Media release – 14 October 2015
“The End-of-Life Choice Bill uses vague language that is open to wide interpretation”, says Renee Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
The bill proposes death by lethal drugs for people with “a grievous and irremediable medical condition”. Virtually anyone could qualify under this clause, because a condition automatically becomes “irremediable” if a person exercises their right to refuse further treatment.
The requirement that a person needs to be “in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability” is equally problematic. The capability to do what? To read? To run? Anyone with a disability, mental illness or ageing-related condition could qualify under this clause.
In July, a 24-year old depressed but otherwise healthy woman, was granted legal euthanasia under similar legislation in Belgium. Her depression was considered “an irremediable condition” and in the words of Seymour’s bill, “she experienced suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that she finds tolerable”. She only wanted a lethal injection.
“We are deeply concerned that, under Seymour’s bill, depressed people could receive death instead of treatment”, says Ms Joubert. “Depression is easily hidden, even from doctors, and easily misdiagnosed. Depressed people could use another medical condition as an excuse to qualify for a lethal injection from a doctor. This bill effectively allows state-facilitated suicide.”
Seymour’s bill contains no enforceable safeguards against coercion and abuse.
Euthanasia-Free NZ trusts that MPs will reject the End of Life Choice bill, especially in light of overseas decisions to dismiss legislation that is much less extreme. During the past year assisted dying legislation was rejected in the UK, Scotland and the US states of Maine, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware and Maryland. It was legalised in only one state, California, and only by circumventing the normal legislative process.