This article first appeared on the Stuff.co.nz website.
Renee Joubert is Executive Officer, Euthanasia-Free NZ
I know first-hand how painful it is to watch a loved one deteriorate and die.
However, I feel frustrated by the emphasis the current assisted suicide debate puts on the terminally ill.
Rhetoric about how the terminally ill need assisted dying is only a way to manipulate our emotions and soften up society for the real agenda: legal assisted suicide for everyone. The pro-euthanasia lobby wants suicide to be regarded as normal, acceptable and rational. Their only objection is that "suicide is violent" - not that it's to be prevented and discouraged in principle. In fact, it should be facilitated for anyone who "wants to die".
Recently euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke appealed his medical deregistration in response to his involvement in the suicide of a 45-year old depressed but healthy man. Nitschke's lawyer said in his opening address, the case was about "the dangerous idea [of] whether a person who is contemplating rational suicide ought to be required by a medical doctor not to do so".
He implied that if a person had a good reason to want to die, a doctor should not intervene.
Since suffering is subjective and universal, any suicidal person would have a rationale for wanting to die. Terminal illness is only one of many possibilities.
The slogans "choose to die", "die on one's own terms" and "right to control the timing and manner of one's death" apply to suicide and by definition, rights apply to everyone.
Last June I asked Maryan Street at a public forum: "If this right applies to everyone, why are there conditions in your bill?"
She replied that suicide was legal, but assisted suicide was illegal, so to change the law there had to be conditions.
The End-of-Life Choice Bill proposes legal assisted suicide for anyone over 18 who has an irreversible physical or mental medical condition and understands that a request will result in death. This would include disability, chronic illness, mental illness, depression and ageing-related conditions. Effectively, any adult could be eligible.
The essence of the assisted dying debate is whether anyone who wants to die should be allowed to kill themselves.
Should assisted suicide be legal for anyone, irrespective of their health condition or age? If the answer is no, we should not legalise assisted dying at all, not even for the terminally ill.
Any law would be a stepping stone, a toe in the door, towards assisted suicide on demand.
Any law would inevitably be extended, in law or in practice, to other groups of people who are also suffering, as has happened overseas.
It would be inconsistent and discriminating not to.
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