Last year, somewhat to my own surprise, I became quite vocal around the issue of “aid in dying” (or, if you are trying to scare the horses, “euthanasia”/”assisted suicide”). It happened almost by accident. It certainly wasn’t an issue I had given a huge amount of thought to previously; my knee-jerk socially liberal response was that I thought it ought to be permitted with appropriate safeguards and that’s about as far as things went.
However, the case of Lecretia Seales really focused my attention onto the issue. Not only did it raise a number of very important legal issues that fall within my area of academic study, but I could strongly identify with her determination that decisions about how her death should come about should be hers alone to make. That resonated with me at a quite fundamental level.
Having sat in on some of the High Court proceedings, I can only second the Herald’s choice. Seeing Ms Seales being wheeled into the court, clearly drawing to the end of her time on earth, was deeply affecting. It brought home strongly that the judicial proceedings weren’t just an abstract debate about theoretical matters. They were (literally) a life and death issue for a real, identifiable person … who stood for other real, identifiable people in similar situations.
As I’ve got involved with this issue, I’ve also found how real this is for so many people. Some issues only affect a small number of people, but this issue has a real impact on so many.
Of course, Ms Seales didn’t get what she wanted from the Court. Ihad hoped that she might be more successful, but perhaps it is for the best that (as Justice Collins concluded) our elected, accountable representatives must make the call on when and how aid in dying may be provided in this country. Clearly these issues are something that many of us have strong and contrasting views on, so let’s let those views be considered and acted on by people we choose to make laws for us instead of by an appointed ex-lawyer who happens to have been rostered onto a particular case.
That’s all OK, as far as it goes. However, if we’re going down that line of thinking, it then puts the onus back onto us. Because democratic representative government only works like it is meant to if we, the people who live under the laws our representatives choose, take the time and make the effort to participate in it. If we don’t, then it really doesn’t work at all.
So here’s the challenge to anyone with views on how, when and if individuals should be able to choose the time and means of their own death.
Tell Parliament’s Health Select Committee what you think about this issue.
You only have a little over two weeks left to do so – submissions close on 1 February.
This is an issue worth submitting on. Andrew gives some advice:
- Making a submission is really, really, really easy! Just go here, verify that you are a real person, provide some personal details and then type what you think into the text box. Once you hit the submit button, you’ve done your bit (unless you want to go in front of the Committee to give oral evidence, that is.)
- You don’t need to be an expert or to know everything (or even all that much) about the topic – part of the purpose of this inquiry is to find out what ordinary New Zealanders think on the issues. So just speak from the heart!
- If you have a personal story to tell about the hard choices that come at the end of life, so much the better. As Ms Seales showed, this isn’t an abstract issue – real people and real suffering underlie it. But just be aware that a submissions is made public unless you ask (and the Committee agrees) to keep it private.
- There is no magic formula or wording to use in your submission – just try to write clearly and make your point early in the piece. Remember that MPs are really busy folks who have to give their time and attention to lots of different matters. The more you can help them know what you want, the better.
- Finally, if you are interested in what those who are still carrying Lecretia Seales’ flame aloft think, you can read it here.
I’m working on my submission in the next week and a bit.