It's pretty much just a matter of time until aid in dying (or, "voluntary euthanasia", if you're wanting to scare the children) law reform arrives in New Zealand. A couple more signposts for that journey were erected in the last few weeks.

It appears that the Health Select Committee's inquiry into Maryan Street's petition, which itself called for Parliament to "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", has attracted a record number of submissions. A figure of over 22,000 has been mooted.

That fact doesn't particularly surprise me. After all, voices on both sides of what should be called the "aid in dying" debate were active in urging participation in the process. And the issue is one that excites passions on either side - indeed, it may mark as fundamental a matter of moral disagreement as there is.

Furthermore, it's an issue that continues to bubble away even as the Committee slowly churns away with its inquiry. On this weekend's The Nation, Australian campaigner Andrew Denton and the Care Alliance's Matthew Jansen conducted a neither very illuminating nor respectful discussion of the topic. It's a shame that the opportunity descended into little more than sloganeering and accusations of mendacity.

Nevertheless, while the precise timetable and details of the issue's journey are as-yet unknown, I think its final destination is clear. As five Australian medical law academics recently noted at the conclusion of their review of the various (so far unsuccessful) attempts to introduce aid in dying laws in that country:

The authors predict that [aid in dying] law reform is likely to occur in Australia. There is a convergence of factors that make this issue increasingly difficult for politicians to ignore: high and sustained public support for reform in Australia; an ageing and increasingly informed population seeking choices for their end-of-life experience; the changing legal landscape internationally; and the media’s interest in the topic and, particularly for social media, its agitation for change.

In my opinion, you can substitute "New Zealand" into that prediction without any resulting loss of accuracy. As with same-sex marriage or marijuana decriminalisation/legalisation, aid in dying simply is a policy that better fits existing societal beliefs and expectations than does the status quo position.

A couple of recent developments buttress that claim. First, earlier this month the Victorian Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee tabled an extensive report on on its inquiry into end of life choices. This report proceeded the way that NZ's Health Committee really should have done - it first examined how the State's palliative care services are operating and what should be done to better improve this, before then turning to look at the issue of aid in dying. With regards that latter matter, the Committee concluded that:

Assisted dying should be made available to adults with decision making capacity who are at the end of life and suffering from a serious and incurable condition, which is causing enduring and unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner they deem tolerable.

Suffering as a result of mental illness only does not satisfy the eligibility criteria.

Assisted dying should be provided in the form of a doctor prescribing a lethal drug which a person may then take themselves, or in the case of a person being physically unable to take the drug themselves, the doctor administering the drug.

The request to access assisted dying must be completely voluntary, properly informed, and satisfy the verbal request, formal written request, repeat verbal request procedure described [in the report].

There's a bunch of reasons why we should care what this Committee thinks. First up, it represents the conclusions of a group of MPs from a society that is (like it or not) pretty similar to our own. What is more, the report represents a cross-party near-consensus on the issue. The Committee consisted of three Labor MPs, three Liberal MPs  and one representative each from the Sex Party (yes - really!) and the Greens. Of these eight members, only one (from the Liberal Party) dissented from the recommendation.

[Update: Thanks to Matthew Jansen in comments for pointing out a rather significant mistake on my part - there were actually two separate minority reports, one from a Liberal and one from a Labor Party member. My apologies for misleading.]

So you can't just dismiss this report as the ideologically driven predetermined views of [insert whatever side of the political spectrum you disagree with].

Second, the conclusions reflected some quite intensive study of the topic at hand. Not only did the Committee avail itself of the literature on the issue and hear from 100 witnesses – including medical specialists, legal experts, and terminally ill people and their families – but it spent 13 days in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada and the US meeting with people involved in the aid in dying issue there and studying first hand what actually is happening in those places. As a consequence, the Committee majority felt able to dismiss some of the more commonly made claims about what happens when aid in dying is made available: it doesn't inevitably create a "slippery slope", it doesn't lead to the vulnerable or disadvantaged being pressured into death, it doesn't increase suicide rates, etc.

Finally, these are politicians grasping the nettle and calling on Parliament to act. That matters because it appears to me that aid in dying is the sort of issue that representative democracy struggles with. It enjoys (so opinion polls say) wide but (I suspect) fairly shallow support - by which I mean that most of those who favour it don't regard it as that high priority a matter. On the other side is narrow but much deeper opposition from those who appear genuinely to believe the issue is an existential threat to society/the medical profession/etc, etc. The forces produced by that divide are very hard for elected representatives to navigate, which is why most of them really, really don't like having to confront the matter. (Honourable mention here to David Seymour for his "End of Life Choice Bill", of course.) So for Victoria's MEP's to do is, I think, an important marker of where the debate is going.

Whether the Victorian Committee's report actually then translates into legislative change in that State is something we'll now just have to wait and see. But the other development I want to mention does involve actual legislative provision for aid in dying: Canada. Just last week this nation's Parliament voted into law a regime to allow access to aid in dying for (again) terminally ill individuals who have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability; are in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and who are suffering intolerably.

The background to that legislation and what it says is an interesting story in itself. I've written a bit on it here, while there's been some fascinating back-and-forth between Canada's (elected) House of Representatives and its (appointed) Senate since then. But once again its relevance for New Zealand ought to be clear. Canada is a lot like here, and Canadians are a lot like us. In fact, switch hockey for rugby, pine forest for bush, throw in some bears and moose and you've pretty much turned NZ into British Columbia (complete with insanely overvalued housing in its main city).

So now that Canada has brought in a regime of legalised aid in dying, we've got a near perfect comparator for us as a nation to see if the claimed negative consequences of the practice eventuate. Will Canada's introduction of aid in dying somehow harm the practice of medicine (or, at least, the practice of medicine in end-of-life situations)? Will it lead to elderly/depressed/disabled people being pushed by relatives or money-saving governments to end their lives? Will the suicide rate, especially for young people, trend upwards because of "mixed messages" about the practice? Etc, etc?

Or, will nothing in particular happen except that some relatively small number of individuals who are suffering a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability; are in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and who are suffering intolerably as their foreseeable death approaches are able to gain a quicker and more merciful release than having to rely on the vagaries of nature? And if that is the case, then isn't that a pretty good signal that we here in New Zealand should extend the same sort of mercy?

Comments (28)

by Rex Ahdar on June 20, 2016
Rex Ahdar

A well-written, persuasive and thoughtful piece (as always), Andrew. Assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia—more accurate terms, I suggest, than the euphemistic 'aid in dying' (that could refer to watching Arsenal FC play)—are difficult subjects. I am, as you know, dead against it.

To the trio of questions you pose, viz

Will Canada's introduction of aid in dying somehow harm the practice of medicine (or, at least, the practice of medicine in end-of-life situations)? Will it lead to elderly/depressed/disabled people being pushed by relatives or money-saving governments to end their lives? Will the suicide rate, especially for young people, trend upwards because of "mixed messages" about the practice? 

...my response is Yes (definitely and sadly), Yes (in some instances) and Yes (a bit more hesitantly). The strongest source of pressure will be self-imposed pressure: the terminally ill will feel they ought to 'do the right thing' and end it all. No statutory safeguards can avert that. I have written a long article on this to appear in the NZ Law Review shortly and it is posted on SSRN already

(Finally, bugger me if you picked my favourite Bob Dylan song (and the title of my Inaugural Professorial Lecture) for this cause! The 'Slow Train' is a metaphor for ....)

by Andrew Geddis on June 20, 2016
Andrew Geddis

Assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia—more accurate terms, I suggest, than the euphemistic 'aid in dying' (that could refer to watching Arsenal FC play)—are difficult subjects.

Of course, any label is a form of advocacy ... the "accuracy" of the chosen term is not purely factual or even conventional, but rather reflects a normative precommitment.

Finally, bugger me if you picked my favourite Bob Dylan song (and the title of my Inaugural Professorial Lecture) for this cause! The 'Slow Train' is a metaphor for ....

I think Dylan uses it as a metaphor for a number of things in the song. One is, of course, the second coming of Christ (given that it was written in Dylan's "Christian period"). But as the never-wrong Wikipedia tells us, "Targets of Dylan's outrage include himself, his friends, OPEC, false leaders, injustice, greed, poverty, conformity and hypocrisy, including religious hypocrisy."

by Graham Adams on June 20, 2016
Graham Adams

Rex, How do you know that "The strongest source of pressure will be self-imposed pressure: the terminally ill will feel they ought to 'do the right thing' and end it all"? As evidence builds from jurisdictions around the world with assisted dying laws, it's clear that the bogeymen raised by opponents haven't actually materialised. But still they keep on saying: "Ooooh, just you wait...terrible things will happen!" No amount of evidence seems to make any impression on those opposed, even now when introducing assisted dying laws is clearly no longer a speculative venture. And the fact remains that real harms are occurring right now to people dying slow, painful deaths. It's perverse to not allow them relief because of what might happen according to opponents' imaginings.

by Phil Stewart on June 20, 2016
Phil Stewart

It was disappointing to hear Andrew Little waving the white flag on this issue today, mumbling something about it not being a priority. Both main parties are pretty gutless on assisted dying and that troublesome other issue - abortion. Only the Greens and Young Labour have had the bottle to stand up and demand that it (abortion) be decriminalised.

by Nick Gibbs on June 20, 2016
Nick Gibbs

@Graham,

"As evidence builds from jurisdictions around the world with assisted dying laws, it's clear that the bogeymen raised by opponents haven't actually materialised. But still they keep on saying: "Ooooh, just you wait...terrible things will happen!" No amount of evidence seems to make any impression on those opposed"

Belgium has allowed the depressed to apply for euthanasia. I think this counts as a slide down a slippery slope many opponents warn about.

by Andrew Geddis on June 20, 2016
Andrew Geddis

@Nick,

Belgium's Parliament deliberately chose to adopt extremely broad criteria to govern aid in dying (which it has then broadened even further since, by allowing children to request and receive aid in dying). Other places (such as the various US States allowing the practice) haven't - they require physical conditions and a prognosis of imminent death to qualify. And both Canada and the Victorian Committee think that the narrower criteria are more appropriate for their societies - in Canada's case, over the top of what its Supreme Court appeared to say.

So if there is a "slope", it just doesn't seem to be a very slippery one. Rather, as a society we can choose what kind of situations we think people ought to be able to access aid in dying - with different societies making different decisions on that matter (as you would expect, given the variety of different possible approaches there are to it). So why would we choose Belgium as the possible future for aid in dying in NZ rather than (say) Oregon or Washington States?

[On the issue of choice of comparisons ... let's imagine that NZ were debating whether or not to allow employment contracts to be a part of our law (because somehow NZ had managed to avoid having market arrangements for labour until now). Then imagine that the argument against this was based on examples of abuses in places like the United Arab Emirates or Kuwait, with the claim that if we permit private employment agreements here then we'll be on a slippery slope to that sort of future. How strong an argument against allowing employment contracts is that?]

Finally, the whole issue of "slippery slope" claims in general is very interesting. It can mean two things. One is that it is simply impossible to create criteria that won't become laxer/looser in the future - the initial decision to allow aid in dying must inevitably and without fail lead to depressed people being permitted to access it, etc. But that claim seems belied by the US example (stable and narrow criteria have been in place for a generation in Oregon) and also other areas of law (we legally banned the hunting of marine mammals in 1978, yet deer and pig hunters can still do so today). The second meaning is that, in essence, we don't trust future NZers to be able to properly decide who should be able to receive aid in dying - that at some future point NZers will lose their minds and change the law to permit aid in dying to be applied to folks that we, now, think inappropriate. That strikes me as an overly pessimistic conclusion (as well as somewhat egocentric one - do we think that we today possess an absolute moral advantage that our future progeny cannot hope to match?)

by Nick Gibbs on June 20, 2016
Nick Gibbs

Very true. I know the Netherlands has also chosen a separate path to Belgium. However Belgium offers a  cautionary tale  to the "nothing bad will happen" mindset.

(Thank you for tidying the link.)

 

by Andrew Geddis on June 20, 2016
Andrew Geddis

However Belgium offers a  cautionary tale  to the "nothing bad will happen" mindset.

I think Belgium offers an example of what might follow if we chose to permit aid in dying with very broadly framed and vague criteria as to who may qualify to access it. I we don't, then it doesn't tell us very much at all.

by Graham Adams on June 20, 2016
Graham Adams

@Nick

"I know the Netherlands has also chosen a separate path to Belgium. However Belgium offers a  cautionary tale  to the "nothing bad will happen" mindset."

This assumes New Zealanders can't set their own (limited) criteria and stick to them (as Andrew points out Oregon has done). 

 

by Rex Ahdar on June 20, 2016
Rex Ahdar

To Andrew:

Is any label a form of advocacy? Hardly, or at best, an exaggeration. We are assisting someone to kill themselves. To kill oneself is to commit suicide in ordinary English parlance.

To Graham:

I do not KNOW that self-imposed pressure will be a serious prospect. But I can strongly surmise or predict it will, based on my appreciation of human nature and elemental psychology.

The bogeymen raised by opponents have not materialised. Really? Your reading of the empirical evidence on what has happened in the Low Countries and Oregon is different than mine.

...the fact remains that real harms are occurring right now to people dying slow, painful deaths

You must not have heard of palliative care or hospices. A tiny number can not get relief from intractable symptoms, and even then there is palliative sedation.


by Andrew Geddis on June 20, 2016
Andrew Geddis

We are assisting someone to kill themselves. To kill oneself is to commit suicide in ordinary English parlance.

A soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades? A Jehovah's witness who refuses a life-saving blood transfusion? A prisoner who undertakes a hunger strike to the death in protest an injustice? The son of God allowing himself to be placed on the cross?

There's good reason to differentiate between aid in dying and the sorts of self-inflicted deaths which we "in ordinary English parlance" call suicides. To choose not to do so is a form of advocacy.

by Rex Ahdar on June 21, 2016
Rex Ahdar

To Andrew

'The general consensus is that “aid in dying” is more accurate, sensitive, and consistent with the professional literature in the field. “Aid in dying” is the better descriptive term, and it avoids presuming any sets of values. . . .For the most part, the only individuals and organizations continuing to refer to the practice using the word “suicide” are those who, for political, religious or philosophical reasons, advocate against it. In short, “assisted suicide” now is a pejorative term used primarily by those who believe it to be morally wrong'.BRIEF OF AMICUS NEW MEXICO PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION (Brandberg case)(underlining added)

So, 'aid in dying' is neutral and 'avoids presuming any sets of values'? Orwellian poppycock. The 'general consensus'? Within one's on self-referential group perhaps.

They are correct that suicide has a pejorative connotation, for the entire history of Western ethics until very recently (Judaeo-Christian in orientation to be sure) is rightly against it.

"A soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades? A Jehovah's witness who refuses a life-saving blood transfusion? A prisoner who undertakes a hunger strike to the death in protest an injustice? The son of God allowing himself to be placed on the cross?"

To take briefly these in order: (1) Not suicide, but heroic sacrifice to save the life of another. Suicide saves no one else's lie and is a selfish act; (2) To refuse life preserving medical treatment is a common law right and is not suicide. It is not intentionally and immediately ending your own life, but letting the underlying condition take its course; (3) Mmm not so sure about this one; (4) The Son of God did not, according to orthodoxy (small O) theology, take his own life. He was executed by the Roman authorities.("He was killed under Pontius Pilate", Nicene Creed, not "He topped himself under Pontius Pilate"). He willingly allowed himself to be seized in obedience to the Father and in accordance with the Scriptures. It was the eternal cosmic and final substitutionary Sacrifice to end all others.

by Simon Connell on June 21, 2016
Simon Connell

One construction of the slippery slope argument goes something like this:

  • Regardless of the precise narrow conditions chosen at the outset, the introduction of assisted dying constitutes the acceptance of an underlying principled position X.
  • Full recognition of principled position X is incompatible with the initial narrow limits on assisted dying.
  • Over time, we can therefore expect expansion of assisted dying beyond its initial narrow limits.

This isn't a really a legal argument - appeal to an underlying principle might help with interpreting the boundaries of prescribed narrow limits but doesn't provide a basis for disregarding them entirely. It's more of an argument about how law and societal values change.

One could argue that New Zealand's experience with civil unions and marriage equality reflects this kind of progression - that the passing of civil unions was reflective of a principled position about equality between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships that was actually incompatible with allowing civil unions but not marriages for same-sex couples. Thus, a few years down the track we get same-sex marriages.  On the other hand, our experience with abortion shows that making changes to the law doesn't always lead to liberalisation shortly afterwards. So if you are against assisted dying then you might want to try and win the principled argument and never let assisted dying get off the ground in the first place (setting aside that the status quo is actually a bit more complicated), because if you lose the principled argument you might foresee an expansion.

This "slippery slope" argument is useful insofar as it demonstrates that we need to be having a discussion about underlying principles as well as prescribed limits. If particular limits are set based on taking an initially conservative approach rather than because of a direct connection to a principled justification, we do have reason to think that they might be expanded over time. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on which view one takes about the underlying principle.

So, one response to the characterisation of Belgium and assisted dying for depression could be that it isn't actually a slippery slope at all. If one's principled basis for assisted dying is something like that people should be able to have the choice to end their lives to end ongoing suffering that is not likely to abate, then there is not necessarily an obvious reason to limit assisted dying to physical conditions. The presentation of assisted dying for mental anguish as a slippery slope could be rejected on the basis that it is premised upon a position that physical conditions are somehow more real or categorically worse than mental conditions.

by Ian MacKay on June 21, 2016
Ian MacKay

Dementia is feared by many elderly people more than dying from cancer. Sadly Dementia would probably not make it on the list of acceptable causes. And yet it must be the worst form for a family to steadily lose all sight of the person who was. Of course by the time that dementia had really taken its course the "victim" would no longer be able to express a wish to end it all. Perhaps a statement duly witnessed and signed early on would count? Nah. Slippery slope.

by Andrew Geddis on June 21, 2016
Andrew Geddis

@Rex,

So, 'aid in dying' is neutral and 'avoids presuming any sets of values'? Orwellian poppycock. The 'general consensus'? Within one's on self-referential group perhaps.

As I said, "any label is a form of advocacy ... the 'accuracy' of the chosen term is not purely factual or even conventional, but rather reflects a normative precommitment." That observation cuts both ways! 

As for deciding what is and what isn't "suicide", note the number of qualifiers you've had to add to your initial claim that "To kill oneself is to commit suicide ... ". Not when you are saving others! Not when it's by an omission! Not when it's to make a political/social point (maybe?)! Not when you forbear to exercise your divine powers and allow mere mortals to kill you! So we'll just add another exemption - not when you are hastening an inevitable death in order to avoid physical/emotional suffering. And hey presto ... problem solved!

 

by Joe Wylie on June 21, 2016
Joe Wylie

An excellent and very humane medical perspective on dealing with impending death in the real world: Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

by Graham Adams on June 21, 2016
Graham Adams

To Rex: 

“They are correct that suicide has a pejorative connotation, for the entire history of Western ethics until very recently (Judaeo-Christian in orientation to be sure) is rightly against it.”  

I fear your grip on the history of Christianity and Western ethics is a little shaky. Until around the third century, Christianity was a cult of martyrdom, following Jesus’ example of allowing himself to be executed. “Dying for the faith guaranteed immediate passage to heaven, where martyrs sit on a throne next to God himself,” as an article on Slate puts it. There’s a fine line between martyrdom and suicide; to a fundamentalist Islamist today, dying for the faith is an act of martyrdom; we call them “suicide bombers”. Personally, I see Jesus as the world’s most famous suicide, since he went knowingly and willingly to his death, which was his entire purpose on Earth.

Also the Stoics of Ancient Greece believed “a man may end his life because his body is troubled by incurable diseases and unfit to minister to the soul”.

Attitudes to suicide have, in fact, changed radically over the history of Western ethics; I believe now we are in the odd position where suicide is the one act that is legal but which it is also illegal to help or encourage. Swiss law has the eminently sensible and compassionate position that assisting suicide is legal as long as it is not motivated by selfish motives.

by Matthew Jansen on June 22, 2016
Matthew Jansen

Andrew

One small correction to your original article, and a couple of comments.

The correction: there were two minority reports in Victoria, by Inga Peulich (Liberal Party) and Daniel Mulino (Labor Party). I recommend Mr Mulino's report as a closely argued, evidence-based refutation of the majority report.

The comments: I agree with you that New Zealand can learn a lot about euthanasia and assisted suicide from those jurisdictions where it has been legalised in one form or another. And, unfortunately as you note, we will now have Canada as a comparator. (And don't get me started on how bad the Supreme Court Carter decision was.)

The problem is that no jurisdiction has reached "peak death" even after nearly 20 years: the number of deaths just keeps climbing year on year, with no plateau in sight. How long do you need to run this experiment before you're satisfied about all its effects?

Frankly, I've seen enough already to say that it can't be trusted. One of the things I find scariest is that nobody ever gets prosecuted in the Netherlands or Belgium or Oregon for not following even the minimal legal procedures. That means that either everything is perfect (now there's an hallelujah moment in human history), or that the authorities are not looking, or they're just waving things through.

Final comment: I'm not commenting on Bob Dylan's albums. There are some controversies best avoided.

by Andrew Geddis on June 22, 2016
Andrew Geddis

@Matthew,

My apologies - I missed the Mulino report. Will amend the post to reflect.

But as for "the number of deaths just keeps climbing year on year, with no plateau in sight", I'm not sure why this is a perceived problem. Let's imagine the extraordinarily unlikely world in which every single competent individual faced with a debilitating and irreversible medical condition that causes them suffering freely chooses to accept aid in dying rather than other potential treatment/palliative options (while stipulating that such treatment/palliative options are easily and freely available). This is bad ... why?

 

by Matthew Jansen on June 22, 2016
Matthew Jansen

@Andrew

(The Mulino report did not have a separate title or heading, which made it much more difficult to know what you were reading. Not great information design.)

There's a lot to unpack in this - and it's one of the challenges in this issue, because every sentence seems to carry such weight. But I'll keep this to just one reason why such an outcome would be bad:

because that is not what Mr Seymour is telling other MPs and the public his bill is meant to do. The explanatory note says "a small but significant number".

That's how it is being sold to the public and other MPs. That's how it was sold in other jurisdictions. But the practise is turning out to be quite different. 

 

by Stewart Hawkins on June 22, 2016
Stewart Hawkins

I like the way it is suggested that with euthanasia available the terminally ill will "do the right thing". Enough said perhaps? I took a straw poll last week of 15 medical and paramedical professionals - 14 agreed with euthanasia in various undefined circumstances, one was totally against. Just let it be known that New Zealand medical services stand ready to heed the clarion call of society, should the politicians represent the people and decriminalise and define appropriate circumstances. I don't have any qualms about chronic adult depression being a valid reason to apply for euthanasia either. Some of these patients are absolutely, painfully, intractably not wanting to live just as much as physically ill patients may also find themselves in such a dreadful situation.

by Ross on June 22, 2016
Ross

No doubt Rex would do the decent thing and put down his dog - if he owned one - if it was in regular pain and had no chance of recovery. I know I would. It would be cruel to do anything else.

by Ross on June 22, 2016
Ross

You must not have heard of palliative care or hospices.

That sounds suspiciously like you are telling others what they should do. That's incredibly arrogant. How would you feel if others told you what to do? You're the best person to make decisions that affect you. You're not the best person to tell others how to live their lives.

by Graham Adams on June 22, 2016
Graham Adams

@ Matthew 

I don’t think the public needs a lot of “selling” by David Seymour or anyone else to be convinced. A majority bought the idea that assisted dying is a good idea a long time ago and have continued to support it. It’s politicians and campaigners like you who are standing in the way of what a majority of New Zealanders want, for the terminally ill at least. It’s pretty obvious that you’re fighting a rearguard action in a battle you will lose, sooner or later — as Andrew’s article makes clear.

 

by Ross on June 22, 2016
Ross

It’s pretty obvious that you’re fighting a rearguard action in a battle you will lose, sooner or later

I agree. Opposition to dying with dignity is like opposition to gay marriage which was inevitably going to happen and did. If one man and his dog wanted change, then it wouldn't happen. Clearly, there is a lot of support for change, including from the medical community. At the moment, some doctors give patients drugs which hasten their death.

http://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/news/2015/july-2015/24/survey-sparks-renewed-debate-over-gps'-role--in-assisted-dying.aspx

 

by Graham Adams on June 22, 2016
Graham Adams

The interesting thing in a democracy is how a vociferous minority opposed to assisted dying can frustrate the will of the people for so long — and how politicians are obviously so frightened of the opponents, even when they know how regularly and reliably opinion polls give a majority to law reform. And even a poll-driven politician like John Key won’t take them on. Strange…

by Jude on June 25, 2016
Jude

I strongly disagree that it is only a 'vociferous minority' or only a handful of noisy, conservatives jumping up and down about this for purely religious reasons. It isn't. Without relitigating the constructive debate I had with Andrew and Graham in this post, it is significant to me that the World Medical Association, NZMA, the NZ Health Professionals Alliance, the Australia and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine and Hospice New Zealand (amongst others) all oppose physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as something contrary to the core of their profession.

I also disagree that assisted PAS is a slow train inexorably coming round the bend in New Zealand. Canada is a comparable jurisdiction to NZ for these purposes, but so is Scotland, who just last year rejected proposed PAS legislation.


by Ross on June 25, 2016
Ross

it is significant to me that the World Medical Association, NZMA, the NZ Health Professionals Alliance, the Australia and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine and Hospice New Zealand (amongst others) all oppose physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as something contrary to the core of their profession

While at the same time doctors and nurses give drugs to hasten a patient's death.

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