Brooke van Velden – newly-minted Deputy Leader of the ACT Party – spoke at a community event last Monday night in Epsom, Auckland, which was attended by several Euthanasia-Free NZ supporters.
Unfortunately Ms van Velden’s presentation was heavy on spin and light on substance, and included glaring errors on the End of Life Choice Act.
Her speech followed that of Jan Nichols, the Chief Executive of Harbour Hospice, who discussed some concerns of those who care for dying people. These included: the lack of a stand down period in the Act before the lethal dose is prescribed; the fact that the person’s family may not be informed; commonly-felt concerns among vulnerable people about being a ‘burden’; and the possibility of undetected coercion.
Brooke van Velden claimed that the person accessing assisted dying has to have mental competency right to the end. This is false. Unlike in Victoria, Australia, there is no requirement to confirm a person’s competency on the day the lethal dose is administered.
Then Ms van Velden asserted that when the second doctor gets involved, ‘the process has to happen all over again’. However, in reality the second doctor is required to assess eligibility only, leaving the information about alternatives and the vexed issue of detecting pressure to a single doctor. This is an obvious weak point of the Act.
She claimed that “the doctor has to meet with you four times”, which is not required by the Act. Some people could request euthanasia, sign their form and be assessed as eligible by the first doctor all during the same appointment. If a second doctor has confirmed the person’s eligibility, the remaining steps (Sections 17 to 19) could be completed in one additional meeting with the first doctor, because a nurse practitioner may take over on the day the lethal dose is administered.
Finally, Ms van Velden tried to play down the obvious disquiet felt by many listeners at the thought of a proxy signing their euthanasia request. She claimed that this form would be only for the purpose of requesting a diagnosis, and ‘not a form to say you are consenting to death’. But that is exactly what it is.
“It’s very concerning that Brooke van Velden overstates the protections in the End of Life Choice Act,” says Renée Joubert, Executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ. “I wonder how many MPs voted for the Act based on misinformation received from her.”