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The euthanasia debate

Written By: - Date published: 3:15 pm, July 21st, 2010 - 21 comments
Categories: death with dignity, Social issues - Tags: ,

I dread debates on topics such as abortion and euthanasia. They tend to come down to deeply held personal beliefs that can never be changed. None the less, Doctor John Pollock has very publicly raised the topic of euthanasia, and I think that it’s an issue that we do need to move forward on as a country, so here we go. The Herald reports:

Dying GP’s plea for euthanasia

A terminally-ill Auckland doctor writes to New Zealand Doctor magazine arguing for the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand.

Over the years our vet has put down several of our ailing, elderly pets, the latest a week ago. A contented, serene animal, surrounded by the people who have loved it for years, passed from life to death in a peaceful, painless minute. I have metastatic melanoma – how I wish that service was available to me.

If I was a citizen of Holland or Belgium or a couple of American states it would be. In NZ a doctor who performed such a merciful service would risk prison. The law insists we must provide only ameliorative help while patients may reach the most appallingly wretched states, sometimes akin to those who died of starvation in Nazi concentration camps. Ironically if we allowed a cat or a dog or a horse to reach such a condition we would be breaking the law and risking a prison sentence. …

My cancer may kill me in a variety of ways, some very unpleasant and drawn-out. There are several scenarios which I would find intolerable and should be able to opt out of but for our old-fashioned, ill-thought-out, cruel laws which force me to suffer to the end or kill myself.

There is no doubt voluntary euthanasia will come to NZ but it needs some determined lobbying for it to be sooner rather than later. I know of no recent NZ surveys but a couple done in Britain and USA suggest about 75 per cent of the population would approve.

There are a number of prevalent arguments against it – none, in my view, reason to withhold what should, and will be, a basic human right …

If you agree I would urge you to write to your local MP and to the NZMA. Both will need a lot of pushing to act.

John Pollock MB,
ChB, MRCP[UK],
FRNZCGP

Thank you Doctor Pollock for this courageous and well considered contribution to the euthanasia debate. The full letter is long, and thoughtful, and it deals with the arguments against euthanasia – you should go read the whole thing at The Herald or at New Zealand Doctor linked above. See also the NZ Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

Like many readers here, perhaps, I have personal experiences and risk factors which shape my opinions on euthanasia, but even without those I think that the objective and rational position is clear. I think that as a country our current legal position on euthanasia is wrong. Let’s move the debate forward, and let’s give we the people back the right to make the ultimate personal decision for ourselves.

21 comments on “The euthanasia debate ”

  1. wyndham 1

    The link to N. Z. Doctor produces a MALWARE warning on my P.C. Have the anti-euthanasia brigade been at work ?

    Should you pass this on ?

    • r0b 1.1

      You’d be in the best position to do that wyndham, you could send details of your anti-virus product and the exact message it produces.

      • wyndham 1.1.1

        Sorry, I’m not that well up in all this hi-tech stuff but the message I get from Avira Antivirus Personal is:

        Contains suspicious code HEUR / HTML Malware

        and, yes I’m still getting it along with the warning bells. !

        Hope this helps.

    • BLiP 1.2

      I’m running a paid-for and recently updated AVG – no alarm bells for me.

  2. kriswgtn 2

    Having watched my mom die of cancer in 2006 and suffer in her last months in a horrible way,she just wanted to go and I agree with her

    The hospice did their best re pain relief but still

    Noone should have to watch a loved one go through what my family witnessed and its time to grow up re this issue and let people have the choice.

  3. prism 3

    There are people actively thinking about their time of dying in New Zealand right now. There are groups – I think the Euthanasia Society, then is it Death with Dignity and Exit International.

    There has already been a bill before parliament but we see time and time again the weak nature of the parliamentary process when the pollies have to think and especially if it is a conscience vote. That is likely to mean that they will vote for their personal prejudices. I don’t know when they will be ready to take such adult, responsible decisions. Last time one MP made a personal plea with real personal experience prompting him, but emotion and conservatism won and he lost.

    Bumbling through is the best we can hope for. The recent post about abortion criticises the way we pass patchy legislation for important personal matters. We have to keep trying on it all and on abortion that chap Steve Chadwick is giving it a go.

    • BLiP 3.1

      that chap Steve Chadwick is giving it a go.

      Here you go , she’s only be in Parliament for more than 10 years, including time as Minister of Conservation and Minister of Womans Affairs. Still, I guess if those things don’t really matter, why learn basic facts about the person in charge.

      I do hope you weren’t trying to be funny. My sense of humour in regard to the sexuality of Labour Party members dried up thanks to the Right a few years ago.

      • prism 3.1.1

        blip – These girls that like to hide their female lights under bushels of boy’s names bring about confusion.

  4. Sylvia 4

    With all due respect to Dr Pollock, if he does not want to continue to live I would have thought he would have the ability to end his own life and not need assistance. Its not clear to me why he needs to have someone else cause or hasten his death.

    • r0b 4.1

      It’s not always possible to predict in advance when you’re going to lose that ability. Why should someone not be able to request help with ending their life?

  5. Yes – we should have the right to say that we are at the end of our tether if we are suffering an intolerable and painful end and ask for help to leave this world with what is left of my dignity.

    Yes – we should be able to do this with or without help from the medical profession.

    Yes – we should be able to do this without knowing that what we are doing is illegal and someone who is left behind could be set before the courts and convicted of murder (at worst) and manslaughter (at best).

    I would hope that our politicians can stand up and be counted on this one. It is not a difficult decision, nor is it a difficult piece of legislation to make.

    I agree that we should be free to choose when the end is to be. Our illness is terminal but we should not have to suffer any longer than needs be. Euthanasia is a beautiful way to end a good life.

  6. f_t 6

    Yes someone should be able to request help with ending their life.

    But I think that we need to tread very careful with this.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1285423/Half-Belgiums-euthanasia-nurses-admit-killing-consent.html

    • Sarge 6.1

      Good article. Espically liked this quote:

      “Last night, Dr Peter Saunders, director of the Care Not Killing campaign in Britain, said: ‘We should take a warning from this that wherever you draw the line, people will go up to it and beyond it.’
      ‘Once you have legalised voluntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia will inevitably follow,’ he added. ”

      There’s nothing to prevent the right to die, from becoming the obligation to die. Will denying the right to a peaceful end diminish the quality of life for some people?? Yes, yes it will. However, that’s a price to pay to prevent those marginlised in our society from being expected to die when they become “too much of a burden”.

  7. Olwyn 7

    I am going to go against the tide here. We have about 18,000 abortions a year in this country, even with the constraints we already have in place, and I am game to bet that the decision behind many of them is taken reluctantly, haunted by grief, and driven by a sense of economic necessity – have another child, lose income and lose the house, or have an abortion, keep the income and keep the house, and similar scenarios. Euthanasia is yet another example of something that could quickly end up gaining traction on the hidden grounds of economic necessity. If we actually care about anyone’s freedom to choose anything, the first base is freedom from economic necessity, because without it, so-called freedoms readily become subtly enforced oppressions.

  8. NZer 8

    I would fear voluntary euthanasia in the society we live in now. I do believe it wouldn’t be long before people were expected to end their lives once they showed signs of becoming frail and a burden. I’m sure euthanasia already takes place in the shadows – let it stay there.

    I am suspicious as to why the Herald has chosen to pick this story up. Are their corporate masters getting annoyed with the cost of healthcare to the very sick and old ? After all, if you can encourage people to kill themselves then you save the state a whole lot of trouble and expense. Fewer expenses to the state= lower taxes and more money for the greedies who rule the planet.

    And as for the doctor who wrote the article- I didn’t hear anything from him on this subject during his long career as a doctor so presumably he thought the care he provided to the dying was adequate. And anyway, he and people like him have nothing to fear from the legalisation of euthanasia. They have money and influence and will get good medical care for as long as they need/want it. It is the ordinary person who lacks any sort of power I worry about.

  9. Majestic Oil 9

    ” Warning after a report by the Patients Association estimated that up to one million patients had been peremptorily snuffed under the new NHS Euthenasia scheme.

    The scheme, called the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) was reportedly designed to snuff swathes of hospitalised under the guise of reducing patient suffering in their mortal final hours, but secret documents leaked by whistleblowers at the Depatment for Ill-Health prove the overall intention was “Snuff the oldies and save a few bob so we can cut NHS staffing and afford to invade Iran.’

    You guys just don’t know or think that even you or your loved ones could be in the position where your/their life could be taken [involuntarily] when you lie in a hospital bed.There is no reason for this policy -save to justify murder.

    • Pascal's bookie 9.1

      Looks like an impeccable source.

      From their front page :

      ORLANDO, Florida (GlossyNews) — Wearied by weeks of fighting the horrendous Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Coast Guard mobilized today to battle a large leak from a giant whale in a SeaWorld theme park. “This is massive,’ said Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. “An animal this size naturally produces a very big leak.’ As of this morning …

  10. Majestic Oil 10

    This X dr emotively[while manipulating fear of pain, suffering and death] asks for something from NZ to be made available -then he acknowledges it is already available and is being done in NZ.

    Why is dignity thought of as ‘not expressing or feeling suffering/pain’ ?
    Is it some sort of stupid Kiwi -Macho -Fear of looking’ non stanch’/ frightened when dying?

  11. Pascal's wager 11

    @r0b [sic]*

    You never fail to get it wrong do you!(remember the time you expressed ETS was so more than just a polluter subsidy and that you feel Carbon trading will save the World).

    What you said had nothing to do with the issue :AKA The proposal of legalizing Euthanasia in NZ to Cut Costs.
    You do not even have an understanding of the NZ medical system.
    Moral and ethical whistleblower’s in the medical system are the tradesmen taking photos of rest home abuse( employees get punished ) and yet still you think to help this problem of terminally ill and disabled patient’s rights abuse ….legalizing euthanasia is a good idea.

    *And now I understand why Kate is a Cactus.

  12. WOOF 12

    They would do it for me, they should do it for him. 🙂

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