Media Release

“David Seymour’s criticism of the Votesafe.nz Quiz on the End of Life Choice Act referendum is misinformed and unreasonable”, says Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.

The quiz, which is promoted by the Safer Future Charitable Trust, includes 10 questions on the details of the End of Life Choice Act referendum.

 

“Can an eligible 18-year-old receive a lethal dose without their parents knowing?”

 

In The Spinoff this quiz question is attacked because it doesn’t also specify the eligibility criteria. However, since the word “eligible” is included in the question, the context of these criteria is implied.

Seymour argues that the scenario of an 18-year-old receiving a lethal dose under the Act is only “vaguely possible”, since the average age of people taking up assisted dying would be much higher.

His criticism is unreasonable. The question uses the word “can”. It asks whether this scenario is possible under the Act or not. “Vaguely possible” is still possible, which means the quiz highlights a valid implication for voters to consider.

“It’s arrogant of Mr Seymour to dismiss a concern raised by an organisation simply because he doesn’t share it personally”, says Ms Joubert. “A concern based on a possible scenario does not constitute ‘misinformation’.”

 

“Do people have to try any treatment options first before requesting assisted dying?”

 

The quiz states that a person doesn’t need to try treatment first, “even if those options would likely help to cure their illness or treat their symptoms. Under this Act, assisted dying doesn’t have to be a last resort.”

According to The Spinoff, Seymour said, “…the bill says they need to understand their options for end-of-life care, and be having an experience that cannot be relieved in any other manner – well, that is a last resort.”

Seymour is incorrect. The End of Life Choice Act does not require euthanasia to be only a last resort. The Bill of Rights Act states that, “Everyone has the right to refuse to undergo any medical treatment.” Even treatments that “would likely help to cure their illness or treat their symptoms” – quoting the quiz – may be refused.

One of the Act’s eligibility criteria is to “experience unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable”.

The government information misrepresents this clause. The Act does not state only, “suffering that cannot be relieved”.  The phrase, “in a manner that the person considers tolerable”, means that a treatment may exist that would relieve the person’s suffering, but that the person may refuse it because they don’t consider it “tolerable”.

A person doesn’t need to experience a treatment first hand to consider it intolerable. For example, some people object to blood transfusions without ever having received one.

A treatment may be considered “intolerable” simply because the person prefers to receive a lethal dose of medication instead.

 

In Oregon a person can be eligible even if treatment exists

 

Like the End of Life Choice Act, Oregon’s Act limits eligibility to terminally ill people who are expected to die within six months.

The Oregon Health Authority confirmed that when assessing a person’s eligibility, “The question is: should the disease be allowed to take its course absent further treatment, is the patient likely to die within six months?” (emphasis added)

This means that a person may be eligible for assisted dying even if treatment options still exist, but they prefer not to receive them.

 

Euthanasia-Free NZ commends the Votesafe.nz campaign for highlighting some implications of the End of Life Choice Act for voters to consider.

ENDS