Euthanasia law would be open to abuse

24 July 2012 

“The legalising of euthanasia would open up new pathways of abuse for many elderly and otherwise vulnerable people” says Director of The Nathaniel Centre and bioethics researcher John Kleinsman.

His comments were made in response to MP Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill being put into the Ballot.

Ms Street has publicly admitted her Bill, like any other law, would be open to abuse and that no law can effectively prevent abuses. “The key question we must all think about is whether such a law can be safely implemented. There is ample evidence abroad to suggest that it cannot be. The current law is the most effective protection we have against such abuse,” says Mr Kleinsman.

“It is the role of lawmakers in a democratic society to ensure that the interests of the majority are not prejudiced by choices granted to a few.”

“The irony is that such a Bill, while being promoted as extending choices at the end of life, would take away the choice and right of many people to live. It is not just a matter of leaving a space in our society for those who are sick, disabled and frail – they need to know they are welcomed and valued. If euthanasia is legalised many people will come to question their existence – seeing themselves as a burden and a drain. Indeed, the desire to continue living may come to be seen as a ‘selfish’ decision.

“We would be asking those most vulnerable to justify their existence. This is not free choice but a subtle and powerful form of coercion. The right to die will too easily become a duty to die.

Mr Kleinsman also challenged the idea that the debate is about alleviating pain.

“Today more than any other time in our history, with all of the medical advances in treatment, medication and knowledge there is no justification for such dangerous legislation on the basis of pain relief. Ms Street’s comments on the Bill show her clear intention is that the so-called right to die be available not just for those with terminal illness with limited time to live but also for those with other irrecoverable conditions. This takes us into very subjective and dangerous territory. Where will it stop? This is another reason that New Zealanders must question the need for this legislation.

The Bill and its contents have now been made public and The Nathaniel Centre will be looking more closely at the proposals in due course.