Compassion and Choice – Free Press Monday 4 December 2017


Most Widely Read Ever

Website statistics show that last week’s Free Press was the most widely read ever. You can still read it here. We blew the lid off the ‘sealed section’ of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement, showing why they don’t want it revealed. It is a series of patronage opportunities that keep Winston Peters in control of his own party and well supplied with people who fawn over him generally.

No Denial, Corroboration  

Nobody has denied that the Free Press’s account is accurate, because it is. We have had our usually reliable source’s version of events corroborated by those close to Peters’ negotiations. In fact, we have learned more about what is in the sealed section, and it is worrying for New Zealand and its economy.

Decision Points

David Seymour turned down being a Minister to keep the End of Life Choice bill alive (ministers can’t have a private members’ bill). After 15 months in the ballot, waiting to be drawn, the bill was pulled on June 8th. Since then, with the interruption of an election, the bill has been working its way up the order paper towards being debated and voted upon. It may now be voted on as soon as next Wednesday, December 13th.

Why?

The bill is about two things, compassion and choice, for those who are suffering intolerably near the end of their life. A modern society such as New Zealand should give people choices to do as they please under the rule of law so long as they are not harming others. A liberal party such as ACT should be advancing freedom and choice.

Why Morally?

98, perhaps 99, per cent of Free Press readers will never need or want and Assisted Death for themselves. Most will die a comfortable natural death. Most of those left will die a comfortable death aided by palliative care. The remainder find themselves with tough choices.

The ‘Cruel Choice’

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Carter vs. Canada that: A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel. Canada legalised Assisted Dying shortly after this ruling.

Some other Choices

The Supreme Court missed a few choices in its ruling. A person can hasten their natural death by refusing treatments, including food and water. This choice is not only legal and available without any safeguards whatsoever, but is a right under Section 11 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Alternatively, a person can be euthanised by a doctor without giving any consent at all, and it’s perfectly legal in New Zealand. All a Doctor needs to say is that they were seeking to ease pain but they also caused death in the process. A sophistry they call ‘double effect.’

An indefensible Position

The opposition’s view on Assisted Dying can be summed up as: “We don’t care if you commit suicide, we’re not looking to ban that. We don’t care if you do it slowly by refusing food, water and treatment, in fact that’s your human right. We don’t care if you suffer until the bitter end, some of us even think that’s virtuous. We don’t care if a doctor euthanises you, so long as it hides behind the ‘double-effect’ doctrine. What we object to is a person making their own choice under the law.” It is not a position of compassion for the patient, but instead requires the patient to suffer in order that the opponents’ moral outlook is unblemished.

A Moral Choice

The End of Life Choice Bill would allow someone who is over 18, with a degenerative illness or a terminal condition with a prognosis of less than six months, who is mentally sound, to consult independently with two different doctors. If They satisfy these and a few other criteria, then they are given another choice, the choice to choose the manner and timing of their own death.

Why Legally?

Our own High Court said in Seales vs. Attorney General (the Lecretia Seales case), Justice Collins ruled, “I would be trespassing on the role of Parliament and departing from the constitutional role of Judges in New Zealand if I were to issue the criminal law declarations sought by Ms Seales”. Translating from Judge language, he said ‘I support this, but Parliament has to change the law first.’

Why Democratically?

There is not a lot that New Zealanders agree with in great numbers. Even in the bluest country only 63 per cent vote National. Fewer than 40 per cent watch any given All Blacks game. Yet three-quarters of New Zealanders routinely tell scientific surveys that they want choice in dying. Every MP who votes against the End of Life Choice Bill will be voting against the overwhelming will of his or her electorate. Every List MP who votes against the bill will be voting against the wishes of his or her party’s voters.

What about the Safeguards?

The central question around Assisted Dying is this: Can legislation be designed that gives choice to those who want it while safeguarding those who want nothing to do with Assisted Dying. The simple answer is yes. The next two sections are excerpts from the Supreme Court of Canada and our own Attorney General:

The Supreme Court’s View

An absolute prohibition on physician-assisted dying is rationally connected to the goal of protecting the vulnerable from taking their life in times of weakness, because prohibiting an activity that poses certain risks is a rational method of curtailing the risks. However, as the trial judge found, the evidence does not support the contention that a blanket prohibition is necessary in order to substantially meet the government’s objective.

Attorney General on David Seymour’s Bill

The objective of the Bill is to allow people suffering intolerably with a terminal illness, or grievous or irremediable medical condition, to make an informed decision to end their suffering and maintain their dignity. The method by which the Bill achieves that objective does not result in impacts that are grossly disproportionate to the objective. There are multiple safeguards built into the process, including the stringent criteria f or eligibility (see paragraph 10 above), the requirement for an independent second opinion and referral to a specialist (if necessary), and the ability for the person to change their mind at any time.

Fear Uncertainty and Doubt

The evidence and jusdgement is formidable. Those opposed to choice understand they can’t win the argument. They have privately said that their strategy for opposing it is Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. They will spread endless misinformation to try and create FUD. Well, as Muldoon once said, Whadda we gunna do about it?

50,000 reasons

50,000 Cantabrians have just recieved a letter about Assisted Dying from David Seymour. They invite residents to a public meeting on Assisted Dying, to send their MP a helpfully included post card, and to support more such letters being sent. If you would like to attend the public meeting, it is being held at Avonhead School this Thursday 7 December at 6:30 pm.

Please Help

If you’d like to support more letters and more meetings, please consider donating.