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By Ann David
Nathan Guy gets the message
Members of the Kapiti-Horowhenua End of Life Choice Society presented MP Hon Nathan Guy with a petition at his Levin office on Friday 22 March.
The petition asks Mr Guy to vote YES to the second reading of David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill. The request was made in the name of 961 residents in the Otaki electorate.
If this Bill is successful, it would allow New Zealanders to ask a doctor to hasten their death under certain strictly controlled conditions.
Choices for the terminally ill
Under the terms of the Bill, a patient would need to be terminally ill with a prognosis of less than 6 months or with a grievous and irremediable medical condition.
In either case, the applicant would need to be “in an advanced stage of irreversible decline in capability” and “experiencing unbearable suffering that is unable to be relieved in any manner tolerable to him or her” at the time of signing a written request for assisted dying.
Two separate doctors would have to confirm that all of the eligibility criteria are simultaneously present, that the patient is mentally competent to make the decision and does so uncoerced, of his or her own free will.
Doctors’ options – future and current
All doctors will have the right of conscientious objection, meaning that if they do not want to participate in assisted dying, they can simply decline.
A survey in 2018 shows that 37 percent of doctors want assisted dying to be legalised along with 67 percent of nurses.
As it currently stands, a doctor who hastens a patient’s death at the patient’s explicit request faces criminal prosecution and imprisonment for 14 years.
This is irrespective of the hopelessness of the condition, the gravity of the irreversible decline in capability and the degree of suffering.
The views of signatories
The 961 signatories to the petition signed up at market stalls and in shopping malls. Many had heart-rending stories to tell of loved ones who had died protracted deaths of great suffering in hospitals, hospices and rest homes. Others saw this simply as a matter of a human right to self-determination and protection from enforced suffering.
The second reading of the Bill should take place sometime between now and July.
It would require a majority of 61 Parliamentarians to vote it through to the next stage, otherwise it will fail and be withdrawn.