In September, New Zealand will vote on a referendum to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Ahead of the vote, Hospice New Zealand has appealed to the courts to ensure it won’t be forced to participate should assisted suicide and euthanasia become legal.
Last year, the End of Life Choice Act was passed by New Zealand lawmakers, allowing a terminally ill person with a diagnosis of fewer than six months to live to access assisted suicide. While many supported the law, others had grave concerns. The bill, for example, does not require any witnesses or a waiting period before someone is legally killed.
In the court filing, Hospice New Zealand indicated it wants to conscientiously object to committing euthanasia should the referendum pass, and wants to ensure it won’t be penalized for doing so. In addition to concern over being able to abstain from euthanizing its patients, Hospice New Zealand wants to know if it would be denied funding if it refused. The group also wants to know if the End of Life Choice Act’s mandatory obligations for health care providers will overrule the doctor’s own ethical judgment, as well as their obligations under the Code of Health and Disability Consumers’ Rights.
A spokeswoman for Hospice New Zealand told the New Zealand Herald that this information is vital in allowing the organization to be able to provide accurate service to its patients and members. “Accordingly, Hospice New Zealand has requested an urgent hearing before the Court,” she said.
Right to Life New Zealand has also criticized the potential legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. “Euthanasia is about doctors killing their patients or assisting in their suicide. It is intrinsically evil; no referendum can legitimise that which is evil,” they said in a statement. “The prohibition against taking the life of another human being is the foundation of the law and medicine. It is always wrong to kill another innocent human being. The approval of the community, even in a referendum, can never make murder acceptable. A referendum is an attempt to seduce and to implicate the whole community in the murder of the vulnerable.”
Contrary to what assisted suicide campaigners claim, most people do not choose to be euthanized because they’re afraid of dying a painful death. Multiple studies, including from the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, have found that people resort to assisted suicide because they are lonely, depressed, afraid of being a burden, or don’t have support. When those issues are addressed, the request to die is often withdrawn.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia don’t help people who are dying, which is exactly what hospice organizations actually do. And if assisted suicide is legalized in New Zealand, then organizations dedicated to helping people live shouldn’t be forced to make them die.
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