Disability Rights Group Concerned Over Voluntary Euthanasia

Not Dead Yet convenor Wendi Wicks said there could never be adequate protections for disabled people under voluntary euthanasia legislation.

"There are endless ways of telling disabled people time and time again that their life has no value." 

Not Dead Yet's launch coincides with a speaking tour by world expert on medically assisted suicide, Rob Jonquiere.

The Dutch doctor is half-way through his two-week tour and said he agreed to help End of Life New Zealand raise the issue by talking about medically-assisted euthanasia legislation in his country. 

During the tour Jonquiere will deliver 14 public lectures around the country and speak to health professionals.

In the Netherlands patients can ask their doctor to assist them in ending their lives if they are experiencing "intolerable and hopeless suffering", Jonquiere said. 

"Sometimes the only way to terminate the suffering is to take away the life." 

Jonquiere said he did not know why disabled people had come out so strongly against the legislation. 

"At least for the Netherlands, if you do not ask for euthanasia, you do not get it."

"As long as the person does not want to die - there is no doctor putting pressure on them to take the final injection."

Wicks said right-to-die legislation in the Netherlands and Belgium had been interpreted more and more liberally since first introduced and this is what would happen in New Zealand.

"There will be an enlargement of what it covers to the point that recently a depressed woman was euthanased in Belgium just because she was depressed."

New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) president Mark Peterson said concerns raised by Not Dead Yet were "very legitimate". 

"If you legalise voluntary euthanasia then you actually start to create the situation where there could be subtle and not so subtle pressure on patients to accept that as being their lot."

Feedback from NZMA members on the issue showed universal opposition to voluntary euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide. 

"Just the straight-out ethical thing of doctors deliberately killing patients just doesn't sit well with our members."

He denied doctors already gave lethal doses of medication to end the lives of terminally ill people. "We don't believe it goes on, with maybe very occasional exceptions."

Peterson said he was meeting with Jonquiere today, but he did not expect it would not change the organisation's opposition to euthanasia laws. 

End of Life New Zealand president Jack Hamill said the organisation would present a petition to parliament to force a select committee enquiry in to the issue this year. 

Labour leader Andrew Little asked Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway to drop a proposed end of life choice members bill last year. 

Lees-Galloway said it would be better for the issue to have cross-party support through a select committee process, where there could be an open debate about the broader principles. 

Source - The Press