Euthanasia-Free NZ is appalled that Parliament spent so little time debating Part 2 of the End of Life Choice Bill and voted to leave it full of holes.
Part 2 is the most extensive and complex section of the Bill, covering coercion, freedom of conscience rights, as well as the process: from making the request to reporting the death.
Despite being three times longer on paper, Part 2 received the same amount of debating time as Part 1 did. No fewer than 18 substantial new clauses were proposed in the amendments to Part 2, of which 5 came from David Seymour. Nevertheless, after only two hours of debate and with several clauses still unmentioned and many MPs asking to speak, some Labour MPs started to call for the debate to be stopped.
Some of the MPs who stated that they voted for the Bill in order have a discussion are the ones who are trying to stifle debate.
Eventually it was Seymour’s call that shut down the debate, after Simeon Brown asked him a question on the minimum time frame enabled by the Bill – one Seymour refused to answer. All parties except National voted in favour of Seymour’s motion.
Several MPs proposed amendments to address gaps in Seymour’s Supplementary Order Paper. Although only two MPs other than Seymour spoke against these amendments, all of these were voted down.
“It seems that MPs who support euthanasia in principle decided in advance to support David Seymour’s proposals and reject everyone else’s, regardless of their content,” says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
Hon Michael Woodhouse drafted an amendment in consultation with Hospice New Zealand that would allow organisations to opt out without risking losing pubic funding. When Hon David Clark spoke in favour of this amendment, he was jeered by his Labour colleagues and the amendment was voted down.
“David Seymour, NZ First, The Greens and most Labour MPs seem set on rushing this Bill through with little concern for stakeholders such as doctors and Hospices,” says Ms Joubert.
“It’s disappointing that a life-and-death issue is being used as a party-political football.”
13 Reasons Why Part 2 Has Holes:
1. The only doctor who would need to check for signs of coercion doesn’t need to talk to the person face to face and doesn’t need to have met the person before.
2. A doctor who works as a contractor would be left without protection from discrimination.
3. A healthcare assistant or caregiver who is pressured to participate in the euthanasia process would not be allowed to object on conscience grounds.
4. Every doctor would be forced to participate in the process by steering people towards euthanasia instead of towards treatment.
5. A doctor who believes a euthanasia request is motivated by mental illness would be forced to participate in the person’s death by referring them to the SCENZ Group.
6. A health professional may initiate a discussion about euthanasia with a patient, as long as the conversation covers another topic also and happens after, not during a consultation.
7. No evidence is required to show that a person confirmed their death wish before receiving the lethal dose and that they were mentally competent at the time.
8. A person can be coerced to sign someone else’s euthanasia request and doesn’t need to understand what they are signing. A person’s abuser could sign a euthanasia request on the victim’s behalf without needing to provide evidence that they were asked to do so.
9. The reasons why an eligible person request euthanasia may be unrelated to their medical condition.
10. Organisations such as Hospice may be forced to have euthanasia administered on their premises.
11. The doctors giving a person a terminal diagnosis and assessing their eligibility for euthanasia don’t need to have any training or experience in the field of medicine related to the person’s condition.
12. Even provisionally-registered doctors, fresh out of medical school with no specialist training, could claim to meet the Bill’s definition of ‘psychiatrist’.
13. No proof is required that unused drugs have been destroyed.
The debate on Part 3 of the Bill is scheduled to continue on 11 September.