MPs should not take Horizon survey seriously
Media Release – 19 June 2017
“The recent Horizon Research ‘poll’ commissioned by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society should not be taken seriously,” says Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
“It is in fact a self-selected online survey. Only people who had signed up to Horizon had the opportunity to respond, and the survey was not even sent to all of them.
“The raw data was not collected from a random scientific sample of all New Zealanders.”
Survey results depend on question wording
A study by Parkinson et al found that subtle changes in wording are associated with a massive 48% difference in the level of support for euthanasia and assisted suicide:
79 % stated that they “support the idea of euthanasia”.
70% agreed that “a doctor should be able to assist a patient to die”.
However, only 31% agreed that “a doctor should be able to deliberately bring about a patient’s death”.
“The latter is an accurate description of euthanasia: It indeed involves one person deliberately bringing about another person’s death, usually by means of lethal injection,” says Ms Joubert.
In the Horizon survey respondents were asked whether they supported allowing “medical practitioners to assist people to die”. This phrase is very vague. Some could have understood the phrase to refer to existing practices such as discontinuing unwanted medical treatment.
The question also referred to “irreversible unbearable suffering”, which paints a highly emotive picture of terminal illness that’s far removed from the reality people experience when receiving good care.
Palliative care is holistic care for the whole person and their family: physical, psychological, social and spiritual care tailored to the needs of the individual. It’s virtually impossible that with all the tools at the dispense of a multi-disciplinary specialist team, a person’s suffering would remain “unbearable”.
The questions ignored the wider and practical implications of a law change
As Narelle Henson wrote in a recent Stuff article, “After all, for every social change we make there are people who benefit and people who are harmed. In this case, harm means murder. And that is very serious because once we are dead, we cannot come back.”
Theory vs practice
In theory legal assisted suicide may sound to some like ‘a nice option to have’. However, the reality of writing and implementing a good law is fraught with difficulties. For example:
- Any eligibility criteria would be arbitrary and discriminatory. There would always be someone on the other side of the line saying, “But what about me? I’m also suffering!” Does a person with six months to live suffer more than a person with seven months to live? Does a person with a terminal diagnosis necessarily suffer more than a person with a chronic illness?
- If there were no dangers, there would be no need for safeguards. Unfortunately safeguards can be circumvented, including the requirement for a voluntary request. Thousands of Belgians have received euthanasia without requesting it.
- Relationship abuse and elder abuse are real and growing concerns. How could emotionally vulnerable people be protected from being pressured or coerced to request death? If they were pressured by a skilled manipulator, nobody else may ever find out.
- The mere existence of legal assisted suicide as an option would put societal pressure on some people to ‘do the right thing’ and choose death – Death would be cheaper than treatment.
“Our criminal law is not broken and doesn’t need fixing”, says Ms Joubert. “A blanket ban against assisted suicide is the safest option.
“Once the law crosses the line from a blanket ban to one which allows assisted suicide for certain exceptions, there would be no logical defence against adding more and more exceptions.
“In jurisdictions that legalised assisted suicide and/or voluntary euthanasia there has been ‘bracket creep’, often without such extensions being debated by parliament. The law is simply interpreted more loosely over time to include more categories of people.”