The euthanasia debate was brought into sharp focus again yesterday as a panel of some of New Zealand’s leading palliative care specialists shared their concerns about the End of Life Choice Bill.
A “bad and dangerous idea” is what some of the clinical specialists are calling the proposed legislation.
The panel included Mary Schumacher, chief executive of Hospice New Zealand; Jacqui Bowden-Tucker, chair of Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand (PCNNZ); and Dr Salina Iupati, president of the Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) Aotearoa Branch.
The specialists said that while they understand the desire for individual autonomy and choice around euthanasia, no legislative safeguards can protect against wrongful deaths of vulnerable people – and they don’t want any involvement.
Hospice New Zealand takes the stance that the more we talk about death and dying in New Zealand, the more we will be able to appropriately support people through end of life, and to make good decisions about policies, services and support for dying people and their families.
ANZSPM takes a similar view. It opposes the Bill and instead advocates for health reform programmes to strengthen end of life care by remedying shortages in the palliative care workforce, ensuring improved access to appropriate facilities and emphasising the role of advance care plans and directives.
In a statement, PCNNZ said it suggests “more open and direct dialogue between supporters and opponents of euthanasia and assisted dying be encouraged, to enable any short comings to be identified and addressed”.
All three organisations have submitted against the End of Life Choice Bill that would allow New Zealanders 18 and older who suffer from a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months, or a grievous and untreatable medical condition, to choose an assisted death. A person choosing euthanasia would have to undergo an assessment by two doctors and potentially a psychiatrist or psychologist.