Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that New Zealand’s General Election will take place on Saturday 19 September, 2020. What makes this election different is the critical life and death referendum that will take place at the same time as people cast their votes for candidates and parties to lead this nation.
Two topics will be set before voters – that of legalising the use of Cannabis and the practice of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
While both reforms have grave social and individual ramifications and are set to change the whole moral fabric of our society, it is euthanasia and assisted dying that present a very direct threat to human lives.
The binding referendum question
Voters will be asked to respond yes or no to the question “do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?”
Your vote matters. If the binding referendum passes, within twelve months, doctors and nurses will have the ability to end the life of their patients or give them the drugs to take their own lives.
It is vital that every person in the country understands the provisions of the End of Life Choice Act and the arguments against it.
Equally important is knowledge of the experiences in other jurisdictions where euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legalised. These experiences show that practice changes over time.
What is the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide?
- Assisted Suicide is triggered by the person
requesting to die.
They may ingest lethal drugs prescribed for them or they may be given the drugs intravenously.
- Euthanasia is performed by a medical or nurse
The person may be given lethal drugs through a tube or via injection.
Who is eligible for euthanasia and assisted suicide under the End of Life Choice Act?
Two doctors must agree that the person meets the following eligibility criteria. If one, or both, believe the person is not capable of making an informed decision, a psychiatrist must decide if they are capable.
The person requesting to die must meet the following criteria:
- 18+ years.
- New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.
- Terminally ill and likely to die within 6 months.
- Be in a state of advanced irreversible decline in physical capability.
- Experience unbearable suffering.
- Be competent to make an informed decision.
Note that over time euthanasia and assisted suicide laws tend to become more lenient and accommodating. For example, in Belgium there has been no age restriction since 2014 and a child may request to die. Dementia patients and those suffering from depression may also request death in that country. Canada legalised euthanasia in 2016. There are grave concerns about the practice in that country as little more than three years later, discussions are being had about lowering the age restriction so that children may ask for, and be granted, death by euthanasia.
What is currently legal in New Zealand?
In the Crimes Act of 1961, people have an obligation to protect others from killing themselves or from being killed by another. The End of Life Choice Act makes an exception to this provision.
The following actions are ethical and already legal in New Zealand
- Turning off life support.
- Signing a ‘do not resuscitate’ order.
- Providing enough medication to alleviate pain.
- Refusing treatment that is futile or burdensome.
It is important to ensure you know what you are agreeing to and have someone that understands your wishes to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Interpretations can differ.
Note, hydration and nutrition are ordinary care. Withholding either of these before death is foreseeable constitutes euthanasia.
What can you do?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” Edmund Burke.
Every citizen now has a grave responsibility to ensure they understand what will be asked of them in September’s End of Life Choice referendum. Having washed their hands of this life and death issue our leaders have put the final decision onto us.
There will be a slick PR campaign produced by Saatchi & Saatchi which will no doubt bring the issue to the forefront of voter’s minds.
You can ensure that the End of Life Choice Act does not come into force by doing the following:
- Decide now that you will vote “NO” in the referendum.
- Inform yourself by reading the End of Life Choice Act as well as articles and commentary about it.
- Learn the experiences of overseas jurisdictions.
- Share the stories of the terminally ill and disabled who speak up about the dignity of their lives and the stories of those who are coerced or euthanised against their will.
- Discuss the issue with friends, colleagues and family members who are of voting age and help them to understand the ramifications of voting yes.
- Pray. God hears our prayers. They are efficacious and can change the course of humanity.
Remember, this is one battle in a whole culture war. But it is an important one.
The End of Life Choice Act legalises euthanasia and assisted suicide. It can never be safe because the law is about killing another human being or assisting them to take their own life.
The decision is ours. Life or death?