One in every 45 deaths in the Netherlands comes about through euthanasia. In New Zealand this would translate to 700 deaths per year.
The most accurate predictors of a persistent request for euthanasia are not related to physical pain but to depression accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and/or a sense of social isolation.
Understanding the issue
What is euthanasia?
An act which of itself and by intention causes the death of another person in order to eliminate their suffering. Medically assisted euthanasia (or Physician Assisted Euthanasia, PAE) refers to an act undertaken by a physician or other health professional.
What is assisted suicide?
This happens when a person commits suicide with assistance from others, often by self-administering a lethal substance that has been obtained with the assistance of a third party.
What is physician-assisted suicide?
Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) refers to a situation where a doctor prescribes or provides a lethal substance to a person which they can then take themselves at some later time when they decide to end their life.
Withholding or withdrawing treatment is not euthanasia
When a treatment is judged to be medically futile, or when the benefits of a particular treatment are deemed to be outweighed by the burdens for a particular person, it is a question of accepting the inevitability of death and allowing the person to return to their dying.
The New Zealand Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights allows for any person to refuse services and to withdraw consent to services.
People have a right to be free of pain
When a health professional administers medication with the sole intention of relieving a patient's pain, that action is morally acceptable even if it foreseeably shortens the patient's life. This is not an act of (slow) euthanasia as some claim.
End of Life Choice Bill - Key Facts
In October 2015, ACT Party Leader and MP David Seymour submitted his "End of Life Choice Bill" to the private members ballot, five months after the Seales vs. Attorney General high court case and only weeks after the submission of a petition from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society calling for an investigation into euthanasia and assisted suicide. Seymour's Bill was drawn from the ballot box on 8 June 2017 and currently awaits its first reading, which will occur sometime in the 52nd Parliament after the 2017 election on 23 September. Some key features of the bill are that it.
- provides for both physician-assisted euthanasia (PAE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS)
- places doctors at the centre of euthanasia and assisted suicide, contradicting the ethical stance of key medical groups such as the New Zealand Medical Association, Australia and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand, as well as the World Medical Association
- includes any competent persons aged 18 years suffering from "a grievous and irremediable medical condition; and... is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable..."
- allows for "unbearable suffering" to be self-defined
- does not require the person receive, or even have access to, appropriate medical, psychiatric or palliative care
- would make PAE or PAS available to a range of persons not actually dying
- does not oblige persons to talk to anyone other than the facilitating doctor
- would include intellectual and physical disability as well as mental illness and the increasing frailty of old age
- places responsibility for PAE/PAS on the shoulders of doctors but does not require the administering doctor to have any prior knowledge of the applicant as a patient
- allows for a lethal prescription for PAS to be provided 6 months or more before the person is likely to die, even though doctors cannot predict when death will occur with any degree of certainty even when it is imminent. Once a prescription for PAS is granted, all safeguards and monitoring cease. There is no way to monitor its use. It would be impossible to know if a person struggled or was coerced into taking the medication
- asks doctors to record on the death certificate the underlying illness or condition as the cause of death when in fact this would not be the case at all.
Read the bill (pdf)
Download "Quick Facts: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide" (pdf)