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Voluntary euthanasia

Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, January 27th, 2016 - 190 comments
Categories: Ethics, human rights - Tags:

Spurred on perhaps by recent high-profile cases – Lecretia Seales and Patricia and Peter Shaw, voluntary euthanasia is very much in the news at the moment.

David Seymour has a Bill before Parliament.

Stuff has a handy guide on how to contribute to the debate – submissions close on 1st Feb (soon!).

I’m strongly pro euthanasia choice, but there is certainly an opposite case to be made.

Our very own Helen Kelly, who is still very much with us, makes her position clear here.

Let’s get it right this time.

190 comments on “Voluntary euthanasia ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    Seymour’s Bill hasn’t actually been drawn from the ballot, though.

  2. Andre 2

    I must be missing something. I really don’t see how Jayne Malcolm’s story made any kind of opposing case. Nobody in New Zealand is making any kind of argument for involuntary euthanasia.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      “Nobody in New Zealand is making any kind of argument for involuntary euthanasia.’

      No, but the primary opposition to euthanasia seems to be that people will end up suffering from involuntary euthanasia through one means or another, such as family wanting to off them to get their inheritance by manipulating and brainwashing the victim into going through with it.

      • Andre 2.1.1

        I agree those are valid concerns that would need to be addressed in legalising voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand, led by careful consideration of the experience of other jurisdictions that already have voluntary euthanasia.

        But Jayne Malcolm seemed to be at zero risk of having involuntary euthanasia perpetrated on her.

        • weka

          I also struggled to see what how the story presented another side unless the point of it was that if you are lucky enough to have such supportive family you can die at home surrounded by your loved ones even if euthanasia isn’t an option. Which also isn’t presenting the other side, it’s just presenting privilege. However it does raise the very real issue of people who don’t have family perhaps being more likely to want euthanasia. Pity it didn’t discuss that.

      • Psycho Milt 2.1.2

        No, but the primary opposition to euthanasia seems to be that people will end up suffering from involuntary euthanasia through one means or another, such as family wanting to off them to get their inheritance by manipulating and brainwashing the victim into going through with it.

        I’ve never understood this one. It presumes an obligation on the government to ensure no environment in which unscrupulous people can harm others is allowed to exist. Perhaps the government could segregate the sexes to prevent unscrupulous people from committing sex offences, ban the owning of property to prevent unscrupulous people from stealing, etc. The whole concept is arse-about-face.

        • Lanthanide

          Yeah, I find it pretty weird too.

          But there seems to be this small minority in society who get off telling other people how to live their lives, eg they’re against abortions because it’s ‘murder’, and they’re against euthanasia because it can be used to commit ‘murder’.

          IMO these people should stick to their own lives and butt out of everyone elses. If they don’t like abortion or euthanasia, they can choose not to use them.

          • weka

            But it’s not murder. It’s the vulnerablity of people who are ill, disabled or elderly and how those people can be unsafer if the legislation is passed.

            • Lanthanide

              I don’t see why person X should be upset if person Y has a horrible money-grubbing family and end up getting person Y euthanised against their will.

              Leave it up to the courts and police to deal with, because for every abuse that happens, there’ll be 1000 more cases where euthanasia was used responsibly and appropriately.

              • weka

                Yes I know you don’t see, that’s the point. People with disabilities, the elderly, people who are ill have special vulnerabilities that are often invisible to the general public.

                To say, oh well that person died unjustly but that’s ok because 1000 other people were helped is not ok in civil society especially when we are talking about vulnerable people.

                • Lanthanide

                  With that logic, we should ban cars, because they kill hundreds of people each year.

                  • weka

                    Completely false analogy and you still don’t get the point I am making. People with disabilities aren’t at more risk than the general population from death by car accident. They are more at risk from wrongful death by euthanasia. So if we want to create a fair law we have to take that into account.

                    • Lanthanide

                      Sorry, I just don’t get the point you’re making.

                      We use cars because they give significant advantages to society. The collateral is that people die and get injured.

                      Similarly we should allow euthanasia, because it will give significant advantages to society. The collateral is that a few people may get killed off by greedy relatives.

                      If you’re going to be against the collateral for euthanasia, you should also be against the collateral for cars.

                      The fact that different segments of society might suffer more or less collateral depending on how the law is drafted, doesn’t in any way change the fact that they’re all collateral.

                      Now, obviously, the law should be drafted as carefully as possible to reduce the risk of harm as far as is practicable. But to say “1 person one day might be harmed by this law, therefore no-one can have it” IMO is a small minority sticking their morals into everyone else’s lives and deciding they know what’s best, no matter how much misery and pain it might cause others, just because they’re trying to protect some hypothetical person who has a horrible family that takes advantage of them (where is this moralising person during this hypothetical person’s life?).

                    • greywarshark

                      I think that people with disabilities deserve more assistance, more consideration than they get. Sometimes they get tired of asking and not getting. We should be more generous, caring, understanding and inclusive..

                      And in the matter of euthanasia, disabled people have the opportunity to be generous and caring about others, all people, and not standing in the way of it being provided because they have fears for themselves, so that nobody should be able to have this provided. Instead disabled people can make sure that the legislation is well written, and be included in euthanasia groups so that they understand in their submissions all the careful checks that should be included and carried out thoroughly.

          • Draco T Bastard


        • McFlock

          But it’s not the government simply allowing people to do things, is it. It’s the government taking an active role in the process, if only by defining an exception to the prohibition against causing someone else’s death.

          • Psycho Milt

            The government’s currently taking an active role in the process by prohibiting assisting someone to commit suicide. If the argument for that prohibition is that, were it relaxed, unscrupulous people might commit crimes, it’s an argument for the prohibition of just about any activity whatsoever.

            • McFlock


              The argument is that scrupulous people might end up routinely killing people who didn’t really want to be killed.

              An additional argument is that it makes it easier for unscrupulous people to kill people who didn’t want to be killed at all.

              That principle doesn’t really prohibit almost any activity whatsoever, but it also guides things like gun ownership and traffic regulations.

              • That’s effectively saying the government’s justified in curtailing everyone’s rights on the basis of a theoretically-possible slippery-slope argument. It’s a hell of a basis on which to present people with up to 14 years’ jail for helping someone end their life.

                • McFlock

                  “Up to”.

                  I quite like the law at the moment, because there is leeway for the judge to sentence much lower – no mandatory minimums. Home D or intensive supervision can actually be a good thing.

                  • Lanthanide

                    Actually the problem is having the conviction – means you can’t travel.

                    • greywarshark

                      The big problem is that you get dragged before the Courts at all so that the sad loss of a loved one, becomes a tragedy, where your own suffering self is put on trial and treated like a criminal.

  3. Bill 3

    I wonder how much of this debate is shaped by notions of us being God’s vessels/vassals and so it is up to ‘him’ to decide when and how to take away what ‘he’ has giveth? (Deliberately gendered language there btw)

    Connected to that, there are the broader notions of some type of eternity alongside concepts of eternal reward and punishment.

    Also, how long ago did the practice of refusing burial within churchyards to suicides end? (Maybe it still happens in some places?)

    Which leads on to how do our attitudes to suicide – generally odd and unhelpful in my experience; how do they shape our opinions on euthanasia?

    • weka 3.1

      The religious stuff I think is more of an issue for the right to lifers than the general population and the general population would probably consider it a matter of personal conscience. I could be wrong, and I’d guess that it’s more of an issue for say Catholics than many other religions, but I think the right to lifers are just vocal and visible rather than being a big part of NZ culture (as opposed to somewhere like the US). The issues in NZ are more to to with slippery slopes, fears of coercion and the politics of euthanasia in a country that doesn’t look after its elderly very well.

      The connections between attitudes towards suicide and euthanasia look pretty interesting though.

      • Bill 3.1.1

        From a western perspective, the religious stuff has had (say) about 2000 years worth of intergenerational time to shape our psyches. It isn’t necessary to adhere to a particular Christian tradition to acknowledge that it (Christianity) has had a pervasive impact on how the world is viewed or contemplated by those of us from a western tradition, or that its influence can be both very subtle and incredibly powerful.

        • weka

          That’s true, but I just don’t see this particular value or concept in the culture as a big issue where people would want it to be something other than a personal thing i.e. where they feel strongly enough about it to want the government to stop people from doing it. I could be wrong, maybe it’s latent within the culture and it will come up as an issue in the debate. But mostly I think other values take precedent eg the need for compassion, or the need for people to have relief from suffering.

          I was raised Anglican and there are many things from that that I remember and some I still recognise in myself and family but the sanctity of life isn’t one of them. The people I hear talking about the sanctity of life re euthanasia are all pretty much very specific kinds of Christians and that Christianity isn’t that big in NZ. Having said that, I don’t spend a lot of time around Catholics and I know that the culturaly stuff is often way stronger even for lapsed Catholics eg the values can be present years after they stopped believing or going to church.

          • Bill

            Well, what you reckon ‘sets the moral compass’ when questions such as ‘Do I kill this?’ are asked? I don’t expect it (western concepts of god or the effect of christianity) to ‘come up in the debate’…in fact, I’d be astounded if it did.

            Doesn’t mean it’s not an influence though, no matter how personal or discrete anyone might be thinking their decision is.

            • weka

              I think we now have enough people in the debate here, who are anti on principle, to test our various theories 😉 (hopefully that can be teased out).

              Thinking about influence, I guess we can look at other cultural mores that have changed in relatively short spaces of time eg attitudes towards homosexuality. Do you think that 2000 years of Christianity still underpins those attitudes in NZ albeit implictly rather than explicitly? How about abortion? Or whether women should have the right to vote?

              “Well, what you reckon ‘sets the moral compass’ when questions such as ‘Do I kill this?’ are asked?”

              Not sure what you mean there. Are you talking about killing anything or killing humans?

              • Bill

                Not sure on the difference between Western and Eastern Orthodox on sexuality. I do know that Eastern Orthodoxy has no problem with priests who have sex. Is that limited to heterosexual sex? Dunno.

                Go further back into western culture (to say, the Greeks) and there’s a plethora of evidence pointing to homosexuality being somewhat venerated. Dunno about sex between women. But the point is that Christianity comes from deeper or more ‘time spent’ roots…some of which were assimilated and some of which were uprooted with varying degrees of success. That’s why in my original comment I said “(say) 2000 years”….it’s easy to go much further back and into pre-Christian but very similar and therefor adopted or assimilated religious beliefs.

                A right to vote (for landless people or women or for who-ever) is a meaningless piece of nonsense from my perspective. There are feminist and other democratic writings from ‘back in the day’ that hold to (or establish) that position.

                On abortion, I believe there are still in existence various tribal cultures that have termination drugs in their ‘cabinet’. And, you know, in some places (eg regions of Brazil) , no child is named until they have reached five because before that time, and in recognition of mortality rates, ‘life’ doesn’t begin before that amount of time has elapsed.

                The moral compass? In terms of determining life and death on a broad spectrum.

                • Ad

                  Probably a more appropriate ethical continuum for an agrarian nation like New Zealand is a straight Singer Utilitiarian one. The line would go like this:

                  New Zealand has based and continues to base much of its agrarian economy on wilfully butchering millions of sentient beings. These beings are perfectly healthy, and have done nothing to harm us. Our industries kill them for profit.

                  No-one is prosecuted for this wholesale slaughter, and within some pretty cold guidelines won’t be prosecuted for it. You don’t even get prosecuted for “home kills”. I wouldn’t advise anyone watch one of those.

                  So the reasoning would go: Within some pretty course guidelines and a stun gun, New Zealanders have just as much legal privilege to kill humans as we do animals.

                  Fair enough if people think that’s a stretch, but that’s what happens when you go down a fully consistent utilitarian line without some other “moral compass”.

                  • greywarshark

                    Good points Ad. But do the cows or whatever speak to you and ask you to kill them? It’s a feature of NZ life this animal slaughter, but is it utilitarian? It seems more narrow, driven, focussed than utilitarian.
                    Utilitarian –
                    (1. (Philosophy) the doctrine that the morally correct course of action consists in the greatest good for the greatest number, that is, in maximizing the total benefit resulting, without regard to the distribution of benefits and burdens
                    2. (Philosophy) the theory that the criterion of virtue is utility
                    The Free Dictionary)

                    Take the animal discussion away from raising for slaughter but to caring and supporting them until they are terminally ill and not enjoying life, then killing them. That is done reluctantly but with a recognition that their life is over and sickness and loss of function is all that is ahead. That is how we treat animals that are not grown for food.

                    That applied to my cat, His life and enjoyment of it had been extended by medication for some years, and we had him euthanised just before Christmas so we could see family. A decision that had both ethical and practical aspects. I decided that I wanted to see family, and being in my seventies, might die myself soon and couldn’t let Christmas go by without renewing contact and memories.

                    In considering euthanasia and how the practice of it is legally settled, there must be both individual and family matters practically and fairly dealt with.

                    • Ad

                      The Utilitarian ideas there are from Singer’s basic work Utilitarian Ethics. He charts sentience and our responses to harm from pre-birth through to death.

                      Don’t kill anything for ‘convenience’, human or otherwise. See it through.

          • Ad

            I’m Catholic.

    • I wonder how much of this debate is shaped by notions of us being God’s vessels/vassals and so it is up to ‘him’ to decide when and how to take away what ‘he’ has giveth?

      That one gets explicitly stated by religious types whenever Kiwiblog has a thread on this subject, which is reasonably often. It’s pretty disturbing to read, but even more so when you realise it used to be a blandly mainstream view not that long ago.

  4. greywarshark 4

    I put this up on Open Mike yesterday and repeat it here as it is an important matter to put some time into right now. I also checked by email and phone about the finishing time and was assured that you can put an on-line submission in up till midnight on the 1st.

    The euthanasia submissions. If you care about people and them having a right to decide when to die when they are terminally ill or in pain without much life to enjoy. If that person wishes to leave their life, let it be that they can go in their own time while they can still smile at others and enjoy knowing them.
    A legal path to follow to enable an appropriate concern with family obligations and notification would be appropriate.

    Please follow the guide below and support quality euthanasia. Submissions finish on MONDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2016 AND CAN GO IN UNTIL 23.59.

    (Remember 1 Feb is the anniversary of various provinces so perhaps do it the day before in case you want to be out and about enjoying life on the holiday.)

    Euthanasia submission end Jan –
    you can remind yourself of Lecretia’s Seales wishes.

    Also something recent from stuff about international policies.

  5. weka 5

    Pity this is coming from Seymour.

  6. shorts 6

    we consider it the right thing to do and humane to save an animals suffering by putting it down
    we should apply the same to ourselves – though with the addition of that being the choice of the individual

  7. Ad 7

    The numbers of submissions to the Select Committee at the end of last year were somewhat in favour of changing the legislation.

    So here’s a question.
    When was the last time any service in the health system wasn’t subject to funding cuts, discomfort weightings compared against classes of need, and a massive bureaucratic machinery that gets changed at whim?

    I can’t think of one. I’ve seen enough medical interventions to see the actual damage of this.

    Euthanasia and legally assisted death will, if the draft legislation is passed, become a service provided by the medical system. It will come down to evaluations beyond the consent or otherwise of one person, and up into whether any Health Board alters funding to Oncology or Gerontology or nursing generally, or Hospices, or any other relevant Department, to determine what resources to devote to you and your needs. You have to have been in the hospital with a dying person to experience this. It is truly humiliating.

    Turning over your last moments to a state-sanctioned bureaucratic machinery will I think suck our existing autonomy away from us and just expand the grand system into our final moments.

    • weka 7.1

      I think that’s a very good point. I haven’t looked at Seymour’s bill to know the detail but I had been imagining people making the decision and doctors providing the service in hospice settings of even at home and the process of approval being relatively straight forward. But you are probably right, the potential for it to be bad for some/many people is very real.

      btw you don’t have to be in a hospital with a dying person to experience this humiliation. Many of us experience degrees of it routinely with the way the health system is currently. I already know that when I get elderly and too frail to care for myself I will have no family to make sure I am taken care of well, so I intend to have an exit plan in place well before then. I doubt it will be legal because there is no way in hell I am going to spend my last days in that system.

      This point you bring up is my biggest resistance to legalising euthanasia. I simply don’t trust NZ to elect governments that will be competent to utilise such legislation well. The theory of euthanasia is sound, not so sure about the practice.

      • McFlock 7.1.1

        I tend to agree with that view – personally, I can see no good argument against euthanasia being requested by an intelligent, willing person who’s made a rational decision when faced with a future of incurable, intolerable pain or whatever.

        But I can’t think of a system that can be designed so that people who want to keep on living, or who are making the decision while at a temporary low point, or who are pressured into the “choice”, will not be made victims of that system. And it’s one of my few categorical imperatives that people shouldn’t be calmly and bureaucratically killed by the state, because it’s something that that history tells us people become used to and further expand down the line.

        • Bill

          So, I’ve been picking (perhaps incorrectly) that Lemmy ‘checked out’ after getting his diagnosis for cancer…also that David Bowie ‘checked out’.

          Neither were subjected to any bureaucratic procedure.

          What I find interesting is that nothing I read anywhere raised the possibility of their having killed themselves. Why is that?

          Seems we, as a society, are happy to believe or need to believe, that it was a happy coincidence that Bowie managed to release a final album mere hours before he died or that Lemmy got a diagnosis of a cancer so aggressive that it killed him in the space of 48 hours.

          Would there have been all manner of judgments flying around the show if those two men did in deed kill themselves and their deaths were reported as instances of euthanasia?

          • McFlock

            It depends on how they “checked out”. Didn’t Tony Scott, the director, apparently do something similar?

            The problem is when other people start advising on, assisting in, or taking an acting role in the process. These other people have their own motivation, be it empathy, greed, annoyance, love, budget constraints, organisational lethargy, or a tickbox mentality. As soon as they are permitted to be involved in that process, we let all those strengths and weaknesses into the decision.

            I’m not sure that can be done in such a way that the person who theoretically makes the decision is protected.

            • Bill

              So, how about we look to the example of the Innuit? I don’t know if it’s a myth, but the story is that old or ‘done’ people would tarry back in the snow and die. Assuming it’s true. Was there peer pressure? Or was it a cultural norm…a more healthy acceptance of life as temporary?

              Thinking of my days in an intentional community….there would be nothing anyone could gain from another’s death – if a dying person was stretching the capabilities of the community, then prospective members of the community would be regarded with that practicality in mind.

              But sure, I accept that’s a world away from “this” and not likely to recreated anywhere in NZ during my lifetime. However, it reinforces my suggestion that both the state and the market be abolished in lieu of society (societies) catering for and to itself (themselves).

    • Bill 7.2

      Good point about death possibly being reduced to an impersonal process executed within the confines of a sort of bureaucratic abattoir.

      So maybe we have to look at how this, alongside the whole health system and other social provisions or needs, can be taken away from the state and its bureaucracies – and the market with its ‘rationalities’ – and embedded in society?

      • weka 7.2.1

        Interesting idea, except that the various medical professions are quite capable of their own impersonal bureaucracies independent of the state.

        • Bill

          Nope. The state sanctions (or excuses/allows) all bureaucracies through state or parliamentary legislation and such like.

      • Ad 7.2.2

        But citizens already have the ability to take their own life, without legalized assistance.

        I don’t want those goddam politicians anywhere near my finger on the pain-relief button. At any point in my life.

        • Incognito

          With respect, but if you have gone so far that you cannot any longer control your own body and bodily functions you might need and want (!) all the assistance that you can get, legal or otherwise. You could train your dog to assist you but personally I’d prefer somebody who knows (!) what he/she is doing and does it well. This can be done in the surroundings of one’s choosing, i.e. time, place and people, and with dignity and peacefully.

          It should not end up becoming a bureaucratic nightmare but obviously it should also not be as easy and straightforward as applying for a car rego by paying at the local Post Shop and collecting a rubber stamp. NB It is already quite common for patients to be consented prior to medical procedures to donate a sample/biopsy for diagnosis and/or medical research; this is tightly controlled through ethics approvals, etc. Yes, this involves a huge bureaucracy of Kafkaesque proportions but the patients and their families hardly experience any of this and only get to see the tip of the iceberg.

          All this still is hypothetical because currently the NZ Law does not allow any of it.

          • Colonial Viper

            I find it funny how Liberal Lefties seem to want to have full control over birth and death, and they are so afraid that they might not have that power.

            • Incognito

              Yes, isn’t it hilariously funny? I heard a good joke the other day:

              A bald middle-aged Liberal Leftie walks into a pub bistro in the leafy suburb of Epsom. He eyes up the bartender and says in a soft-spoken voice with a slight Cambridge (UK) accent: I would like to have the power of autonomy and self-determination. Upon which the bartender replies: ID please.

            • Ergo Robertina

              And I find it a little sad how authoritarian lefties lack respect for other people in respect to decisions around birth, death, and their bodies.
              It’s illustrated in your comment by the strawman of ”full control” – that’s not want the argument is about for most people.
              By the way, if liberal lefties is your new catchphrase, there’s no need for the caps. These are definitely small l liberals.

        • weka

          “But citizens already have the ability to take their own life, without legalized assistance.”

          Some do, some don’t. Killing oneself is a very hard thing to do on one’s own and where one doesn’t have the skill or tools to do it well, painlessly and with guaranteed success.

          The state could legalise euthanasia but not control it eg leaving aside the funding for a minute, it could be an agreement between a person and their GP.

          • McFlock

            So Harold Shipton could have had a further level of defense by forging consent forms as well as wills? “Yes officer, my patients do die at a massive rate, but that’s because they come to me as a sensitive caregiver who can end their lives in the best possible way, honest”.

            • weka

              I don’t know who Shipton is, but I was talking about the actual suicide not the permission. And I’m not suggesting that the only thing that needs to happen is an agreement between the person and their GP, but that that relationship might be the better one for everything to be mediated through. Or that the person can nominate I guess. They might be more comfortable with their consultant or whoever, the point is that the person who wants to die has control over the process not the state (beyond boundaries on how the decision is made).

              • Andre

                Um, weka, maybe you should have googled Shipton before replying…

                  • Andre

                    Because Shipton’s claim to fame is very relevant to the viability of leaving euthanasia decisions as an agreement between a patient and doctor.

                    • weka

                      I’m sure that’s very interesting, but I didn’t suggest that which is why who Shipton is seemed irrelevant.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    What about us, Mr. Shipman?

                    There was a man going round all the time
                    He was dishing out drugs
                    He was a doctor
                    Dishing out morphine to old ladies

                    I said, what about us? (Shipman!)

                    “One of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history”.


              • McFlock

                Sorry, Shipman.

                My point was that legalisation necessarily means control over the process by which the decision is carried out. Whatever safety mechanism is legislated, a margin for error needs to be assumed.

                • weka

                  Ok, my confusion is that that point, while interesting doesn’t appear to be related to what I said that you were replying to.

                  Anyhoo, by margin of error, do you mean that it’s inherent in euthanasia that something will go wrong at some point?

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Fact: a known strategy for privatising the commons is to deliberately defund public services in order to foster the pretence that the private sector will deliver better results.

                    Then watch in dismay, as “voluntary euthenasia” conforms to a social gradient.

                    • weka

                      what’s a social gradient?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      It means that poor people will be over-represented in the list of “clients”.

                      For example, when Treasury authors the National Party’s propaganda regarding infant and premature adult mortality, they call it “morbidity with a social gradient”.

                    • Bill

                      So, fuck public services, which are, by definition in our current political context, those things ministered by the state…which is both remote, bureaucratic and inhabited only (in the final analysis) by self interested people…gotta pay my mortgage, pay down my debt, take care of my kids….which distills, essentially, to enabling disempowering structures that are only focused on having ‘power over’.

                      Are our choices really only between being be dictated to by a ‘public’ state or a ‘private’ market?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Are our choices really only between being be dictated to by a ‘public’ state or a ‘private’ market?

                      Of course not. People flout the law as it is, so if they’re being “dictated to” it’s falling on deaf ears. In this context, however, we’re talking about at the very least a law change to decriminalise assisted suicide.

                      As someone with a significant disability commented to me the other day…they would like to see all Kiwis have the right to “life with dignity” before we hold conversations about “death with dignity”.

                      Rosemary McDonald.

                      Comments like that remind me that we need a great deal more care for one another across the board: if, as I suspect, the suicide rate is proportional to the GINI, or unemployment, it’s quite easy to see how a systematic approach to assisted dying will have perverse outcomes.

                  • McFlock

                    Of course something will “go wronng at some point”.

                    Shipman is relevant because medical treatment “could be an agreement between a person and their GP.” Shipman broke that agreement. Sooner or later another doctor will do the same thing.

        • Bill

          I’d be quite comfortable and happy to have me and the people of my chosen/accepted society to have fingers on that pain relief button. Unthinkable concept that, I know.

          • Ad

            Medical professionals administering pain relief, or confirming DNS, I have no problem with.

            I would rather more time and resource was put into palliative care than another needless law.

    • Andre 7.3

      Seems to me our current system almost forcibly pulls a lot of people’s last moments into a massive state-sanctioned bureaucratic machinery. With adequate safeguards, a voluntary euthanasia regime would allow those who wished to avoid such an intrusion into their final moments to opt out in a dignified manner.

      • McFlock 7.3.1

        with adequate safeguards

        and there’s the rub…

        • Andre

          Yeah, that’s the tricky one.

          But so far I haven’t seen anything that makes me think Oregon doesn’t have adequate safeguards. But it looks to me like Belgium has made it too easy.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            According to leaked internal documents, the National Party operates a system whereby its MPs trade their time in parliament for lucrative business opportunities once they retire.

            Sometimes the distinction is less important.

            Meanwhile, the National Party encourages its voters to discriminate against citizens on the basis of wealth and/or employment status, to the extent that its mouthpiece blogs are full of calls to eugenics.

            No-one has yet figured out how to defend New Zealanders against the National Party’s predations. Until someone does, it’ll be the wrong time to implement a state-sanctioned death service.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.4

      When was the last time any service in the health system wasn’t subject to funding cuts, discomfort weightings compared against classes of need, and a massive bureaucratic machinery that gets changed at whim?

      Euthanasia and legally assisted death will, if the draft legislation is passed, become a service provided by the medical system…

      …and this in the context of a National Party hell-bent on privatising public health. Which has underfunded Christchurch’s health system in the face of explicit expert warnings, to the extent that people can’t get routine surgery because the budget for entirely predictable mental health outcomes has blown out.

      Can anyone honestly say that they are comfortable with “voluntary” euthanasia in a system run by Tories?

  8. Rosemary McDonald 8

    Refusal or withdrawal of treatment for disabled people happens in the NZ health system now.

    A doctor who has the power to decide whether or not ‘heroic measures’ are put in place to save the life of a disabled person can decide that the person’s quality of life is such that the chest/bladder infection is nature’s way of bringing their life to a ‘natural’ close.

    A small step then to say “we can’t treat this chest/bladder infection but we can offer a quick and merciful death.”

    I have no real objection to physician assisted suicide for those with terminal illnesses.

    I DO have an objection the proponents of PAS using the argument that “the indignity of being dependent on others for the most intimate of care” is a valid reason to prefer death.

    Being so dependent on others for intimate care is the reality for thousands of Kiwis…who do actually have a very good quality of life providing they have resources to provide the high level of care they need.

    ACC claimants under the Serious Injury Service have an entitlement under legislation for funding to provide the supports they need. In many cases this is for 24/7 AND they have the right to choose who provides that care. Over 50% choose family to provide this care.

    MOH:DSS disabled have no such rights or entitlements. NONE.

    And the higher and more complex the care needs, the more the person is dependent on unpaid family to provide all or some of those supports. Or, at the very least, family are responsible for sourcing, training and supervising paid carers.

    Which means that paid work outside the home is very difficult if not impossible and there is the inevitable decline in financial security. Add to that the sheer expense of maintaining someone with a significant physical disability when medical supplies are strictly limited and extra help is means and asset tested.

    ACC claimants have no means or asset testing, enjoy a household income twice that of a non ACC disabled person with the same impairment AND ACC funds way more care, equipment, supplies and the like.

    The first question asked by the Committee is….

    1. The factors that contribute to the desire to end one’s life.

    The Chief Coroner, in her report on the appalling suicide stats for 2014/15 lists ‘economic hardship’ as one of the three leading factors in suicide.


    This government has proven that it intends that MOH:DSS disabled and their families endure economic hardship as a default position.
    The government’s response to the Family Carers case is a case in point.

    As someone with a significant disability commented to me the other day…they would like to see all Kiwis have the right to “life with dignity” before we hold conversations about “death with dignity”.

    TBH, if the reactions of most people in NZ to the sight of a person with obvious disability is anything to go on….the ‘prefer death to disability’ group will have the ascendancy.

    But, I did make a submission…for what it is worth…because PAS will save the government $$$ and hence it is assured of a swift passage through into law.

    • Andre 8.1

      Very thought-provoking, thanks Rosemary.

      Do you think there is pressure on some disabled people now to “end the burden they place on others”?

      What would be your view on people that become disabled choosing “death before this disability I find intolerable”? Would that be too far down the slippery slope?

      Do you think completely excluding disability as grounds for choosing voluntary euthanasia would be enough safeguard against it becoming socially acceptable to pressure disabled people to end the burden?

    • weka 8.2

      That’s the best comment so far Rosemary. Would you consider submitting that for a guest post? I think it would really open up the discussion around disability and the realities of life for many in NZ.

    • Ergo Robertina 8.3

      The under-funding of community health services is actually one of the reasons the powers-that-be do not push right-to-die legislation.
      That’s because all of the unacceptable things happening in disability and mental health would potentially go before the public in a big way, and would lead to funding reviews.
      Palliative care would need a major review if patients had a choice.
      We don’t live in a world that will slip seamlessly into the dystopian nightmare of our paranoid fantasies as soon as such legislation was passed.
      We do live in a world where opponents and church groups have the email address of every journalist, MP, and NGO general manager in the country and can get their message out very quickly.
      This would open a can of ethical and financial worms the Govt wants to keep shut.
      Why has no Govt initiated legislation, and instead left it to members’ bills, if it has the potential to save big money?
      Also, there is no public support from the medical fraternity. That’s a big sign nothing will change for a long time. It’s a necessary precursor for such a shift, and at the moment we only seem to hear from Christian doctors (the NZMA’s formal position is opposed).

  9. Incognito 9

    I think this will be a test case to see how enlightened we are.

    The issues around poverty and inequality have too many economic and thus political hooks.

    The debate about funding of expensive drugs for gravely ill New Zealanders is likewise skewed by economic issues and, funnily enough, inequality. That said, many of those treatable diseases and conditions cut across political and socio-economic divides.

    Unbearable suffering caused by incurable medical conditions is indiscriminate and it seems that euthanasia and assisted-suicide do not (yet!) suffer from the same issues that have been stalling and even derailing other vital debates and thus crucial policy making and law changes (i.e. action).

    • Rosemary McDonald 9.1

      “The debate about funding of expensive drugs for gravely ill New Zealanders is likewise skewed by economic issues and, funnily enough, inequality. That said, many of those treatable diseases and conditions cut across political and socio-economic divides.”

      Most definitely.

      But choice is much easier when you have the financial resources and the friends in high places.

      I find it ironic that this latest bid for PAS is driven by someone in such a position of privilege.

      “Through luck and contacts, she was able to get a supply of a chemotherapy drug normally restricted to sufferers of more aggressive brain cancer. Temozolomide isn’t funded in New Zealand for grade 2 tumours like Seales’, so at a cost of about $700 a week (which included the pharmacist’s healthy markup) she and Matt paid for the first month’s supply. Her mother then tracked down an old friend who worked in the pharmaceutical industry in the hope of finding a cheaper pharmacist. The contact connected her with an executive at Merck, which had lost the Pharmac tender for Temozolomide and had a store of the expensive drug sitting in its warehouse going to waste. The company agreed on compassionate grounds to let Seales and several other patients have it for free.”


      Helen Kelly is also able to draw on funds for drugs not funded through the health system.


      But where does that leave those of us with no Kiwisaver or other resources for treatment or for drugs that can improve the quality of life you may have left?

      • Incognito 9.1.1

        Yes, I agree, which is why I (like to) think the debate around euthanasia & assisted-suicide is actually less (!) complicated because it has fewer (!) confounding factors. [sorry to sound so technically cold and factual]

        I also a agree with you that these debates are connected; one to stave off death at all huge (all?) cost and the other one is about ‘assisting’ pending death to avoid more unbearable suffering.

        I strongly agree with your comment @ 8 regarding “life with dignity” versus “death with dignity”. One of the best comments I’ve read on this over the last few days!

        • Rosemary McDonald

          If I may be blunt…life for the average disabled person (not funded by ACC) is often a big shit sandwich and the lunchbell is never far from ringing.

          Endless battles with petty fucking bureaucrats who seem to take particular delight in making an already challenging life well…unbearable.

          Ask anyone with significant impairments when was the last time their NASC asked them…”How can we help you to live a dignified life?”

          You’re more likely to be told…”you don’t qualify for that, you don’t meet that criteria, you can’t use the funding for that…”

          “And besides…you are entitled to NOTHING under the Public Health and Disability Act, unless one of us petty fucking bureaucrats deigns to allow it.”

          And there in the background is the clarion call of the….”Oh! I couldn’t bear to live like that….give me the right to die!” brigade.

          Its all going to come together quite nicely.

  10. Ad 10

    I seriously can’t believe this government can spend $20m+ arguing about a flag, and have two binding referenda, but right to be legally killed by someone else merits just a Select Committee process rushed over Christmas. We deserve better democratic debate than this over a life-and-death issue.

  11. adam 11

    Aktion T4

    Funny how much support it had from doctors and other medical professionals. If you support euthanasia in any form I think you need to grow up. The state can not be trusted, especially around life and death.

    At present we have the means and the ability to make death more comfortable, anti-anxiety, opiates and other medications. If you think we should empower people to kill other people legally, then that is a sad position.

    Think about it, it is just making murder legal. Is it that the majority will be old people that your OK with it? Or disabled? I forgot it is OK to kill disabled in New Zealand. If you have Down syndrome in this country, you are tested for, then in all probability, aborted, or in all to many cases left to die after birth – so what the hell ah – lets extend the franchise to kill more!

    Lets have ballots to elect people to have the right to legally murder other people. Or better yet a lottery, put on telly on a Friday night.

    I’m being glib, but the reality is, we have a pretty piss poor record, and I think we are very far from being sensible about this discussion. When we can’t even talk about the people we kill now.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Just you wait. Liberal lefties will open the door for the extreme right wing to start making the financial case for why extremely sick people should be considered for euthanasia.

      • weka 11.1.1

        Got an example?

        • Colonial Viper

          Got an example of what?

        • adam

          Look up ” Aktion T4 ” weka.

          • weka

            No-one’s talking about that apart from you and CV though. I get the slippery slope argument, and I think it needs debating, but misrepresenting euthanasia as legalised murder doesn’t help.

            • adam

              But, when we refuse to learn from history. We are doomed to repeat it’s mistakes. I’m not arguing for a slippery slope – I’d argue we are already there, especially when you hear medical people take about disabled, or economists talk about disabled.

              You may or may have not noticed. I’m against state sponsored euthanasia and assisted euthanasia.

              I’m not against an individual preforming euthanasia on themselves.

              Big difference.

              I just think the state has no role in this debate. Nor the medical profession.

    • weka 11.2

      This is why it’s a real shame it’s coming from ACT. I don’t trust them or this government to do it well. I hope it prompts debate and then fails until we have somewhat more sensible people in power.

      However I get the sense you are arguing against it in principle not matter what kind of govt we had.

      We’re not talking about legalised murder. The state won’t be telling people that they can kill other people. Think instead of assisted suicide. eg where a medical person provides the tools but the person kills themselves.

      When you conflate that with murder, and when you then confuse that issue with how people can be assisted to die naturally, it makes some people invisible.

      • Colonial Viper 11.2.1

        Geeez Weka if you don’t trust this government or ACT “to do it well” why on Earth would you trust any future government not to utterly screw with the deaths door that the Left seems so keen to open?

        • weka

          1. they already screw with it in various ways.

          2. I was referring to the setting up of the legislation with the necessary safeguards.

          3. Once good legislation is in place, it’s true that a future government could mess with that and make it unsafe, that is indeed a risk. I personally don’t think that’s a reason to say no to euthanasia instead of having a debate about it.

          4. There are worse things than death.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Right now, in this country, poverty can be a death sentence.

            Under this government, at this time, there is no way that ‘voluntary’ euthanasia (if sanctioned and provided by the MoH) won’t be offered to people whose treatment would otherwise be ‘over budget’.

            Like the ‘consent’ form: “I didn’t ‘consent’ to getting into this condition in the first place.” People sign it when they have no choice.

            • weka

              Yes, I pretty much said that above.

              I’m not sure that well written legislation would be worse than what we have now though.

    • Sacha 11.3

      “If you have Down syndrome in this country, you are tested for, then in all probability, aborted, or in all to many cases left to die after birth”

      First part, true. 90% termination rate. Doctors not trained or expected to present all options to allow proper informed consent.

      Second part seems false. Got any links?

      • adam 11.3.1

        After a Down Syndrome child is born, a small piece of surgery is needed for them to live. If this is not done, they die.

        It is not a crime to not do this surgery.

    • I forgot it is OK to kill disabled in New Zealand. If you have Down syndrome in this country, you are tested for, then in all probability, aborted…

      You seem confused. It’s OK to abort pregnancies you don’t want to carry to full term in NZ (to the extent that we can use the term “OK” to describe such a train wreck of a process, anyway), but last time I looked it was very much not OK to kill disabled people. In fact it’s so not OK that there are laws against it – funnily enough, the very same laws making it not OK to kill the able-bodied.

      The reasons why a particular pregnant woman chooses to abort her pregnancy are, of course, none of your or anyone else’s business, including the government’s.

      • Rosemary McDonald 11.4.1

        “In fact it’s so not OK that there are laws against it”

        Well, sort of.




        and ultimately….


        “Initial Police investigation into Nathan Booker’s death inadequate”



        the manslaughter case in the High Court at Wellington the 13-month-old boy drowned because of the actions taken by his mother.


        “A Wellington mother says she thought she would be convicted of killing her son right up until the not guilty verdict was read out.

        Speaking outside the High Court in Wellington today, she said she wanted to warn other parents after her 13-month-old son drowned while she was speaking on the phone for eight minutes.

        “I didn’t know, I should have, but I didn’t,” she said.

        While she felt she was not morally responsible for her son’s death she was sure she would fall on the wrong side of the law and be charged with manslaughter.

        “My faith in the justice system is restored.”

        Well lucky for her that she has faith in a justice system that found her not guilty after she left her son alone in a bath.

        An insult to Nathan’s mum…who had to fight to get her disabled son’s drowning treated seriously.

        And Jason’s mum.

        And Otto’s mum.

        Common factor….disabled people.

        • Psycho Milt

          Just about everyone in the country can reel you off a list of cases in which they thought justice wasn’t served. It’s inherent in having a justice system. “So-and-so didn’t get the verdict/sentence I thought they deserved” is not the same thing as “The law says killing people is OK.”

          • Rosemary McDonald

            It’s not so much the verdict as the fact that no charges were laid in the first place.

            Because the dead person was disabled.

            You clearly didn’t read any of the links…not that that is surprising…so many people don’t bother because they fear encountering something that just might shake their comfortable position.

            Baby drowns in bath while mother on phone….charges laid.

            Disabled person drowns in bath and death not even treated like a homicide.

            I spent hours a few weeks ago trawling through endless articles about voluntary euthanasia. Hours.

            I tried to put aside my quite well founded fear that such legislation would facilitate further disadvantage those trying to live with disability in an environment that is already hostile, and try and get to a place where I was confident that the lives of disabled people would be valued and they would be protected from being coerced into opting for PAS.

            This is not going to be the case here in New Zealand without disabled people having the same rights of citizenship as every other New Zealander.

            To get to that point…we need…no you(and every one else not intimately involved in our world) need to admit that there is discrimination, there is gross disparity, that non ACC disabled are already reminded on a daily basis by the government and their agents that they are a burden and not valued members of a society that welcomes diversity.

            And no….

            I am not a member of any group or organisation.
            Or church.

            Rant over.

            • Psycho Milt

              I did read the links.

              Kiwiblog general debate threads often feature commenters providing outraged comparisons of cases that clearly demonstrate (to them, if no-one else) that the justice system is totally biased towards/against [insert some group the commenter likes/hates here]. It’s unsurprising but not very interesting.

              • weka

                Do you accept part of Rosemary’s premise i.e. that people with disabilities face prejudice and discrimination in NZ? Including from the state?

                • There seems to be pretty good evidence for that claim. However, there’s a big logical gap to bridge between that claim and the claim that legalising assistance with suicide means disabled people will be killed. She hasn’t bridged it.

      • adam 11.4.2

        Perfectly legal in New Zealand to leave a down syndrome child to die after birth.

        • weka

          Can you explain that more adam?

          • adam

            I think I responded above, So simply.

            To live a child born with Down Syndrome needs a small piece of surgery. If that does not happen then they die.

            It is not illegal to not preform that surgery. There have been cases when doctors have not informed families of the option of surgery either.

            • weka

              Thanks. You’re probably going to have to be more specific. Is it all Down Syndrome babies that need the surgery? What’s the surgery?

        • McFlock

          Are you talking about “do not resuscitate” in the case of related cardiac problems manifesting, or are you talking about witholding food and water to a baby until it dies?

      • adam 11.4.3

        But the medical profession and state are getting involved in these women pregnancy – then abortions. I agree, it’s no one else business. But in this instance, that is not the case.

        Have a look at what Downs Syndrome support groups are saying on line.

        • McFlock

          How about you clearly state what you’re talking about and provide a link?

          I’m sure Downs support groups are saying lots of things online, but only a small portion of that will be related to the point you are trying to make.

        • Psycho Milt

          I agree, it’s no one else business. But in this instance, that is not the case.

          What is it about this instance that makes it the business of people other than the pregnant woman?

  12. Colonial Viper 12

    Government should not be involved with greenlighting the deliberate early deaths of a hundred or more New Zealanders per year.

    • BM 12.1

      Are you a religious man CV?

      Do you think people who chose euthanasia will go to hell?

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        Ahhh a very interesting question BM. I will partially answer it by saying that until the spiritual or religious aspects of the question have been considered, then it hasn’t really been considered at all.

        • McFlock

          Those are merely matters of opinion.

          • weka

            not for the people to whom they important. I don’t agree with CV because there are people for whom the spiritual aspects are irrelevant, but for the people who it does matter to then it matters. No reason why it can’t be part of the debate.

            • McFlock

              They’re only important to the people who hold the opinion that they’re important, and being subjective and/or faith-based they’re matters of opinion themselves.

              Sure, make them part of the debate. There’s no reason another part of the debate is someone else pointing out that that they’re just matters of opinion.

              • Colonial Viper

                The scientific rationalists blind faith that theirs is the only relevant point of view on faith.

                • McFlock

                  … in your opinion.

                • McFlock

                  … in your opinion.

                  Seriously, i8f you want to talk about the religious aspects of an issue, accusing someone of “blind faith” because they’re not particularly interested in what a magic book says is a touch hypocritical.

        • BM

          I take it that’s a yes?

          Out of curiosity, earlier on I did a bit of googling and came across this, you might find it interesting


          I am not religious btw.

    • Olwyn 12.2

      I wholeheartedly agree with you CV (at 11.1). While I think that cases do arise in which the courts should deal mercifully with those who have assisted in the suicide of another, I am opposed to euthanasia being legalised and codified. We have not done a very good job of safeguarding people against predatory capitalism, and I cannot see us doing a one better at safeguarding them against the worrying aspects of PAS.

      • BM 12.2.1

        Be honest, it’s your religion.

        • Olwyn

          From a religious POV, I could say that while I reject PAS for myself, I accept it as an option for those who don’t see things as I do. My concern here is more about justice – that “death with dignity” for the well-heeled will readily translate into something more sinister for those who less materially well off, as well as those with a bit of property that others want to get their hands on.

          • greywarshark

            Stop worrying about property and goods, material possessions, and think about people and what they need and yes, include the people connected with the person dying. If they have in mind that they would be grateful to own the family house instead of the owner now senseless with alzheimers, or helpless with limited health costing $1000 a week to be cared for as they wait for kind or unkind death to call whichever, well then what is bad about that!

            Just hear yourselves moan on about possibly money or property being cheated by the young ones or the rest of the family. When it’s time, and someone has had at least 50 years of life, it might be reasonable in some circumstances for that person to choose to die and the family have some estate money.

            Personally I am looking at what I can do to ease things for myself and my family. I think another ten years might be managed in good health, and then I would see what to do. I would like people to give me the right to do my dying in my own time and not bloody well fluff around telling what is good for me.

            If a well-thought-out, well-designed and appropriate Bill isn’t passed it is not only a personal tragedy but a community one. We are running out of resources, the poor are going to be burdened with many things and looking after long-lived bodies is not fair on the younger generation. It is not easy work and the longer the intensive care carries on, the less life that the carer has, the thought might come that they might as well go together. Try thinking objectively as well as subjectively.

            • Olwyn

              I don’t think that I am being any more subjective than you are. The word “voluntary” does have a meaning, and anyone who is coerced into euthanasia is not doing it voluntarily. I fear the slippery slope from the first to the second, and your talk about resources and long-lived bodies go nowhere toward reassuring me.

            • Rosemary McDonald

              “If a well-thought-out, well-designed and appropriate Bill isn’t passed it is not only a personal tragedy but a community one. We are running out of resources, the poor are going to be burdened with many things and looking after long-lived bodies is not fair on the younger generation. It is not easy work and the longer the intensive care carries on, the less life that the carer has, the thought might come that they might as well go together. Try thinking objectively as well as subjectively.”

              Trouble is, this government are appallingly bad at constructing well thought out legislation.

              “Then (at para. 84) the Court of Appeal gets truly snippy:

              Parliament introduced [the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill (No 2)] under urgency without prior notice only one month before Mrs Spencer’s judicial review proceeding was heard in the High Court. It contained a number of features that are traditionally regarded as being contrary to sound constitutional law and convention – on the Ministry’s interpretation it has retrospective effect, authorises discriminatory policies, withdraws rights of judicial review and access to the Tribunal and did not go through the normal Parliamentary Select Committee and other processes. ”


              “It is not easy work and the longer the intensive care carries on, the less life that the carer has, ”

              What makes the life of this carer extremely difficult is the the attitude of the government and its agents to what I do and who I do it for.

              You’re a well read person greywarshark, read Geddis’ piece, and his earlier piece (which he links to) and let me know how it would affect you to have over a decade of negotiations and legal discussions to try and gain just one point of parity with ACC disabled thrown permanently into the pit.

              You say “We are running out of resources, ” …I want to be quite clear on this…

              the government’s justification for the Part 4 amendment to the PHDAct was that the government could not afford it.

              This was complete and utter bullshit.

              I believe (through extensive research rather than government transparency…see Geddis on the RIS for the legislation) that this work was all about ensuring that the bulk of MOH:DSS funding goes through the bank accounts of the contracted providers. The Misery of Health was the first government agency to fully embrace the neo liberal practice of outsourcing most of its core duties to NGO and private companies.
              Who, by the way, are perfectly free to choose NOT to provide care for those with very high and complex needs in their own homes. leaving these people with the ‘choice’ of unpaid family carers or a living (or dying) hell in an institution. Which…is means and asset tested so the government slaps a lien on your assets and reimburses itself from your estate. ACC claimants are NOT means and asset tested. They have an entitlement to care and support.

              Get this crap sorted and I’ll unreservedly support PAS…

            • Ad

              That is so dark.
              Anyone over 80 with a house and a child will fear this bill.

              They will think the child wants them to die fast to get the remaining equity. The rifts and court cases over this stuff are just evil.

              Those over 80 will get DNS stamped on their forehead every time they catch a cold. Peoe are just cruel shits about this stuff.

  13. Colonial Viper 14

    500 New Zealanders per year already kill themselves. Shall we give the official go ahead to another hundred or two Kiwis? The comfortable middle class seem quite keen to have the option.

    • Puckish Rogue 14.1

      Comparing euthanasia to suicide is like comparing apples to oranges. As a member of the middle class yes I would like the option, I watched my mom pass away from cancer and it was not pleasant, I think people should have the option.

      • adam 14.1.2

        That has something to do with your Mom’s doctor. Death does not to be really unpleasant, the doctor had quite a few options, they chose/or did not know to use them. That is not an argument for euthanasia, it’s more an argument for better training and skills for doctors and families around death.

    • Lanthanide 14.2

      The last time I saw my grandma, she was asking us for a gun so should could kill herself because she was in so much pain.

    • 500 New Zealanders per year already kill themselves. Shall we give the official go ahead to another hundred or two Kiwis?

      “Kiwis” aren’t an asset “we” own, they’re individual human beings who have the right to make choices about their own lives. You shouldn’t get a vote, or feel entitled to one, on whether I get to live or die.

      • weka 14.3.1

        I think you mean “whether I choose to live or die”.

        • Psycho Milt

          No, I meant whether I get to. CV seems to be saying the government has a responsibility to see to it that the supply of New Zealanders is maintained by ensuring I don’t get to die if I want to. I guess the “live” part is kind of superfluous – but it seems the government should be ensuring I do that whether I want to or not.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            The government has to be very careful it isn’t the reason so many people want to kill themselves before they go legalising it.

            Say, for example, the rate of suicide is proportional to the unemployment rate. Therefore, by definition, every time the National Party forms a government, the voluntary euthanasia waiting list increases.

            Fish-hooks much?

            • greywarshark

              One Anonymous Bloke
              Good point that the government shouldn’t keep being a.seholes and being the cause of many despairing of making a satisfactory even happy, life, ever.

              But here we are attempting to talk about euthanasia, which I prefer to dignify with the name of Managed Demise. Others call it Death with Dignity.
              And basically I am thinking of people who are terminally ill, who are very affected by their disease and while they might be persuaded to keep going for a while longer, would like to know that at a certain point they can take their leave from family and friends.

              Such ill people might like to have a wake while they were still awake! and able to smile and enjoy the buzz of friends and loved ones. To chat with them, watch them argue as they always do, break into song (flat) as they always do after x number of drinks etc. and make a production of dying instead of a dirge.

              Also once over 70, having the ability to freely make arrangements for dying and following the guidelines – already there are some drawn up by thinking people to help others in their considerations. Why not? I checked out my GPs general thoughts about it sensitively. I thought it would be something that many might shy away from. They wouldn’t want their older patients thinking that they might have hidden ideas about their treatment like that nasty Shipman in Britain.

  14. gsays 15

    i heard a wonderful interview on rnz with a palliative care specialist who is in wellington.
    sinead (sorry dont recall her surname) made some very good points, the main one that stuck with me was why should this become a medical issue.
    its is contradictory for those in the medical profession to end life.

    while opposed to euthanasia, she asked why not get lawyers to do this as it is a legal issue, accountants or bankers if it is a financial concern. (i added the second part).

    another comment from a medical professional was about quality of life ‘seems’ to have diminished.

    for the record i have had three people close to me die, grandmother with leukaemia and my father after a massive stroke.
    i was strongly in favour of euthanasia.
    recently a good friend passed away in hopital after a bout of pneumonia, i was fortunate to be with him in the up to 30 mins before his death. it is odd but it felt a privilege to be there with his family, equally it also felt like the time to go to leave them together.

    my attitude has turned 180 degress where now i am not so sure.
    i dont consider myself religious.
    we also have to be careful about emotions riding roughshod over our decisions.

    there are a myriad of issues going on here and i agree we need a better process than what is going on in welly at the moment.

    great discussion, thanks.

    • weka 15.1

      Good points. How to be with people while they are dying is very important, no matter how they die.

      If that interview was from last year I think that woman was talking from a religious pro-life perspective. Re doctors or lawyers, there are different things being discussed here. One is how to write laws that enable people to be assisted to die intentionally. The other is once those laws are written, what professionals are involved in the actual death. Myself, I’d want to die without any medical people involve at all unless I had a good relationship with them, but that’s never going to happen, so it makes sense that it’s medical people (could be nurses not doctors). If the law were well written I can’t see any reason for lawyers to be involved in individual cases beyond the paper work.

      • gsays 15.1.1

        hi weka, i have gone to the rnz site and found the interview, it is the one on 9th june.
        dr donnelly does come from a clinical perspective not a pure pro-life, nor religious angle, although these things may inform her position.

        • weka

          Thanks. Might be a different one than I heard. The one I heard as a palliative care worker (can’t remember her profession) and she didn’t talk from a religious angle overtly but the prolife ethic came across in what she said. It wasn’t a clinical position IMO, because clinicians should be leaving their personal stuff out of it.

    • Ergo Robertina 15.2

      That would be palliative medicine specialist Sinead Donnelly.

      We don’t hear from doctors on the other side of the debate, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t medical counter-arguments and compelling narratives for the right to die case.
      For instance, some argue euthanasia can extend life, as people know they will have the choice when they need it, and they don’t need to panic and take steps while they are physically able.
      The interview with Lecretia’s lawyer Andrew Butler on Kim Hill’s programme is worth listening to: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/201786536/andrew-butler-determining-death

      • Rosemary McDonald 15.2.1

        “We don’t hear from doctors on the other side of the debate, ”

        Yes, but a doctor can refuse to treat a disabled person for a treatable disease because the doctor has made a values judgement about the quality of that disabled person’s life.

        Another doctor arrives on duty and commences ‘heroic measures’ and that disabled person is alive and enjoying life today…six years later.

        Or, a group of nurses can loudly voice their collective agreement that a woman must be nuts to continue a pregnancy after being told her baby has spina bifida. Cue long and lengthy (and largely misinformed) discussion of the miserable life such a person will have….better not to have been born at all etc etc.
        A young trainee health professional happened to be in the room at the time and quietly thanked my partner and I for defending the right of people with spina bifida to life…as she herself had spina bifida….and her colleagues hadn’t even spotted it.

        I know, from personal experience, that some health professionals view most people with disabilities as lower forms of life…especially those born with their disability.

        Nurses obviously felt it was okay to discuss this topic in front of my paralysed partner as his disability was accident related (before ACC)…

        It is a complicated and dangerous world we live in and some of us have learned to be on our guard around health professionals.

        • Ergo Robertina

          And sometimes doctors have taken the heroic measures with pioneeering techniques and saved disabled infants for their then to be no support services and terrible impacts on families (siblings in particular).

          The problem I see with the slippery slope argument is that medical abuse was even more rife when patients and families had less say.
          I’m not suggesting abuses don’t still occur – and we lack patient advocacy (especially for vulnerable patients or people who don’t understand the health system). The HDC isn’t proactive in launching its own investigations into areas of concern.
          But when doctors were above reproach abuse was far worse.

          If you haven’t read it, I recommend Andrew Solomon’s ”Far From the Tree”.
          He interviewed hundreds of families over many years (going back to the same family more than once, in many instances) about disabilities and also rape, transgender, schizophrenia, autism, and prodigy.
          It’s a mix of field research, history, and the politics of each area. It really is a remarkable book and I’m not sure why his first, about depression (which I haven’t read) received so much attention, while this one received very little in comparison.
          It sounds unlikely, but it really is written with no sense of an agenda, other than listening to the different approaches people take to being in the world and coping with the world. The picture that formed for me from reading the book was that of pragmatism combined with empathy as being the best way to approach things.

    • just saying 15.3

      I’ve had a similar experience of changing my mind about euthanasia, partly as a result of being with people close to me dying in agony. One just last year.

      I used to be strongly in support but the clear-cut cases are just part of the story.
      Mostly I was appalled by the inadequate care and the unnecessary suffering, mainly due to hospitals being run into the ground, and prohibitive rationing of hospice care (someone at the hospital has to declare that the patient will die within two weeks, and often it is impossible for a doctor to be able to say this with any certainty). Many never get the chance to have specialist palliative care because of this rule, and lack of beds in hopsices.

      I won’t unreservedly supprt Euthanasia until care of all kinds is properly resourced. Also, I became aware of some family issues around the need to have the opportunity to spend a little time with their loved one, where possible, with the pain under control, before that person dies. If a patient makes the choice while in extreme distress, that important chance is lost forever.

  15. greywarshark 16

    Quite a few here who want to step into the individual’s space, assert their right to decide for the individual, and make decisions for them for their own good. It is being superior and self-righteous.

    • McFlock 16.1

      In my case, it’s more a worry that a policy enacted because of an idealised, uncontroversial case can quickly evolve into a routine abuse in unacceptable cases, only by then the goalposts have shifted so that what was unacceptable before the policy was considered now passes without comment.

      Like taking benefits off serious criminals who are on the run has now turned into canceling a veteran’s pension because of a trespass arrest.

    • gsays 16.2

      hi greywarshark,
      is a euthanasia decision purely an individual decision?

      i dont recall the school of thought (perhaps socrates), but when making a decision consider the next group up eg; for the indivdual consider the family, a familial decision consider the community, for community, the nation…

      again i cant articulate fully what it is i am getting at but with a lot of things the individual is raised to a falsely elevated importance.
      consumerism is a good example- YOU are very important, YOu need this to be happy.

      in my short time i have seen the devaluing of the family/whanau unit- high divorce rates, the damn near mandating of early childhood education (3 months old in a often minimum wage workers care?) etc.

      coming across a bit scattergun i know, just lacking a concise vocabulary.

      • greywarshark 16.2.1

        What has been lost gsays in all the new individualism, is paradoxically the concern for the individual. The concept of feeling compassion for others, and treasuring them as individuals has been lost in the drive to sell the idea to people that they are strong, clever and self-supporting individuals.

        In other words individualism is a PR selling ploy for business (buy our thing and you can be all the person you can be), and self-seeking politicians. Government would like to reduce their role of powerful ability to supply to individuals,groups and communities the infrastructure they need, so the largesse can be diverted to individual politicians and friends.

        It’s a stuff-you individualism that means the actual person gets lost in a bog of confusing denial of their individuality. One of the reasons that politicians are slow to do anything about euthanasia is that providing for the living elderly is a good and growing business proposition. The other is that often the elderly are not keen to objectively look at their situation and want to push death away in their minds, and the pollies don’t want to upset this valuable stable voting bloc. So as with other urgent social matters we cannot get any action from them because there isn’t any pay-off for them personally or individually!

        • gsays

          amen, well said.
          it is a cruel irony that the rise of the self is at a supreme cost of others, family members, friends, community.

          politically it sounds very neo lib/conservative as oppose to a socialist mindset.

          re old folks homes (is that ok langauge?); as with early childcare, is a big growth business.
          and i might add the sign of a society in decline.

          • greywarshark

            There is comfort from living with people your own age sometimes so old folks homes may not be too bad. However there are a few wonderful films made about old people who ‘escape’ from an oldies home so I guess over the world there are many who find them constricting. I know I would.
            Here is a trailer for a wild one, full length on there!

            Some interesting picks from an interesting psychologist.
            And a deeply moving British doco on Alzheimers in two parts. Part One –

            But one of my relations had her mother living with her. She had some sort of mental decay and followed her daughter round, telling her the same stories, and not able to process or remember what was said to her. Worse than a child really, and it became an intolerable burden I think. Which is sad if they had always been happy and loved each other while she was in her right mind.

            The government likes long age because it is counted as a positive statistic in the OECD and World Health stats, so it’s a box to tick off. But we don’t use the Wellbeing Index much to measure how we are doing, and that might ask more questions about the state of old people here, their mobility, pain-free, eyes,
            ability to help the community by volunteering, taking and returning and keeping mentally and physically healthy?

  16. greywarshark 17

    Bloody hell nothing must be done for the first time.
    ( Sir Humphrey Yes Minister.)

    And because something may be done wrong to even one person, then nobody can have the right of an agreed legal pathway if wanted. How do we manage to live our lives with so many doubtful possibilities that may happen? This thinking, taken a bit further, results in a severe psychosis where the person is paralysed by doubt and fear and nothing can be done because of unseen and seen possible consequences.

  17. Draco T Bastard 18

    After watching my mother spend years dying of cancer (although she was only diagnosed in the last 9 months) I can say that I’ve been a supporter of voluntary euthanasia for many years. I can’t give a rational reason, all I know is that it’s wrong got force people through that sort of torture.

    • Ad 18.1

      I sure wouldn’t argue with that.

    • gsays 18.2

      Hi draco, I can empathize with the vibe about not being able to rationalise how I feel. Although currently I am on the other side of the discussion.
      There is a sanctity of life aspect, a feeling that this sort of thing of thing is a societal issue rather than an individual ‘choice’.

      It isn’t an absolute or overwhelming position.
      I have been further enlightened by the comments of rosemary, having never considered this subject from a person in her position.

      Once again I am encouraged by the quality and integrity of discussion on this site in a very emotive subject.
      A wonderful community.

      • Draco T Bastard 18.2.1

        There is a sanctity of life aspect, a feeling that this sort of thing of thing is a societal issue rather than an individual ‘choice’.

        Life really isn’t affected by people dying a few months earlier than they would otherwise. The quality of their life would be.

        Of course, without modern care many wouldn’t live long enough to get to choose. We are, IMO, at the point where modern care can extend life beyond what many would consider a fulfilling life.

        This is the true dilemma. The choice between extending life as far as possible no matter the quality of life or allowing someone to choose the point at which they die because life no longer has an appropriate quality.

        • gsays

          “Life really isn’t affected by people dying a few months earlier than they would otherwise. The quality of their life would be.”

          well this is the point i am trying to make.
          at an individual level you are right, life isn’t affected, however society will change when euthanasia is ‘normalised’.
          not in a healthy direction imo.

          • Draco T Bastard

            at an individual level you are right, life isn’t affected, however society will change when euthanasia is ‘normalised’.

            Incorrect. Life quality at the individual level is affected but society won’t be. It will continue on as normal, as if nothing changed.

            People die everyday – it’s not news. Each individual death doesn’t affect anyone outside of a small circle.

            • McFlock

              Society doesn’t work like that. Even small changes do not happen in a vacuum. Society starts at the individual level, so changes at the individual level can have dramatic effects on societal attitudes as a whole.

              • Draco T Bastard

                So, how would people who are already dying being able to choose when to die affect society?

                • gsays

                  when, perhaps, their greedy indebted offspring coerce, convince, or pressure their elderly parent it’s for the best.

                  when the rest home bills are eating into ‘my’ birthright, my inheritance.

                  when its kinder, when what is meant is, it is convenient.

                  when, having lacked resilience all my life, i can’t see a way out of this black hole this time…..

                  that is when society is affected.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    when, perhaps, their greedy indebted offspring coerce, convince, or pressure their elderly parent it’s for the best.

                    That’s already happening in one form or another.

                    All of those are individual and not societal. And, yes, there would need to be protections in the legislation. It wouldn’t be a free for all.

                • McFlock


                  But I can see how having other people legally allowed to council suicide, provide advice and equipment for the act, and otherwise assist in the suicide, could make the worthy cause you’ve described become corrupted into a grubby little inheritance grab by less-than caring relatives or “care” facilities that have to keep to a budget.

                  • Ergo Robertina

                    Counsel suicide.

                    The claim about care facilities keeping to a budget by counselling euthanasia is complete rubbish, as facilities (aged care, as well as others) rely on occupancy to make their money. You should learn a bit about how the system works before making inflammatory and factually incorrect comments.
                    Aged residential care facilities have closed in recent years due to low occupancy, and there are often waiting lists for popular facilities.

                    • McFlock

                      Coincidentally, I’ve been finding out quite a bit lately.

                      Like the difference between residential care and the more intensive hospital level care frequently offered in the same residence, and how some residences allow residents to transition between the two with no increase in cost after you purchase the suite/room.

    • Ad 18.3

      Gareth Morgan’s people have had a go at it.


      Some questions that are raised there are:

      – Pain management: would legalizing assisted death help this?

      – Loss of control of physical self would legalizing assisted death help this?

      – Loss of personal dignity would legalizing assisted death help this?

      help Loss of determination of time and means of death “I want the right to choose how I die” would legalizing assisted death help this?

      These are good tough questions.

  18. gsays 19

    Hi er, thanks, yes that is her name.
    I seem to recall there was a contrary opinion given by a medical type, among other points he kept implying that palliative care was a kind of killing gently/slowly.

    • Ergo Robertina 19.1

      OK thanks, I didn’t hear the particular interview to which you refer.
      Of course plenty of doctors do support it but mostly they keep fairly quiet.

  19. Whispering Kate 20

    We human beings being venal and weak cannot manage responsibilities on our own, we cannot even drive on the road and sensibly obey simple instructions like keeping speeding down or following too close, let alone driving through red lights. Imagine having the judiciary or parliament passing laws to put people to sleep and thinking for one minute they could be left to follow the law to the letter – it will not happen. Never in any conditions. We do not agree to be born, we just are, we have no rights to agree to be allowed to die. Its a life cycle so just bear it on the chin and get over it. Forever since man first got up and walked on his two legs we have had the choice to die by our own making, so if we are too infirm/sick to be able to do it, then we should prepare ourselves and do it earlier and not expect a doctor to do it for you. No doctor, repeat no doctor should have to shoulder that burden – who do these euthanasia so all experts think they are to put that sort of decision on to our hard working doctors. It is massive arrogance – to expect them to do it even if the law is past, it is a repugnant law.

    Its a disgusting law and should never be allowed. Life is what it is, we are born and then we die, some people die worse than others. I have dealt with many deaths and with pain relief and care we can manage it. We are supposed to be civilised and civilised people do not sanction putting human beings to death because they just wish to be.

    • Imagine having the judiciary or parliament passing laws to put people to sleep…

      That does sound pretty terrible – if someone one day proposes such a law, I’ll be sure to oppose it.

  20. greywarshark 21

    Whispering Kate
    Go easy on the euthanasia groups, they are putting forward ideas that would provide integrity ie doctors, and which authorities are more likely to approve. When it came to abortion, even contraceptive prescriptions, doctors were not forced to do so. I would think that there would be some doctors who would offer to take on this task of assisted death for people who had followed the legal requirements.

    It is better if the person, or family, could do the task themselves. It will be a task, which some may accept gladly and some sadly, but as you say we are born and we must die, but the body and heart go on longer than our true lifespan sometimes.
    As for carrying it out at the right time, we aren’t automatons, we aren’t ordered by time, lever or electricity. We can’t know when the right time is always and we may not complete all our preparations when we should. I

    I was stopped by a long-term acquaintance in the supermarket recently to tell me that her husband, has gone from her, with Alzheimers. She has found him a Home with lawns and space as he is physically active as always, walks round and round, but mentally this great man, a life-long activist and progressive is gone. He may have preferred to have embraced euthanasia if he had known of his end. But he is happy and is contained, which was a difficulty at home, causing the placement. But of course it will cost, wherever he was extra precautions are needed, fences, constant care, and that takes time and money. Money and the human and financial cost of providing care, have to be considered along with higher, spiritual matters.

  21. greywarshark 22

    The need for proper concern for the beliefs of people and fulfilment of religious rituals before death, has not been touched on much in this post. But we must pay proper attention to our passing from life, and the end of our earthly selves. It is time to think of our inner being, our soul, our spirit and our life on this earth. It is not considered that the euthanasia option be introduced so we would be just extinguished like a candle. Each one of us has been important in this life, this amazing experience, and passing away should involve some ritual, and at least some small formality, and clear instructions on wishes as to where the person is to rest and finalising the estate.

    A good legislation will demand legal matters be attended to by the person, or with those having power of attorney, to say three joint appointees. Advice given to close family given in a timely, thoughtful fashion, and a printed note of memory and respect to extended families and friends could also be a minimum requirement.

    Each one has been involved with others. Family matters, wills, arguments, misunderstandings can be dealt with, not reargued but with a simple note perhaps to be sent after death to those who have become distant. It could just have a quiet message expressing sadness that there have been differences which couldn’t be reconciled, and you remember positive times together.

    • Ad 22.1

      As a Catholic I think religion can deliberately muddy this kind of debate.
      But I might have a go over the weekend.

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