November 20, 2016
Good on Labour MP Louisa Wall for putting up her take on the euthanasia bill to Parliament’s Health Select Committee.
The Authorise Dying Bill has the potential to affect a great many Kiwis.
Euthanasia is a subject most New Zealanders have a view on. But in saying that, I’m sure the vast majority of New Zealanders are undecided on whether this should become legal.
I’m a firm believer in people having choices. That’s why those suffering terminal illnesses – and while still in sound mind – should have the right and ability to Die with Dignity. That should be a choice we should all ultimately have.
But I’m not sure a blanket policy, where making it legal to die, is warranted. Instead I’d probably prefer those decisions be made on a case-by-case basis.
Wall took up this euthanasia battle following the public life and death of Lecretia Seales who battled the state to die compassionately. Seales was a Wellington lawyer, who held positions with Kensington Swan, Chen Palmer & Partners, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Law Commission, where she was a Senior Legal & Policy Adviser.
Diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011 – a grade 2 oligoastrocytoma – Seales underwent surgery to remove the tumour. But her tumour was not removed completely and between 2011 and 2014 she received radiotherapy and two courses of chemotherapy to deal with the remainder of the tumour.
Not wanting to become a suicide statistic, Seales believed there was a gentler, commpassionate way to die and filed high court action that if her doctor should assist with her death, the GP would not be prosecuted.
But on June 5, 2015, ironically the day the court delivered its verdict not upholding Seales claim, she passed away.
There have been attempts to change the law in the past. In 2003, New Zealand First Deputy leader Peter Browns Death with Dignity Bill was defeated by just two votes.
And the country was gripped by the Lesley Martin story. She was convicted in 2004 of the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother, Joy Martin, in 1999 and spent seven months in prison. Lesley appeared with me on TV where I facilitated a debate with her and the late Revered Hone Kaa. I will never forget Hone accusing Lesley of supporting murder and Lesley courageously defending her position.
The Pro-euthanasia organisations will say that voluntary euthanasia is a mater of choice and it should be up to an individual on the quality of life they have, and if they want to end it.
Those against euthansia will say it devalues life and religion and ethics.
So dying with dignity yes but legal euthanasia? The jury is still out for me.
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