Legal voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide is dangerous to society
No safeguards can protect elderly, disabled and mentally ill people from subtle, or not so subtle, pressure to request death. Essentially legal physician-assisted suicide is state-facilitated suicide and would contradict suicide prevention.
These are some of the many reasons why our organisation warn against the legalisation of “assisted dying”, “aid in dying” or “end of life choice”, which are euphemisms for voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Legalisation would affect all of society, even those who don’t want such an “end-of-life choice” for themselves. It would put pressure on people who choose to stay alive, and imply that they are a burden on society. It would make caring for disabled, mentally ill and elderly people optional, instead of the default.
The question to consider is not, “Should certain individuals have access to an assisted death?”
The question is, “Should criminal law change for the whole country?”
Nowhere in the world have legal assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia been successfully contained and regulated. Any safeguard would be unenforceable, because these laws are based on self-reporting. It’s simply impossible to prevent coercion, pressure and abuse. The medically or emotionally vulnerable members of our society are particularly at risk. Because pressure can be subtle and occur behind closed doors over a long period of time, it would be impossible to ascertain whether consent is genuine and choice is truly free.
The illness and death of a loved one, and the grief process involved, can be an emotionally harrowing experience. However, “assisted dying” – making it legal for people to deliberately help others commit suicide – is not the solution.
We believe true “aid in dying” and compassionate care mean walking alongside a suffering person and their loved ones. We advocate that medical professionals do everything possible to relieve their patients’ physical and psychological pain, and enable them to be dying with dignity, but without crossing the line of intentionally ending a person’s life. To do so would be ethically different from other end of life practices, such as switching off life support, do-not-resuscitate orders, or withdrawing futile medical treatment.
Legal “assisted dying” would not be in society’s best interests.
Contrary to what some people believe, in New Zealand “aid-in-dying” is not being proposed only for people with a terminal illness. The End of Life Choice Bill suggests that almost any New Zealander over 18 would be eligible for assisted suicide or euthanasia by lethal drugs, even if they have a disability, a chronic physical or mental illness or an ageing-related or degenerative medical condition.