End of Life choice site

October 25th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

David Seymour has put together a website in support of his End of Life choice bill.

There are a number of personal stories on there which are very moving.


The need for disclosure

October 22nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

The Government is under fire for funding a study on euthanasia that’s being run by researchers who support assisted dying.

Opponents are angry, claiming the study asking doctors and nurses for their views on euthanasia is biased and flawed.

The study is being led by two Auckland researchers, Dr Phillipa Malpas and Dr Pam Oliver, who told participants “we are independent”.

But they didn’t reveal they’re members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society which is pushing for a law change to let doctors help patients die.

I would have thought that was important information to disclose.

The survey is meant for doctors and nurses only. 

But ONE News accessed it online and found it easy to submit fake responses.

Oh dear. Not very robust. Were participants asked to supply details that can be verified?



Seymour lodges voluntary euthanasia bill

October 14th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A bill that would legalise voluntary euthanasia has been launched by ACT leader David Seymour.  …

“The End of Life Choice Bill is a response to the anguish faced by a small but significant minority of people with terminal illness or who are grievously and irremediably ill, as they anticipate the prospect of intolerable suffering and the indignity of the final few days and weeks of their lives.

“The motivation for this Bill is compassion. It allows people who so choose and are eligible under this Bill to end their life in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones,” he said.

Part of the Key’s reluctance to put the issue on the Government’s books is the number of the grey areas the issue presents. 

He has said its very difficult to get the legislation right. 

Seymour said his bill “carefully defined those eligible for assisted dying”. 

“It details a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure this is a free choice made without coercion, and outlines a stringent series of steps to ensure the person is mentally capable of understanding the nature and consequences of assisted dying.”

The details around safeguards will be an important focus.

The bill is online here. The eligibility criteria are:

  • is aged 18 years or over
  • has New Zealand citizenship or is a permanent resident
  • suffers from a terminal illness likely to end their life within 6 months or has a grievous and irremediable medical condition
  • is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability
  • experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable
  • has the ability to understand the nature and consequences of assisted dying

The process would be:

  • A person requests assisted dying
  • Two medical practitioners will have to be satisfied that the person meets the criteria required. 
  • The medical practitioner must also encourage the person to talk about his or her choice with family, friends, and counsellors, ensure that the person has had the opportunity to talk to his or her choice of people, and do his or her best to ensure that the person has chosen assisted dying free of any pressure or coercion.
  • The medical practitioner must then contact the SCENZ Group, which will refer the person requesting assisted dying to a second medical practitioner, who must be independent of the person and of the initial medical practitioner.
  • After the reading of the person’s files and the examination of the person have occurred, should either medical practitioner be uncertain about whether the person requesting assisted dying is competent, the two medical practitioners must jointly refer the person to a specialist with a relevant scope in mental health.

The House may deal with as many as four members’ bills today, which means potentially four to be drawn from the ballot tomorrow. The odd for this bill being picked will be around 4/70 or around 6%. So it is unlikely to come before Parliament for a fair while.

Tags: ,

California legalises euthanasia

October 6th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

California will become the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs after Governor Jerry Brown announced Monday he signed one of the most emotionally charged bills of the year.

Brown, a lifelong Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian, announced he signed the legislation after thoroughly considering all opinions and discussing the issue with many people, including a Catholic bishop and two of Brown’s doctors.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” the governor wrote in a signing statement that accompanied his signature on the legislation. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill.

Fascinating that a staunch Catholic decided not to veto the bill.

I’ll predict that within two decades, most states in the US will allow euthanasia.


Euthanasia already happening in NZ

July 27th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Doctors and nurses are playing increasing roles in prescribing, supplying or administering drugs that may hasten a patient’s death, according to new research.

A University of Auckland study anonymously surveyed 650 GPs.

Sixteen reported prescribing, supplying or administering a drug with the explicit intention of bringing death about more quickly.

But in 15 of those cases, it was nurses who administered the drugs. 

Researchers acknowledged the actions of the GPs would generally be understood as euthanasia, but the survey did not use that term. 

In the survey, led by Auckland University senior lecturer Dr Phillipa Malpas, GPs were asked about the last death at which they were the attending doctor.

Of the 650 to respond, 359 (65.6 per cent) reported that they had made decisions, such as withdrawing treatment or alleviating pain, taking into account the probability that they may hasten death.

Some made explicit decisions about hastening death.

Of the 359, 16.2 per cent withheld treatments with the “explicit purpose of not prolonging life or hastening the end of life”.

So euthanasia is already quite widespread – but with no legal protections for patients. If we legalise euthanasia, then we put in place a legal process where we can be sure any actions taken are with the consent of the patient, and is necessary tostop their suffering.


Polls on euthanasia

July 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong wrote:

The large ratio of National MPs to Labour’s means this Parliament is more conservative in composition. What seems odd is that Parliament has long been out of kilter with public opinion on this particular conscience issue. Opinion polls have consistently shown between 60 and 70 per cent of the public back voluntary euthanasia. But two private member’s bills brought before Parliament during the past two decades failed to make it even to the select committee stage.

Actually support has grown significantly for voluntary euthanasia in the last decade. I’ve got an archive of polls here. They have asked differently worded questions, so take that that into account. However the data says in terms of support:

  • 2010 – 47%
  • 2013 – 60%
  • 2015 – 74%



Euthanasia select committee inquiry

June 29th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

MPs will carry out an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.

Announcing an inquiry on Wednesday, chairman of the health select committee, Simon O’Connor, said members were “ready to engage” on what was an “important conversation that needs to be had”. …

It would take a couple of weeks to come up with a plan for the inquiry, O’Connor said.

The inquiry would consider how best to involve the public and what questions and terms of reference need to be included, he said.

This is a good step forward. It is no substitute for a bill, but can be complementary.



McIvor on euthanasia

June 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Kerre McIvor writes:

But if the law doesn’t change, if Lecretia Seales’ fight has been for nought, then people will continue to take their own lives when they feel they have no other option. Others will continue to help a person begging them for relief. And they will continue to risk a prison term for committing the ultimate kindness.

If you believe life is sacred as long as you have breath in your body, I accept that. But as far as I’m concerned, my life is over when I no longer have the ability to appreciate life around me.

Once I’ve lost joy and wonder in the world, then I want to be able to quit my place and make room for someone else. And surely that’s my right to decide.

Well articulated.

Tags: ,

Key supports Lecretia’s choice

June 10th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Prime Minister says he would probably support a euthanasia law change of the type Lecretia Seales wanted. …

John Key said this morning MPs would have to treat any proposed euthanasia law as “a conscience issue” but it was inevitable the topic would re-emerge in Parliament.

“I personally would probably support legislation aimed in the way Lecretia wanted it,” Mr Key said on TV One’s Breakfast this morning.

He said everyone had a “slightly different view” on the possible wording or interpretation of euthanasia laws but he expected several MPs to propose bills and he did not believe the Government needed to put the topic on its agenda.

“It will eventually get debated again.”

It would be nice to have a Government bill, as that can get a law change considered quicker in most cases. However the advantage of a members’ bill is that they don’t have to jostle for position with other bills on the Government’s order paper. The disadvantage of a members’ bill is you have to wait for it to win in the ballot.

The last bill failed by just two votes at its first reading. And that is possibly because the MP in charge was not a great parliamentary tactician. I’ve yet to start counting votes in this Parliament, but I have looked at how MPs still here voted in 2003.

For – Cunliffe, Dyson, Goff, Key, McCully, Paraone, Peters, Turei, Williamson (9)

Against – Brownlee, Carter, Collins, Cosgrove, Dunne, King, Mahuta, Mallard, Mark, O’Connor, Parker, Smith, Tisch, English (14)

Based on public statements, Collins is in favour (subject to wording) and I suspect King and Mallard may be persuadable also.

But the key will be 98 MPs since 2003.

Tags: ,

Collins and Goff on euthanasia

June 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Judith Collins and Phil Goff in Stuff on euthanasia. First Collins:

I, like other Kiwis, watched as Lucretia Seales fought bravely in court for her right to die at a time of her choosing, with help from her GP.

Like many others, I wondered why it got this far.  I wonder how many other Kiwis have died of a terminal illness and been helped – a lot – with morphine on their way out of this world.

Seales fought for the right to die without fear that her GP might be hauled before the courts because of her wishes.

In the past, Parliament has voted against voluntary euthanasia.  Primarily, this is because the private member’s bills that have put it to Parliament have been full of holes and could have opened the elderly, in particular, to abuse.

Maybe it’s time for Parliament to revisit this with a carefully thought out bill that protects those doctors who carry out the well-considered wishes of their terminally ill patients.

Any such legislation should protect against any pressure brought on a terminally ill or disabled person.  Many MPs rightly worry about the ill and aged believing themselves to be a burden on their families and feeling obliged to ask their doctors for help.  Exactly who would be able to take this route or why are vexed questions.

By her sheer determination and courage, Seales showed   it was her wish to pass when and how she wanted.  It’s very clear that no one was pressuring her. She made a plea for dignity and control over her own death.


Goff agrees:

Why did Lecretia Seales have to fight in vain for the right to decide how she died?

Stricken with a terminal brain tumour, she did not want to die in pain or after having  lost control of her body. She wanted to say her farewells with human dignity.  If she felt her condition was too much to bear, she wanted the right to say enough.

There is nothing in law that says we cannot take our own lives but for a doctor to assist another to die even in these circumstances is a crime.  It shouldn’t be.

With palliative care, most of us can die without pain and with dignity, letting nature take its course.  Where this is not possible, people should have the right to choose for themselves when to bring suffering to an end.

What we need is a bill to be introduced. I believe it would have overwhelming public support, and so long as there were strong safeguards, would get a significant majority in Parliament to pass it.


Parliament will debate euthanasia

June 6th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The right-to-die debate is poised to be thrust back on the political agenda as support mounts for a parliamentary inquiry.

More than a decade after Parliament was divided by a vote on voluntary euthanasia, there is cross-party support that the public deserves a fresh debate through a select committee inquiry.

It follows the death on Friday from natural causes of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales on the same day that it was made public she had lost her bid lost her bid for the courts to rule in favour of assisted suicide.

A petition due to be presented to Parliament could be the catalyst for a fresh debate on voluntary euthanasia – but the Government is refusing to say whether it would back a wide ranging inquiry.

ACT leader David Seymour has confirmed he is drafting a member’s bill calling for a debate on euthanaisa and will urge the Government to adopt the bill.

Good to see that a bill will be put forward. The challenge will be to get it drawn from the ballot, or adopted by the Government (less likely).

I believe any bill, if drafted carefully with safeguards, will pass Parliament with a substantial majority.

Public opinion is massively in favour of a law change. The last public poll saw 74% in favour and just 20% opposed.

A select committee inquiry in response to the petition is a useful thing to do, but not as a substitute to a bill. It can get the arguments on the table, but it can’t lead to a law change, a vote in the House or even a debate in the House. As it is uncertain when a bill might be drawn out of the ballot, it is a good thing to do to keep attention on the issue, and hear arguments on what safeguards there should be. But a bill should go into the ballot as soon as possible, to maximise the chance of it being considered this term.


Seales v Attorney-General

June 5th, 2015 at 3:26 pm by David Farrar

The court ruling is below. Her applications were not granted.

Some key quotes:

I cannot declare that Ms Seales’ doctor would be acting lawfully if she administered a fatal drug to Ms Seales within the terms sought.  Nor can I declare that it would be lawful for Ms Seales’ doctor to provide her with a fatal drug knowing that Ms Seales intended to use that drug to end her own life and did so.  Because Ms Seales’ health is rapidly deteriorating, I informed the parties of this aspect of my decision on 2 June 2015

It’s good the court communicated this aspect as early as possible, three days ago.

I have decided that Ms Seales’ right not to be deprived of life is engaged, but not breached in her case. I have also concluded that Ms Seales’ right not to be subjected to cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment is not engaged by her tragic circumstances. I have therefore concluded the relevant provisions of the Crimes Act are consistent with the rights and freedoms contained in the NZBORA.

Basically that is a loss on all grounds. It was always going to be a stretch for the court to rule assisted suicide was legal, but I thought there was a pretty good chance they would at least rule the current law is inconsistent with the NZBORA.

First, palliative care cannot necessarily provide relief from suffering in all cases. 

Palliative care helps greatly, but it doesn’t mean you don’t suffer both physically and mentally.

That research suggests that between three and eight per cent of suicides in New Zealand during the last century were by persons who were rational, competent, and suffering a terminal illness. 

That 3% to 8% may have lived longer if assistance was a legal option.

Although Ms Seales has not obtained the outcomes she sought, she has selflessly provided a forum to clarify important aspects of New Zealand law.  The complex legal, philosophical, moral and clinical issues raised by Ms Seales’ proceedings can only be addressed by Parliament passing legislation to amend the effect of the Crimes Act. 

It is time for Parliament to act. And by act I mean a law change, not a select committee inquiry. A select committee inquiry is better than nothing, but should not be seen as a substitute for a bill.

Seales v Attorney-General

Tags: ,

Geddis on the Seales euthanasia case

May 26th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Geddis and Kathryn Tucker have had an article published in the NZ Law Journal on the Seales case. They believe her case has a high chance of success. Some extracts:

Ms Seales’ application for a declaratory judgment makes much the same statutory scope argument that has been advanced in the United States. Her case turns upon the proper understanding of the Crimes Act 1961, s 179. It states that anyone who “incites, counsels, or procures any person to commit suicide”, or “aids or abets any person in the commission of suicide”, commits a criminal offence.

Whether those provisions cover the case of a doctor who supplies Ms Seales with aid in dying is the question. That is a matter of statutory interpretation. Key to that process is the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA), s 6: Wherever an enactment can be given a meaning that is consistent with the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights, that meaning shall be preferred to any other meaning.

To simplify, s 6 requires a two-step approach (R v Hansen [2007] NZSC 7; Rishworth “Human Rights” [2012] NZ L Rev 321 at 330-331). First, does an “ordinary” or “plain meaning” interpretation of s 179 that criminalises the conduct of a doctor who assists a competent, terminally ill patient to achieve a peaceful death via aid in dying unjustifiably limit any of the rights and freedoms contained in the NZBORA? If so, can the word “suicide” in s 179 be given an alternative meaning that is consistent with the NZBORA?

We need not spend too much time on the first point, as a recent unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, Carter v Canada (Attorney General) [2015] SCC 5, provides extremely strong persuasive authority that it does so. It found that:

The right to life is engaged where the law or state action imposes death or an increased risk of death on a person, either directly or indirectly. Here, the prohibition deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable (at [57]).

This is a key point. The current ban on euthanasia actually leads to people killing themselves prematurely, as they have to do it while they can still do it unaided. This is not a theory – it is a fact. I know someone who did this. He may have lived another ten years, if he had the option of being able to have a physician assist his death at a time when his condition became intolerable.

In particular, drawing on the significant body of empirical data that has emerged from the Oregon “state laboratory”, the trial court found that when assisted dying is available there is no evidence of harm to patients or to vulnerable populations (Carter, at [25]).

Opponents will imagine up potential awful scenarios that could happen, such as the greedy child killing their parents off with a conniving doctor, to get their money early. But the reality is this has not happened in Oregon. No harm occurred to those vulnerable, instead those in suffering were given a way to have a peaceful end.

Although the Canadian Charter’s “supreme law” status ultimately was rejected in New Zealand, it still provides the model for our NZBORA. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the NZBORA s 8 guarantees each individual’s right to life in terms virtually identical to the Canadian Charter. Furthermore, as Ms Seales’ husband notes, the same issue of premature death arises here in New Zealand: “What Lecretia faces are the horns of a dilemma: kill herself now and rob herself, me and her family of precious moments together, or risk waiting until death takes her, which could be weeks or months of needless, potentially agonising suffering” (http://lecretia.org/onsuicide/).

And Lecretia should not be forced to make a choice between an early suicide or what could be months of agonising suffering.

Consequently, it seems almost certain that a New Zealand court, considering the Carter v Canada precedent, would find that a reading of s 179 that prevents Ms Seales access to aid in dying is inconsistent with the NZBORA

That is a strong statement.

This alternative meaning would distinguish between the sorts of intentional self-inflicted deaths we ordinarily think of as being “suicide” (the lovesick teen, the family breadwinner facing financial crisis, etc.) and the act of a competent, terminally ill person who is seeking (as in Ms Seales’ case) to choose a more peaceful death when brought to death’s door by the advance of disease and enduring unbearable suffering. Are these scenarios distinguishable from each other, and can that distinction be given effect under the specific wording of the Crimes Act?

I think that the two situations are very different. Not helping a depressed teenager kill themselves is very different to not helping someone who is facing an agonising death, from avoiding some suffering.

Choosing to suffer less before death arrives can be an entirely rational response to a horrific situation that cannot be remedied. No matter how fervently they may wish to live, their illness has robbed them of that option. The only question is how much suffering will be endured before death arrives. Suffering can be multifactorial, and indeed the experience in jurisdictions where aid in dying is openly available demonstrates this: those who choose aid in dying typically express that they do so because of the cumulative burden their illness imposes. These burdens may include: loss of ability to engage in activities which give life joy and meaning; progressive and inexorable loss of bodily function and integrity; increasing dependence on others for all personal care needs; pain that cannot be relieved; extreme fatigue; severe nausea and vomiting; acute shortness of breath and sensation of suffocation; open wounds with foul-smelling discharge. Choosing a less brutal death ought not be considered suicide.

I agree.

Tags: , ,

Seales seeks the right to die

March 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A terminally ill woman is mounting a legal challenge seeking the right for a doctor to help her die without criminal prosecution.

Lecretia Seales, 41, is dying from brain cancer and believes it’s a “fundamental human right” to be able to choose to end her life with medical assistance, if she wants to, before her suffering becomes intolerable.

In a legal first in New Zealand, the senior legal and policy adviser at the Law Commission has filed a statement of claim in the High Court seeking a ruling to determine whether her GP could lawfully administer a lethal dose of drugs.

Assisting suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison but Ms Seales’ case relies on the provisions in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act which protect the rights to not be deprived of life or subjected to cruel treatment.

A fascinating and novel case. It is a pity she has to go to court to get the right to a humane death, but if she succeeds she may galvanise law reform.

Diagnosed in 2011 with an aggressive brain tumour, Ms Seales has suffered gradual paralysis, which has robbed her of the ability to move her hand, arm, leg and eyesight on the left side of her body.

She’s not afraid of death, but of losing her remaining physical and mental abilities.

One can only have the greatest sympathy for her, and her family.

Her challenge closely mirrors a recent Carter v Canada case where the Supreme Court of Canada overturned a criminal ban on medically assisted deaths and gave politicians 12 months to rework the legislation.

The case was originally brought on behalf of two women with degenerative diseases, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor. The unanimous 9-0 decision by the judges found the criminal charge of assisting suicide – which like New Zealand had a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison – infringed on the rights protected in the Canadian equivalent of the Bill of Rights.

A key part of the judgment was the finding that the ban deprived some patients of the right to life.

“It has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable,” wrote the court.

This is beyond doubt the case. Martin Hames was an example of this in NZ. Our current law forces people to kill themselves earlier.

Tags: ,

The compassionate society that forces a 100 year old to starve herself to death

March 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

“When life is a misery, you give your patients something,” my 100-year-old mother, Aileen Breslin, told me in December, as she lay in her hospital bed, suffering intolerable physical and mental pain.

“Why can’t you do the same for me?” She was absolutely right. When a life is no longer worth living, I bring that life to a painless end. I’m legally permitted to do because I’m a veterinarian – and the life I am ending is that of anything other than a human.

But now, as of last week, if you live in Canada, as my mother did, and thanks to the Canadian Supreme Court’s resounding 9-0 judgment, people in her circumstances will be allowed to ask their physicians to help end their misery too. I can’t help wondering if we should have the same right elsewhere. …

Mum was telling me she had decided to die. This time, she was only just ahead of her time. Thanks to that Canadian Supreme Court ruling, people in her circumstances will now be able to do so, painlessly, of their own free will, simply by asking for and taking pills, without putting themselves or their families through a needlessly protracted and inevitably uncomfortable end of life.

But Mum did not have that luxury. Her only option was to refuse food.

I get angry when I read about people who go through such suffering because our laws do not allow them to have an assisted suicide, when they are not capable of ending their own lives.  When one is in agony, you should be able to choose to end your life.


The right to die

March 4th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Lecretia Seales is dying of a brain tumour, and is lobbying the government to reform the laws on assisted dying.

The 41-year-old Wellington senior public lawyer was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and is having palliative chemotherapy.

She believes it is a fundamental human right that she should be able to say goodbye to her husband and family at a time of her choosing and while she remains fully conscious.

If I had this right, I wouldn’t be going out tomorrow and exercising it, but it would be comforting to know I had that right.

The story also has audio from an extensive interview with Lecretia on Nine to Noon. If you are interested in this issue, I’d encourage you to listen to it.

Tags: ,

Labour dumps euthanasia bill

December 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A bill which would legalise voluntary euthanasia has been dropped by Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway at the request of his leader Andrew Little.

Mr Lees-Galloway had been canvassing support for his End of Life Choice Bill before deciding whether to return it to the private members’ bill ballot.

But Mr Little confirmed yesterday that he had told Mr Lees-Galloway not to put it in the ballot because it was not an issue Labour should be focused on when it was rebuilding.

“It comes down to priorities at the moment,” Mr Little said. “We are very much focused on … jobs and economic security.

I think this is a real pity, as I suspect if it had remained in the ballot and been drawn, that it had the numbers to pass.

Mr Little said Labour was still a socially progressive party under his leadership.

“It’s not about avoiding controversy but it’s about choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time. That stuff on euthanasia, it isn’t the time for us to be talking about that.”

I would have thought just after an election is the best time to be considering issues such as this, rather than closer to the next election.

Tags: ,

Edwards on Labour and euthanasis

November 13th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

Iain Lees-Galloway has taken over responsibility for the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’  after its sponsor, Maryan Street, failed to get elected in September. Lees-Galloway is apparently gauging support before deciding whether to put the Bill back on the private members’ bill ballot. It was removed last year under pressure from the Labour leadership who, according to the Herald, “were concerned it could be an election-year distraction or that it could deter conservative voters”. The new Labour leader, whoever that is, could apparently have the deciding voice on the voluntary euthanasia question.

So what did the contenders for that position have to say?

Well, Nanaia Manuta was in favour of reintroducing the bill  because it would show “that Labour would stand up for those difficult conversations that need to be had”.

I thought that was a pretty principled position to take.


David Parker, who voted against legalising voluntary euthanasia in 2003, didn’t want to comment till he’d talked to Lees-Galloway.

Non-committal and therefore less satisfactory perhaps.

Grant Robertson and Andrew Little both support voluntary euthanasia, but neither considered it a priority at the moment. The fairly clear subtext of their replies was that it was a vote-loser and that a party that had polled 25% in September couldn’t afford to be seen supporting unpopular policies.

I’d call that unprincipled.    

So are Grant and Andrew saying they would not have supported same sex marriage going to a vote if it was less popular?

There are precedents galore for this sort of thinking of course, for the abandonment of principle, of forward-thinking, enlightened or socially responsible policies and platforms because they’re unlikely to win or more likely to lose your party votes. Leadership gives way to “followship”.

It’s a depressing view not only of our politicians but also of us, the voters. Are we really so selfish, so venal, so incapable of persuasion that the towel has to be thrown in before the contestants are even in the ring? Have we no admiration for those who stand up for their principles against the seeming odds?

I say “seeming” odds, because the odds can never be totally accurately predicted. But, with the exception of Nanaia Mahuta, these prospective Labour Leaders are betting on the electorate not being motivated by anything other than unprincipled self-interest. That’s pretty bloody offensive really and were I a member of the Labour Party, which I’m not, I wouldn’t vote for anyone who thought so little of me.

Harsh words, but true.

Judy and I worked for Helen Clark from June 1996 to November 2008. She made mistakes of course but she was willing to espouse unpopular policies when she thought it was the right thing to do. In the process she took a lot of flak, but the sky didn’t fall in. She still got 3 terms. She wasn’t always loved, but she was greatly admired and respected.

With the exception of Nanaia Mahuta I’m not finding much to admire or respect in this lot. Their core philosophy appears to have everything to do with giving the punters what (they think) they want, and tossing out anything that doesn’t satisfy that principle.

There seems to be no excitement at all over who will win the leadership contest – unlike last time, when there was genuine excitement and interest.

Tags: , ,

A heart breaking story

August 28th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A New Zealand great-grandmother suffering from dementia took her own life with her husband at her side just hours after publishing a moving letter explaining her decision.

Christchurch-born Gillian Bennett, 85, died near her home in Canada on August 18. Her husband Jonathan held her hand during her final moments, around midday.

Yesterday he spoke to the Herald about his wife of 60 years’ decision to end her life, why he supported her and why he wants people to read her four-page letter.

Some extracts from the letter:

I will take my life today around noon. It is time. Dementia is taking its toll and I have nearly lost myself. I have nearly lost me. Jonathan, the straightest and brightest of men, will be at my side as a loving witness.

There comes a time, in the progress of dementia, when one is no longer competent to guide one’s own affairs. I want out before the day when I can no longer assess my situation, or take action to bring my life to an end.

Every day I lose bits of myself, and it’s obvious that I am heading towards the state that all dementia patients eventually get to: not knowing who I am and requiring full-time care. I know as I write these words that within six months or nine months or twelve months, I, Gillian, will no longer be here.

I have had a husband beyond compare, and children and grandchildren who have outstripped me in most meaningful ways. Since I was seven I have had wonderful friends, whom I did and still do adore.

Today, now, I go cheerfully and so thankfully into that good night. Jonathan, the courageous, the faithful, the true and the gentle, surrounds me with company. I need no more.

It is almost noon.

You can only feel for families that have to struggle with these decisions.


Key on euthanasia

July 5th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key has signalled possible loosening of euthanasia laws, saying he would sympathise with “speeding up of the process” of death for a terminally ill patient.

He told Family First director Bob McCoskrie in a public interview at a forum in Auckland yesterday that euthanasia would be “a legitimate thing” to speed up death for a terminally ill patient who was in pain.

But he said he would not vote for a bill proposed by Labour MP Maryan Street that would allow any adult suffering from a condition likely to cause their death within 12 months to request medical assistance to die.

“If it’s the same bill, I’ll oppose it because I think the way that bill was structured is not good law,” he said. “In the world that I live in, in my head, it’s a conscience issue. So when someone says to me ‘euthanasia’ I think of the person that is terminally ill, that is going to die, and in a tremendous amount of times and in my world, euthanasia is a legitimate thing in that situation.”

I agree.

He said modern medical practice was to give terminally ill patients pain relief and allow the natural process of death to occur.

“The palliative care would not do anything to prolong their life or to shorten their life. What I would say is in that scenario I … could understand the speeding up of the process,” he said. “The bill goes a lot further than that. In the situation where grandma is 92 [and people just want her to go], that’s not acceptable.”

I’m not sure the Street bill does do that. Regardless I would hope it would be sent to select committee, so NZers can have their say on the issue, and the bill can be given as many safeguards as possible.

Labour leader David Cunliffe declined to comment on the issue yesterday and Ms Street did not return calls.

This is one reason people like John Key – he will give his personal opinion on an issue – even if to an audience where almost everyone disagrees with him.

Tags: ,

A conscience vote in the UK on euthanasia

March 11th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

The legislation of assisted suicide has moved a significant step closer after the Government made clear that it would not stand in the way of a change in the law.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and peers – including Coalition ministers – will be given a free vote on a Bill that would enable doctors to help terminally ill patients to die, The Telegraph can disclose.

That will be a fascinating vote. There will be MPs in all parties both for and against.

Under the 1961 Suicide Act, it remains a criminal offence carrying up to 14 years in jail to help someone to take their own life.

Four years ago, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines that made clear that anyone who assisted a loved one to die while “acting out of compassion” was unlikely to be charged. Since then, around 90 such cases have been examined and no one prosecuted.

So there is a de facto legalisation. It is appropriate the law reflect the reality.

A Bill drawn up by Lord Falconer, a former Labour lord chancellor, to legalise “assisted dying” – allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminally-ill patients – is before the House of Lords. Peers are expected to vote on the plans in the next four months.

If the Bill is supported there, it will then pass to the Commons where some MPs say they have detected growing support for the move – influenced by opinion polls suggesting that up to three quarters of the public would support a change in the law.

A 2010 poll found 82% in favour and just 13% opposed.

Observers in Parliament estimate that just over a third of MPs would back a change in the law, a smaller group is strongly opposed, and up to 40 per cent are undecided.

I think a change to allow euthanasia for terminally ill people in pain would gain the support of most MPs in the NZ Parliament.


Scott Adams on Euthanasia

November 26th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Scott Adams is the genius creator of the Dilbert strip. He wrote at the weekend:

I hope my father dies soon. …

My father, age 86, is on the final approach to the long dirt nap (to use his own phrase). His mind is 98% gone, and all he has left is hours or possibly months of hideous unpleasantness in a hospital bed. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s as close to a living Hell as you can get.

If my dad were a cat, we would have put him to sleep long ago. And not once would we have looked back and thought too soon.  …

I’d like to proactively end his suffering and let him go out with some dignity. But my government says I can’t make that decision. Neither can his doctors. So, for all practical purposes, the government is torturing my father until he dies.

I’m a patriotic guy by nature. I love my country. But the government? Well, we just broke up.

And let me say this next part as clearly as I can.

If you’re a politician who has ever voted against doctor-assisted suicide, or you would vote against it in the future, I hate your fucking guts and I would like you to die a long, horrible death. I would be happy to kill you personally and watch you bleed out. I won’t do that, because I fear the consequences. But I’d enjoy it, because you motherfuckers are responsible for torturing my father. Now it’s personal.

Scott’s father died a few hours after he wrote this.

While I don’t condone his anger, I empathise with it. No one should have to go through what Scott Adams and his father went through. It is inhumane.


Cunliffe won’t reveal euthanasia stance

October 16th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe said the coroner’s recommendation was “interesting”. Mr Cunliffe, a staunch Anglican, said he would not reveal his personal stance on legalising euthanasia, which wouldbe decided by a conscience vote if itcame before Parliament.

“I have a personal view, but given my current responsibilities I’m going to reserve that until my caucus has an opportunity to discuss it.”

I’m sorry, but the Labour caucus has already discussed it. Street would have needed the permission of caucus to lodge her bill last year.

Why can’t Cunliffe just tell us his view? Is he worried that it may upset some people.

Prime Minister John Key said he broadly supported the principle of voluntary euthanasia and would consider it if he was terminally ill.

He said the Government would not introduce it as policy because a clear party stance was required and many National MPs would not support it.

Mr Key said he would not back Ms Street’s bill because he felt it went too far.

A good contrast. Key gives his personal view, and even says how he would vote on Street’s bill. You know where you stand with him.

UPDATE: Even weirder Cunliffe has previously said he would vote for Street’s bill, so why is he now being coy?

Tags: , ,

Killing yourself home alone

October 15th, 2013 at 6:28 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A coroner is calling for Parliament to make up its mind about euthanasia after an elderly woman chose to suffocate herself with a handmade contraption in her Lower Hutt home.

Widow Edna Gluyas, 85, waited for her family to leave from a visit and lay down in her bed for a final time, alone, before setting in motion the process that would kill her on August 3, 2011

What an awful way to be forced to go, because there was no legal option for ending her life.

Less than two hours later, her daughter returned to find her dead by what Wellington Regional Coroner Ian Smith has determined “euthanasia by suffocation”.

In his report, Smith calls for Parliament to confront the issue of euthanasia – a topic that has long been dodged.

“Once again this death raises the vexed issue of euthanasia and, as I have recorded in past cases, this process simply will not go away, and it will be necessary for Parliament to address this matter yet again.”

I agree.

Three weeks ago, Labour MP Maryan Street withdrew her End of Life Choice Bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia, amid fears that it would become a political football during election year.

Street withdrew it because her caucus bullied her into doing so. They just didn’t want to be associated with a controversial election in election year. So instead people like Edna Gluyas will have to continue to kill themselves with no opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones, in order to escape from their chronic pain.


Street drops euthanasia bill

September 27th, 2013 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

A bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia has been withdrawn amid fears it would become a political football during election year.

Labour MP Maryan Street withdrew her End of Life Choice Bill before today’s member’s bill ballot.

I’m sad that Maryan has dropped the bill, because not changing the law means far too many people will have to go through unnecessary suffering.

The bill was not just about people with cancer. It would have allowed people like Martin Hames who had Huntington’s disease to live for many more years, as he would not have had to commit suicide if he had known that he could choose an assisted suicide later on in his life when his disease became more critical.

Street said there would probably be only two more days this year in which member’s bills would be considered by the House.

“Anything that is drawn, including the ones drawn today, will be debated in election year, and I don’t want my bill debated in election year,” she said.

“I’m concerned that it would not get the treatment it deserves. It needs sober, considered reflection, and that’s not a hallmark of election years in my experience.”

The move was simply pragmatism, she said, and she “absolutely” planned to put it back in the ballot after the election.

“Can you understand that sometimes MPs’ thought processes take a swerve in election year?”

Street was believed to have been pressured by Labour colleagues to withdraw the bill amid concerns that some would have to campaign against it, distracting from the rest of the campaign.

I don’t think it is about election year. I think it is about pressure from Labour MPs.

What would be good is if a Green Party MP took the bill and submitted it into the ballot under their name!

Tags: ,