Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen - 29/09/2020

Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen -

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Not the most restrictive law

Advocates of the End of Life Choice Act have suggested that it’s the tightest legislation of its kind, and that even if the law comes into effect the number of people who would be assisted to die would be small. Having analysed the experience of those places where similar legislation is already in place, I humbly disagree.

The End of Life Choice Act allows both euthanasia and assisted suicide and would likely result in similarly high rates of assisted death.

In contrast to New Zealand’s End of Life Choice Act with its vague and subjective criteria, Oregon is commonly referred to as having the “gold-standard” of assisted dying legislation. Its law only allows assisted suicide (where lethal drugs are self-administered) and not euthanasia (where lethal drugs are administered by a medical professional), and while the number of people who have been assisted to die there have grown they still currently remain below 200 people or 0.5% of total deaths per year. This is significantly lower than places like Canada and the Netherlands where both options are available and a significantly higher number of people are assisted to end their life each year (currently about 5,600 or 2% of total deaths in Canada  and about 6,000 or 4% of total deaths in the Netherlands). As this number increases the risk of wrongful deaths also grows.

The End of Life Choice Act allows both euthanasia and assisted suicide and would likely result in similarly high rates of assisted death. In fact, former British civil servant and president of UK think tank Living and Dying Well Robert Preston suggested that if we follow the Dutch example, each year over 1,000 New Zealanders would be assisted to die.

This is a referendum about a law, not an idea, and all voters should investigate how the Act compares to examples from overseas.

The End of Life Choice Act also follows the Dutch example with its inclusion of the SCENZ (Support and Consultation for End of Life New Zealand) Committee and Review Committee. These committees are intended to detect abuses of the law, provide advice on medical and legal procedures, and suggest replacement independent medical practitioners. The Dutch example shows, however, that in practice these committees are unable to protect against abuse because the review comes too late for the patient that has died. In fact, Theo Boer was a member of one of the Dutch review committees for nine years and was initially supportive of the legislation. But having seen the law in practice and that “not even Review Committees, despite hard and conscientious work,” have been able to prevent improper euthanasia deaths, he has become an outspoken critic of the legislation.

The Dutch example shows that in practice these committees are unable to protect against abuse because the review comes too late for the patient that has died.

It is false to suggest that the End of Life Choice Act – which includes both euthanasia and assisted suicide, as well as review committees that in practice are unable to protect against harm – is the tightest legislation of its kind. When we vote, particularly on issues of life and death, it’s important that we’re aware of the arguments both for and against, and that those arguments are accurately portrayed. This is a referendum about a law, not an idea, and all voters should investigate how the Act compares to examples from overseas.

 

For more information on the End Of Life Choice Act and the upcoming referendum, click to go to our resource page.

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Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen -

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