New Zealand: Street's euthanasia bill untimely and unclear

  Paul HutchisonWednesday 11 July 2012, 12:27PM

Media release from Paul Hutchison

It is concerning that Maryan Street said she took up the bill because 'she could not think of a reason not to'. Though she says the Bill is 'predominantly to do with terminal physical illness', part of the Bill refers to 'end of life directives' for those that suffer from an irreversible medical or mental condition that, in their view, renders their life unbearable. Including both medical and mental conditions could well lead to confusion.

Dr Hutchison says euthanasia and assisted suicide are complex areas where there are grey zones in law and in practice.  However, modern care and knowledge, along with significant advances in technology, provide huge help.

"In April 'Hospice New Zealand' has published a 'Quality Review Programme and Guide 2012' of standards for palliative care.  It describes the unique and interwoven roles of primary care services and specialist palliative care services to provide high quality palliative care and end of life care to all people in New Zealand.

"I vividly remember Peter Brown's private members bill which was narrowly lost in the Parliament in 2003.  Peter spoke passionately and sincerely regarding the awful time his late wife had during her terminal illness.  However, on talking to him, I couldn't help think that if he and his wife had received the skilled services that are available today, their suffering could well be far less."

Dr Hutchison says that deep concern has been raised regarding the euthanasia laws in the Netherlands and Belgium where required safeguards have allegedly not been adhered to, resulting in people being euthanized without proper informed consent.

"Like anything as definitive as capital punishment, it is always possible for errors to occur. At least Maryan Street admits this," says Dr Hutchison.

Labour MP Maryan Street's 'End of Life Choice Bill' is couched in terms that might be liberal and hopeful.  However, Dr Hutchison says her proposal could set New Zealand on a regressive path.  It could also deprive many New Zealanders and their families from taking advantage of the wonderful facilities, compassion and expertise that are available to them during a terminal illness, when the greatest human qualities so often shine through.

"In my view Maryan Street should withdraw her bill." says Dr Hutchison.