to die changed their minds after being treated for depression.
The unintended consequences of euthanasia legislation are unknown to many. Several depressed, but otherwise healthy, Belgians have been euthanised. Many naively believe that legal euthanasia can be regulated and that safeguards can prevent coercion and subtle pressure on vulnerable people to request death. It is not so.
Two 2010 studies on assisted deaths in Flanders, Belgium, show that only 53% of cases were reported and of these, less than three-quarters followed legal requirements. 32% of euthanasia deaths were without the patient’s request. In half of these, death was the wish of family. In 20% of cases improvement in the person’s medical condition was still possible. 92% of victims killed without consent were 65 years or older.
Dr Theo Boer, who initially supported euthanasia and reviewed about 4000 cases as a member of a Dutch Regional Euthanasia Commission, is now warning other countries not to make the mistake The Netherlands did in legalising euthanasia. Our parliamentarians would do well to heed his advice.