Warkworth GP and New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) chair Dr Kate Baddock has reiterated the NZMA’s strong condemnation of the End of Life Choice Bill, even as it passed its second reading in Parliament last week.
The private member’s bill, introduced by ACT MP David Seymour, aims to give people with a terminal illness or a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition the option to seek assistance to die.
But Dr Baddock says the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient’s request, is unethical.
She adds that the NZMA position is not dependent on euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide remaining unlawful. Even if they were to become decriminalised, the NZMA would continue to regard them as unethical.
Asked why the NZMA holds such a strong view, Dr Baddock referred to its submission to the Justice Select Committee last year.
Among the points made in the submission were that it would be impossible for any law to ensure that a patient who decides to die was free from any improper pressure to do so.
“Subtle emotional coercion from relatives might be present but not identified, and self-imposed pressure may also be a factor if the individual feels euthanasia is something they ought to consider rather than becoming a burden on family and others,” the submission said.
The submission added that a 2014 report on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act found that 40 per cent of patients choosing to die cited concerns about being a burden as part of the reason they wanted to end their life.
Dr Baddock says these kinds of pressures would result in wrongful deaths if the End of Life Choice Bill were to become law.
“Any law must safeguard the vulnerable, which includes the weak, the elderly – who feel they are or could be a burden – and those subject to elder abuse,” she says.
Despite the opposition to euthanasia, Dr Baddock says the NZMA encourages the concept of “death with dignity and comfort” and supports the right of patients to decline treatment, request pain relief, and supports access to palliative care.
Dr Baddock adds that the provision of pain relief, even though it may hasten the death of the patient, is not unethical, as the intent is not to shorten life but to relieve suffering.
Mahurangi-based MPs comment on the End of Life Choice Bill …
Marja Lubeck (Labour list)
I do not support the bill in its current form, but will vote for it to go through to the committee stage so that more debate can take place and amendments can be made. Research has shown that knowledge of having access to assisted dying can be a comfort, knowing that the option is available if the suffering and pain would become intolerable; but this does not necessarily mean the person will chose to use this option.
Mark Mitchell (National MP for Rodney)
I do not support the End of Life Choice Bill in its current form and I agree with the NZMA that the bill poses a threat to vulnerable people who may feel pressured to end
Jenny Marcroft (NZ First list)
New Zealand First supported the End of Life Choice Bill through its first reading on the provision that mechanisms for a binding referendum are added to the bill. We do not believe that this decision should be made by 120 temporarily elected officials, but should be a decision made by the public.