BY AZARIA HOWELL

 

Called a “license to kill” by MP Maggie Barry, and “politically, morally, legally and, in terms of public policy, the right thing to do,” by David Seymour, it’s safe to say that the End of Life Choice Bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia is controversial. With almost 40,000 submissions on the Bill, public debates being held, and an upcoming Parliamentary vote on the matter, the issue of euthanasia sparks contention.

Even though euthanasia is something most people have a strong opinion on, the contents of the Bill are much less known. Safeguards are in place to ensure disabled people and the elderly do not face discrimination or coercion.

Changes to the Bill could mean that the decision is up to us, in the form of a referendum. If this becomes the case, it is crucial that we understand the contents of all 89 pages of the document that has the potential to create history in New Zealand.

Of course, no MP would draft a bill that would make it legal to end the life of another person. There are many mandatory safeguards in place to protect people; some MPs still don’t think it’s enough. But if and when the vote comes down to us, we need to know these safeguards to ensure we can make up our own opinion on this momentous Bill.

The person requesting end of life choice must be over 18 years of age.

This is to protect children and young people from being granted euthanasia. The person must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident. This would prohibit people from coming here for ‘medical tourism,’ and ensures that this choice would only be accessible to New Zealanders.

The person must suffer from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life within 6
months OR a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

This safeguard is to ensure that only people with certain serious conditions will be allowed this choice, and the option will not be available to those who are mentally ill or disabled. Whether or not a medical condition is grievous or irremediable will be assessed by medical professionals. The person must be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability. This essentially means that the condition of the person requesting end of life choice must be exponentially deteriorating. An irreversible decline can be in the forms of lost ability to live a full life, mobility issues, loss of senses, and being unable to eat, drink, or speak fully. The person must experience unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a tolerable way. This ensures that the suffering experienced by the person requesting euthanasia cannot be cured by traditional medicine or treatment.

The person must have the ability to understand the consequences of assisted dying.

This safeguard is put in place to ensure that the person requesting assisted dying has the capacity to understand what this decision fully means, excluding people with disabilities or serious mental conditions from the list.

In addition to all of these necessary safeguards, two doctors must agree with the patient to give them access to assisted dying, and the patient must undertake a psychologist’s examination of their mental capability. Since the initial vote passed (with 76 MPs in favour, and 44 against), the Bill has been through the select committee process. The select committee heard thousands of submissions, made changes, and thoroughly scrutinised the Bill.

This Wednesday the second reading of the Bill passed by 70 votes to 50.

 

AZARIA HOWELL is a huge politics nerd living in Christchurch. Expect lots of new political articles on Tearaway from her! She also loves snowboarding, Beagles, and wearing clunky boots.

 

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