Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen - 28/04/2020

Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen -

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FAQ #16 | What are the key arguments in favour of the End of Life Choice Act?

There are two key arguments that are regularly discussed in favour of the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide: choice and compassion.

First, as the title of the Act suggests, it is designed to provide autonomous choice and control for people at the end of their lives. As End of Life Choice Society President Mary Panko has said, “If a person went to their GP or into hospital with a problem they may be presented with a range of options – whichever treatment or path they pursue is their choice.”[1] As Panko states, the Society believes that “people in their last stages of their lives should have that choice too.”[2]

The choices of New Zealanders, however, are frequently limited in law to protect vulnerable people from harm. The law is a blunt tool and affects us all. This means that while legislation of assisted dying is for those people who are competent, confident, and clear in their choice, it also opens up a new paradigm of choice for those people who are considered vulnerable and negotiating the “mess” of life, who, for example, may feel pressure to be assisted to die, who struggle with mental health issues, and who are concerned about the end of life care available to them.

Secondly, proponents of assisted dying legislation are concerned that the current law does not allow enough compassion toward people who are dying. As David Seymour, author of the Act states, “The motivation for this Bill is the very real anguish faced by people with terminal illness, as they anticipate the prospect of intolerable suffering, and the indignity of the final few days and weeks of their lives.”[3]

It is important to note, however, that those people opposed to the End of Life Choice Act also hope to provide a compassionate response to people at the end of their life.[4] The difference is that those people in opposition to the Act believe that this compassionate response to death is not achieved in the proposed legislation, and that better understanding the hospice and palliative care currently available at the end of life and improving on that would be the best way to provide a truly compassionate response without vulnerable groups being further exposed to risk of abuse.

 

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ENDNOTES:

[1] Hannah Martin, “Euthanasia referendum: The arguments for and against legalising assisted dying,” Stuff, July 28 2020, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/300057650/euthanasia-referendum-the-arguments-for-and-against-legalising-assisted-dying, accessed 11 August 2020
[2] Hannah Martin, “Euthanasia referendum: The arguments for and against legalising assisted dying.”
[3] “Why I prepared this Bill – David Seymour,” Life Choice,  https://www.lifechoice.org.nz/about, accessed 11 August 2020.
[4] Aileen Collier, “End of Life Choice Comes Down to Compassion,” Stuff, June 29 2020 https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/121961504/end-of-life-choice-comes-down-to-compassion, accessed 11 August 2020.

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Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen -

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