The Dangers of Euthanasia - key arguments
- The key issue is not compassion or morality – people on both sides of the debate want to prevent intolerable suffering. The key issue is the long-term consequences of a law change for public safety. This is an issue of social justice – protecting the vulnerable.
- Changing the law would send a message that the lives of some are not worth living – it will steer persons towards a premature death.
- Allowing PAE/PAS opens the door for the disabled, sick and elderly to see themselves as an excessive financial and emotional burden. The 'right to die' could very quickly become a 'duty to die'. No legislation can protect against this.
- Good clinical care aims to eliminate the pain, not kill the patient. The NZ Medical Association, the Society of Palliative Medical Physicians & Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand Society all oppose a law change.
- The fact that PAE and PAS are illegal means maximum efforts are made to relieve pain and address all aspects of a person's suffering. Will this still occur if the law is changed?
- We should not ask doctors, who have a duty of care, to be involved in killing their patients.
- When seriously ill patients receive good palliative care they rarely want to end their lives.
- It is neither possible nor rational to limit PAE or PAS to particular groups of people or specific conditions. There would be the same erosion of boundaries here in New Zealand as has occurred overseas.
- Legalising voluntary PAE/PAS paves the way for euthanasia without request or consent.
- The legalising of PAE and PAS, especially for irreversible and unbearable mental conditions, accepts that 'some suicides are okay'. This risks sending a 'mixed message' regarding the tragedy of youth suicide and creates a confusing double standard.
- Suicidal thoughts are usually associated with depression. Research shows that when depression is properly treated, most people change their minds about wanting to die.
- Many assume that changing the law will simply allow the very small number of high-profile cases to proceed without legal objection. In fact, 'legalisation leads to normalisation' and, as has happened overseas, will lead to greatly increased numbers dying that way.
- Abuse of the disabled and elderly is a serious issue in our country. Legalising euthanasia puts the elderly at further risk, especially in a society where the numbers of elderly are growing and there is increasing pressure on the health budget.
- New Zealand abolished the death penalty in large part because of the danger of executing even one innocent person. Legalising PAE/PAS will inevitably lead to some people being killed ‘when they don’t want to die’.
- These days no-one need die in pain. Persistent requests for euthanasia are mostly related not to unrelieved pain but to a desire to be in control, a fear of being a burden or the experience of social isolation. Euthanasia is not the right or best response to these issues.
- Changing the law would create a legal situation in which the state licenses death in advance and sanctions the death of certain of its citizens.
- Legalising PAE/PAS undermines the long-standing convention against killing persons.
- The law already has the ability to show compassion to people who, in a state of anguish find themselves involved in assisting a suicide.
- Changing the law will not mean an end to such cases going to court as it could still be difficult to distinguish between an assisted suicide and a murder.
- Granting a very small and vocal minority the choice to be killed will undermine the choice and/or will of many others to live.
Call to Action – What you can do
- Find out as much as possible about the issue.
- Talk about euthanasia with your family and friends.
- Discuss the issue in the workplace and in other groups you are involved in.
- Write a personalised letter to your local Member of Parliament using your own words and selecting 3 or 4 arguments. Avoid the use of form letters.
- Visit your Member of Parliament to express your view – stick to the issue and do not mix it up with other issues.
How to write to your MP:
- Make sure you have the MP’s name and title correct and address him/her accordingly (Titles of MPs are available on the parliamentary website)
(See:Members of Parliament)
- Introduce your topic: Re: …………. so the recipient knows what you are writing about.
- Introduce yourself and your interest in the topic.
- Avoid religious or moralistic language. Be factual.
- Make your points as succinctly as possible – keep to one page or less.
- If you are quoting from documents or Bills etc., include references
- Be polite – even if you feel very strongly on the issue. Abuse is not acceptable.
- Sign the letter.
- You are able to write to any MP free of charge at:
Private Bag 18-888
Ethics and Euthanasia - A Debate that Never Dies
Baroness the Professor Ilora Finlay being interviewed by Kim Hill