[UPDATE: A very good review of the state of political play, and demolition of religious groups’ lying by Metro’s Graham Adams: ‘Lecretia Seales: the backlash begins’]
Blogger Mark Hubbard checked out from his own blog a few weeks back with this post.
He very kindly joins us here this week with this guest post based on his submission to the forthcoming select committee hearing on euthanasia…
Of course New Zealanders should have the appropriate law under which I, and they, have the choice to die with dignity if my personal circumstances warrant it--and not just in cases of terminal illness.
I only wonder why it has taken so long to look at this issue, and how can individuals from that major lobby against euthanasia, Christians, be so arrogant as to seek I be forced to die in possibly cruel circumstances based solely on their beliefs, not mine.
Last week I attended a wedding of two long-time friends who, poor lovely deluded souls, were Christians; (yes, some of my best friends really are Christians :) These two lines, in all their barbaric absurdity, were from the very first hymn sung that day:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied...
The notion that a group of people who worship a sadistic death like this get to have a voice against my choice of a dignified death is, frankly, sick. Or it would be if the Christ myth were true, which of course it isn't. No, more preposterous, it's a fairy tale; you may as well deny me the rational choice of euthanasia because of a Yoda quote in a Star Wars film script.
It’s ‘quite’ insane.
Note I’m also aggrieved I had to waste some of my precious Christmas holiday preparing my argument, here, for such a basic right: to have the choice of dying with dignity.
This is obviously part of a wider argument.We all self-manage our health outcomes throughout our lives, the manner of our death is simply the end of that adult process. I wish our society would grow up and allow individuals to live free lives unbounded by the nonsense of majority rule on moral issues (at the least). Because how many people vote for a euthanasia law, or how many members of this committee vote in the affirmative when hopefully David Seymour’s bill is pulled from the lottery of the ballot, will never change the moral truththat is my right to choose the manner of my death.
Just as a bunch of out-of-touch conservative codgerati voting against equal marriage never made equal marriage morally wrong, even before the law allowing equal marriage was finally enacted, neither do they make it morally wrong to assist someone to die with dignity who has requested their help.
More to the point, regarding euthanasia and every other moral issue of my adult life: both society and our members of this Parliament need to grow up, get over themselves, and stop patronising me.
This committee should not exist.
The choice of voluntary euthanasia should have been straight into legislation years ago.
Unlike bloody flags, this really does demand a swift legal solution! Every delay in revising the law causes more New Zealanders more pain. I speak personally: my father died this last March in discomfort. I have had three friends and acquaintances die over the last four years of terminal illnesses. For some of them, morphine and existing pain-management regimes were at times inadequate; in one case, woefully inadequate.
So given this, and that for such sufferers there currently is no dignified death option to escape unacceptable pain, why isn’t there the reasonable alternative choice available even of medicinal non-toxic cannabis? For Galt’s sake, it’s just a plant! Again, we are a country politicians unacceptably see fit to run as a kindergarten. As much as I want the manner of my death to be rightly in my hands, By Yoda, I want my life back too!
But now I enter the realm of fantasy, so let me bring this submission back to Earth.
Maryan Street was correct when she pulled her original bill, citing MPs not being adult enough for this debate in an election year. I suspect little has changed outside an election year. If it had, the legislation would be enacted directly by a responsible government, without the farce of needing a private member’s bill ot make it happen.
It is unacceptable that people dying of terminal illnesses be left only with the hope that Prime Minister Key says he might vote for David Seymour’s bill, if they are lucky enough for the bill to be randomly pulled from the damned parliamentary lottery (FFS!), with their only alternative that he leave it languishing in the ballot.
This concerns our lives, and our deaths. What is more important than that? There will be individuals, right now, with terminal illnesses, in unacceptable pain or mental angst, who might have availed themselves of a peaceful end that allowed them to die in the loving embrace of their loved ones. Why have politicians never seen urgency in this, when they can sit under urgency for the most mundane matters such as keeping pubs open for the World Cup? (As good as that legislation was.)
In the following I am broadly covering all four points the committee is looking at, however, I wish to do so by pointing the members of the committee to the weaknesses -- no, irrelevancies -- of the arguments being put against a compassionate, humanistic euthanasia law.
1. Problems I have with this Parliamentary Committee.
Nothing personal to Chair Simon O’Connor, he’s no doubt a great bloke, but I was stunned when Prime Minister Key farcically chose, to chair a parliamentary committee on euthanasia, the only seminary-trained man in parliament.
Our brief Twitter exchange below did not in any way endear me to Simon’s selection either:
Here are the issues I have with Simon's tweeted statement.
- I am an atheist, however, I come from a Christian family. There is not a single debate I would have had with my family, or numerous Christians online via social media and my blog, where any Christian could ‘put their faith’ to one side over this issue. I don’t believe Simon can put his faith aside over this because that is simply not the nature of ‘faith’
- The job of the chair may be to ‘ensure good process’, but the chair controls that process: it would be absurdly naive to suppose that the committee’s ‘process’ would be divorced from the their results.
The notion of a Christian chairing this committee is absurd. All committee members must have the ability to view the topic of euthanasia objectively and dispassionately. In line with that, an objective person has the capacity to change their views based on the submissions to be made by the public. Whereas a Christian, especially one trained for the seminary, has a fixed, faith-based a-priori viewpoint against euthanasia that cannot change. It cannot change, because to a Christian it is a sin.
The position was tellingly put by Bill English in a point made in a previous debate rejecting euthanasia, that "pain is part of life, and watching it is part of our humanity.” This is inhuman barbarity, yet fully consistent with his Catholic philosophy which preaches that suffering is moral, that guilt is unearned and (in the words of the sainted Mother Teresa) "the world is being much helped by .. suffering."
I would have thought it self-evident that a neutral chair for this committee could not come from this corner. I view Key’s selection of Simon as at least partial evidence of this committee being simply a cynical sop, a make-weight; I hold no hopes therefore of a rational, unbiased outcome from this committee.
Because the matter of religion is front and centre to denying folk the right to die in the manner of their choosing, I need to deal to that. But first, the untenable guidelines of this parliamentary committee.
2. Committee Guidelines:
There are four points the committee is looking at, the main summarised by The Press on the day the committee was formed:
A parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia will canvas public opinion and look at international cases,
before making a decision on whether a law change was needed in New Zealand.
I’ll save you time: Yes, law change is necessary. I’ve covered this. It’s my right. Public opinion on the other hand, the rule of the damned mob, is the last guideline to be used.
My right to choose a death with dignity is an absolute moral right, that no vote can change, any more than a population voting for any moral wrong can make it right. Truth and Right have nothing to do with a majority vote.
3. Of Christian Groups
I reckon I’ve made my view on Christianity and religion clear enough already: adults basing their own lives on a fairy tale that worships suffering because a monstrous fiction demands it of them, then trying to bully another individual’s manner of death pursuant to their own brand of cruel nonsense. So I only wish to point out the logic of why Christian opinion should bear no weighting, none at all, regarding this legislation.
Christians, or any religious group, don’t need to have a say here, should not be submitting, and if they do their submissions should be ignored. They should be ignored because the legislation has nothing to do with them.
The Christian argument against euthanasia conveniently ignores that euthanasia will rightly be voluntary (with many safeguards). Christians and other woolly-minded religious fantasists can still choose to die suffering hideously if they wish, but to seek to assert that others do so due to their beliefs, is selfish, arrogant and without compassion—and logically, because Christians would themselves still be left free by any legislation to die in pain if they wish, their opposition to my choice of euthanasia, if circumstances are such, has no place in this debate.
An individual life is not to be bound, in a free society, by the fantastical beliefs of Christians, or any other group of superstitious nutters. The euthanasia debate must be grounded in a rational humanism; any other influence will mire the debate in a disastrous farce reflecting medieval times, not the Twenty-First Century in which I live. (People like myself often sit in stupefied wonder at how the world has not moved on from the barbarism of our past.)
4. Negligent Position of the New Zealand Medical Association Against Euthanasia:
It remains important to counter the New Zealand Medical Association’s public opposition to euthanasia. Given that, to my knowledge, the organisation has never polled its membership over euthanasia and so cannot accurately claim to represent their views, I trust the NZMA is not seeking to make their own submission to this committee—and if it does, that it be ignored until such time as their members are canvassed.
I bring to the committee’s notice that when the UK Medical Association did however canvas its membership, the vote was unanimously supportive of the proposition that euthanasia law was for society to decide, not their professional membership, so prudently removing themselves from the debate.
I have corresponded with Dr. Mark Peterson, the former chair of the NZMA, and more recently with the current Chair, Dr. Childs. I will deal with that correspondence separately after explicating why I believe the stance of the NZMA against euthanasia is negligent, although at this stage I point out that I twice asked Dr. Peterson if he had religious convictions influencing his personal views against euthanasia; both times he ignored that question.
I believe the NZMA’s position on euthanasia is negligent because though publicly against euthanasia, their chief policy as a sop to not allowing euthanasia is this, quoting their site:
In supporting patients' right to request pain relief, the NZMA accepts that the proper provision of
such relief, even when it may hasten the death of the patient, is not unethical.
Quite apart from the issue of pain remediation regimes being in no way comprehensive for all sufferers of pain, including the disastrous and unjustifiable lack of access to medicinal cannabis, this is the NZMA trying to have it both ways. It is a total ethical mess, leading to the disastrous situation in which loved ones and doctors engage in a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, tango in which the conversation is never fully had, and loved ones never fully know what is happening to their loved one.
The NZMA’s position then is that because doctors do mercifully hurry some patients along, we don’t know about it, so we don’t need to formalise and legalise actual euthanasia.
Incredibly, on an official level, this policy includes that notion of ‘we don’t need euthanasia legalised because it already unofficially occurs via kind doctors.’ I submit this is barbarity limimted only by frank negligence. As is the policy guideline, itself, which – think about it – is indeed a sanction of a ‘slow’ euthanasia, contradicting the association’s public stance.
Equally as bad, this stance also draws the repugnant inference that it is NZMA members who know best and get to decide the circumstances and timing of a death; that the decision over a dignified exit is not up to those dying.
Such a mealy-mouthed wording, and professional arrogance, in a matter that concerns all of us at the most poignant part of our lives is as offensive as it is preposterous.
These matters become clearer in the context of my correspondence with current and former NZMA chairs. Former chair Dr. Peterson is an ardent opponent of euthanasia in his personal capacity. Quoting a Press article from June 2014:
New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) chairman Dr Mark Peterson is an anti-euthanasia advocate
who believes it should never be legalised.
If it was legalised for the terminally ill, Peterson feared it could be extended to the chronically ill and
then potentially to those suffering mental health conditions "and you have to wonder where it would stop."
Since the proposed legislation only covers euthanasia in the case of terminal illness, the doctor’s second paragraph is flaying a straw man.But even so: If I were chronically ill why should I not be able to choose euthanasia? Once a certain set of circumstances are reached in my life that it ceases to have value *to me* it is my right to die at that stage if I wish. Nobody else's business. (I hope committee members are beginning to see the theme of my submission.)
As with the opposition of invalid groups, below, nobody else gets to judge my unhappiness, that is, again, bloody arrogance. We’ve got to stop thinking we know better for other people than they know for themselves, albeit our entire parliamentary system is now sadly set on that premise due to the generations of halfwit philosophy defunct farmers, teachers, bankers and lawyers that have had themselves voted in there.
The issue of the Hippocratic oath is interesting. A far more reasonable – I suspect secular – Dr. Child’s brought this up in his correspondence with me:
Our only strong public stance pertains to the medical professional’s ultimate involvement in the act
of voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide in which we hold the position that .." irrespective of the laws
of the state, it is considered unethical for a medical professional to be involved in the intentional act
of terminating life"
Okay. However neither of these men seems cognisant of the illogic involved here when doctors in so many overseas jurisdictions in which assisted suicide is legal see no conflict with their Hippocratic oath. What is the difference please?
And what is the difference between this and their declaration (stated above) that “proper provision of pain relief” is “not unethical,” even when pain remediation “may hasten the death of the patient”?
Seriously, committee members, can you please have Dr. Childs, Chair of NZMA answer that question?
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Assisted suicide is legal in the countries of Switzerland, Germany, Colombia, Japan; it is legal in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana. That’s a huge population base compared to New Zealand: how come all the doctors providing a caring euthanasia service in these jurisdictions feel no conflict with their Hippocratic Oath, yet the NZMA does on behalf of its members, without even polling them?
As I will cover soon, it has become evident that the NZMA does not speak for its membership at all. On this issue it is dysfunctional in the extreme.
There is one more point I wish to deal with regarding my correspondence with current NZMA Chair Dr. Childs. He states in his email to me, regarding the NZMA’s stance against euthanasia:
The medical profession respects the rights of patients to:
A) refuse treatment
B) to withdraw treatment and
C) have relief of suffering via sedation and analgesia
D ) access good palliative care services
Think about what this stance means. The options for dying given in this reply, particularly (a), and (b) are frankly inhumane, meaning in practical terms that a patient wishing to choose their own death is faced with the prospect of starving themselves to death sometimes over a period of more than a month (to mention one well-documented New Zealand case), and by (c) and (d) he is (in main part) taking morphine which does not work for many,, especially in this nursery of a country where there is no recourse to cannabis oil as an alternative.
An association, let alone an individual, who thinks it acceptable for a terminally-ill patient to withdraw from treatment and then starve him or herself to death, is worthy of no respect whatsoever. Indeed, I think it’s a special case of brutish. I am disgusted with this stance by the NZMA.
5. The Palliative Care Industry
The NZMA position in some ways transects the opposition to euthanasia from New Zealand palliative care industry. I cmust note the conflict of interest that industry has with this issue; how false are its claims that current pain remediation regimes are a catch-all for all suffering, when they most certainly are not; but more to the truth is simply to say that the palliative care industry no more talks for its members than NZMA does.
Matt Vickers, spouse of sadly deceased lawyer Lecretia Seales, whom I should not need to introduce to readers, has spent some time talking to professionals in this area. I quote him directly from his blog:
I had a chat with someone today, a healthcare professional, who was very clearly in favour of Lecretia
having the choice she wanted. Here was a person on the front lines, working with a lot of dying patients,
and completely familiar with the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of palliative care, as Dr Rodney
Syme calls it. They knew and felt that a patient having that choice was not going to interfere with them
being able to do their job, that it’s arrogant in the extreme to deny a patient choices, and yet
the organisation that purports to represent them holds a completely inconsistent view. Sadly,
given the number of doctors and nurses I’ve spoken to who are supportive and would want the
choice for themselves are frightened into silence for fear of being reprimanded by these associations.
It’s only when doctors or nurses find themselves in a terminal situation, such as well-respected
Auckland doctor John Pollock in 2010 or Australian palliative care nurse Ray Godbold earlier this year,
that they find the bravery to speak out about the choices they want. I think some of these professional
associations need to take a good hard look at themselves and figure out whether they really
reflect the varied views of their members and what those members would want for themselves
in a terminal situation, or whether their executives are using their position as spokespeople to
advance their own beliefs. If that’s the case, I hope their membership summon the bravery to
recognise that and call them out. Because it really isn’t on. [Emphasis mine.]
6. Of Invalid Groups & Overseas Evidence:
Then we have the various groups representing invalids et al, and their special brand of umbrage-taking that seeks to control my options in death. I’m over this precious rot.
In a Radio New Zealand interview with Lecretia Seales, not long before her death, a comment was made by a “representative for the disabled” who interjected the fear - I call it hysteria - that it devalued her life somehow that others in her pain might choose euthanasia. To that woman I say, again, you cannot judge someone else's unhappiness: that is arrogance. This “representative” then made the further point that such law might lead to society euthanising its elderly and sick. I'm sick of this childish nonsense.
I’ll say that again. I’m sick of this childish nonsense.
As per my comments re Dr. Peterson above, this legislation only envisages euthanasia for those with terminal illness.
This legislation only proposes euthanasia that is voluntarily chosen by the patient.
Any argument beyond those circumstances are straw men erected solely for rhetorical effect. The select committee must ignore them.
Further, ALL the overseas evidence, from all the numerous jurisdictions that do allow assisted dying, shows that such fears have always existed before the legislation, and have always and everywhere been proven unfounded. Where the legislation operates, with all the necessary checks that such legislation must have, the evidence demonstrates that none of the feared outcomes are issues at all; neither killing the disabled, nor killing the oldies.
Repeat: all of these fears have proven to be totally unfounded, due to the rigourous systems in place. I have read extensively in the literature worldwide, and in none of the many jurisdictions in which it is legal have I found a single case of voluntary-euthanasia law being abused. Not one.
Every argument against voluntary euthanasia considered above is either illogical, or invalid. Every argument against ‘me’ having the choice to die with dignity is from some busy-body who doesn’t know me, messing in my life where they have no right to be, and attempting to confine my life and my freedom to choose within the prison of their mind. In every case it is arrogance.
And that’s pretty much my piece. I see a humanistic, compassionate voluntary euthanasia as self-evidently morally right; I don’t know why I have to waste my time arguing the point.
So let me end with this. Here’s a picture of my balcony in the glorious Mahau Sound:
I have spent some time over the last five years visiting various care units. They’re not for me. Unless by either accident or by treason of my body (such as incapacitating stroke which takes the decision away from me) I will be dying on that balcony above, pending circumstances, by my own hand.
For me to do that in any less than barbaric circumstances, I, and all rational individuals, need a compassionate euthanasia law for two reasons:
- That end-of-life directives in so-called living wills are made legal, and I don’t have to fear sudden incapacity because I know in that case my wishes will be enacted and I will not be kept alive in a condition beyond my will. I won’t have to otherwise bring my death ‘forward’ and lose perhaps precious years of living.
- So when I do come to die with dignity on that balcony it is by peaceful means, not by a bag over my head, or by violently blowing out my brains across the outdoor furniture. So that, in short, I might die peacefully in the arms of loved ones giving closure to everyone.
No one on this select committee, other than Superstition Man – Simon – need think twice on this. Make this legislation so, please. It’s a no-brainer.
I dedicate this submission to some few of those victims that come to mind over the brief period I have been blogging in support of euthanasia, who died in circumstances reprehensible to them—reprehensible because there existed no compassionate choice to die with dignity. These are just a few, a very few, of those who were made to suffer:
Rosie Mott, forced to send her husband out on the sidewalk while she died in what would be a dreadful manner; alone, staring at the wallpaper, presumably, while fighting for her last breaths, a plastic bag over her head. Imagine yourselves reflectively gasping for those final breaths under those circumstances, totally, utterly, alone, because your life had become so intolerable. For forcing this cruelty on her, every politician who has not given euthanasia law full urgency in our Parliament up to now, with every Christian and other naysayer who think they had a say in Rosie’s death, are straight-out bastards. Seriously, it is inhuman what *you* all did to her. A euthanasia option would have allowed the beautiful closure of dying peacefully, in her husband’s embrace, instead of this lonely, dreadful end.
David Stephens who, faced with advanced motor-neurone disease, wrote on October 15, 2015, that he wanted the choice of when and how to die. At the time of writing this I have no idea if Mr Stephen’s is still alive. Mr Stephens, as with all individuals currently with terminal illness, does/did not have the luxury of the time that politicians are taking. They need a decision now!
Finally, the fearless, principled Lecretia Seales, postumously the New Zealander of the Year, who has sadly proven our judiciary is so dependent on the Big State that we’re now reliant for wise law on the village idiots voted in the reality-show popularity contest with which we fill our Parliament. When expecting wise law from medieval mystics (Mr O’Connor and Mr English), power seekers and know-alls (that’s all of you), and (groan) busy-body social do-gooders, let’s face it, is forlorn. Or, just perhaps, we might fluke it again, as for equal marriage. Not holding my breath though (like I’d have to currently if I wanted to euthanase myself.)
Please, do the right thing. And for Galt’s sake, don’t pray on it, THINK. It’s a clear and simple rights issue. If members take anything away from my submission it was in my opening: as adults we self-manage our health issues throughout life, this final decision is merely the end of that adult process.
Just for once use the power of legislation to protect a liberty, not destroy it.
Mark Hubbard’s plan was to work the System hard for the first half of life, so he could take the second half off, outside the System, doing his own thing.
Reports of the project’s success so far are mixed.