Media release – 30 October 2015
David Seymour, MP for ACT, withdrew from an interview when he heard that Euthanasia-Free NZ would also be represented.
Earlier this week Mr Seymour accepted the invitation to discuss his End of Life Choice Bill on this week’s Wireless Watchdog. At the time, Renee Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ, had not yet been invited onto the programme by Plains FM host Kenny Ardouin.
“As soon as I found out that Renee would be joining us too, I informed David and he told me that I, quote, ‘have got to be kidding’”, recalled Mr Ardouin. “I invited him back but he declined. I also invited him for an individual interview, but he has not responded. This is disappointing as I really had hoped he would join in on the discussion – not a debate, but an open discussion on a human rights issue.”
The programme, aired live last night and repeated this morning, went ahead in Mr Seymour’s absence.
Ms Joubert interprets Mr Seymour’s withdrawal as an indication that he has already realised his bill is unworkable and indefensible. “He has rushed ahead where angels fear to tread and produced a seriously flawed proposal.”
Ms Joubert voiced her reservations about the bill, which proposes euthanasia and assisted suicide by lethal drugs.
She is concerned that virtually every New Zealander 18 years or older would be eligible for death under the “grievous and irremediable medical condition” clause.
“Disabilities, chronic physical and mental conditions as well as ageing-related conditions would fall into this category,” warns Ms Joubert. “Whether a condition is “grievous” is an entirely subjective judgement. Any condition can become “irremediable” when a person refuses further treatment.”
She argues that the “terminal illness” clause is also fraught with difficulties, as it has no universally accepted definition. The boundary between terminal illness and chronic illness is blurred, because some conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and allergies can become life-threatening within minutes. The line between terminal illness and disability is also unclear, because some would define any condition that is potentially life-shortening as “terminal”. The “six months” threshold is arbitrary and also redundant, since any terminal illness is by definition irremediable.
Ms Joubert submitted on air that none of the bill’s proposed safeguards would be enforceable.
She pointed out that, under this bill, anyone who ended a person’s life and claimed that they have done so in good faith, would be immune from prosecution, even if they have not followed other requirements in the bill.
“A doctor could, for example, ignore the safeguard that there has to be a voluntary request… and then not be prosecuted.”
“Are David Seymour and ACT proposing more than voluntary euthanasia in order to cut health care costs? After all, death is cheaper than treatment…”
Dr David Richmond, a retired geriatrician and a spokesperson for Euthanasia-Free NZ, is concerned about the quality of the medical advice Mr. Seymour has accessed in preparing this bill. “It’s drafting is more akin to a document produced by an enthusiastic layperson than by a credible medical expert,” he says.
Follow-up media release: David Seymour withdraws from euthanasia debate