Here in NZ we are facing a very difficult issue: should it become legal to help someone else commit suicide? Parliament’s Health Select Committee is asking for the public’s view on this matter. We have until February 1st to make a written submission.
The investigation is not about a specific bill, but about people’s attitudes to suicide and assisted suicide in general. Should people who want to take their own lives have access to lethal drugs and the help of professionals instead of committing ‘amateur’ or ‘botched’ suicides? Should family members be allowed to watch so people don’t commit ‘lonely’ suicides?
The two opposing sides – pro-suicide and anti-suicide – appear to be running neck-and-neck on this matter. If David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill is drawn from the Members Ballot, MPs will be looking very carefully at what the NZ public are thinking and saying. So it’s important that we make our position known.
I wrote out my submission this morning. I initially intended to make a very brief, ‘punchy’ statement that wouldn’t easily be dismissed. But then as I began to write, the more concerned I became in my own mind of the seriousness of the issue and so felt compelled to write it all down.
Euthanasia-Free NZ has some excellent resources on their website. They have a very helpful guide for writing submissions that you might want to look at (for those opposed to assisted suicide). Remember: it doesn’t have to be long, articulate or wordy. Just make your point clear. It is more likely to be read and considered.
Dear Sir / Madam
I oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide because I do not believe such a change would benefit New Zealand society. In fact I believe it could cause a great deal of harm.
I understand fully that it is a terrible thing for a human being to suffer during their last days of life. I understand the desire of individuals such as Lecretia Seales who had incurable brain cancer and wanted to make the choice to die before the cancer caused her to be mentally impaired. One might say her case would be called a ‘justifiable’ case for assisted suicide. But there will be many whose cases won’t be so ‘justifiable’.
How will such a law, if passed, be regulated? Who determines if someone is fit to make the decision to be assisted to take their own life? For example, when an individual first learns he or she has terminal cancer, the person is not often in a good state of mind and could make a rash decision to end his or her life before any treatment can be offered, ending all hope of a cure. Or, a misdiagnosis could be made and an individual acts prematurely to have someone assist in taking his or her own life, when if more time was permitted the same individual could have had a second or third opinion and find out the disease is not terminal at all. Consider also, a situation where financial pressure is placed upon family to care for terminally ill parents. Parents, in order to spare their children from such difficulty, might choose to end their life early, leaving a family with a burden of guilt and distress far greater than what they were facing before.
But over and above these practical reasons, there is the greater concern of the way we view life. Our Judeo-Christian ethic, which was foundational in the early formation of our country, maintains all human life is valuable regardless of age, disability, frailty, or illness. We instil these values to our children from a very young age. We teach them in our schools. What message are we sending to our children when we say on the one hand, we celebrate and value life, but on the other, we encourage termination of life when it suits us?
The law endorsing assisted suicide, if passed, would send a very mixed message.
You can make your own online submission here.