The right to die

For the last couple of days I’ve been really blessed to be part of a very respectful, sincere and personal discussion online over the subject of euthanasia.

It was all sparked by this little video.

I’m so glad to be talking about it, and hearing those who disagree, simply because I think it is a topic most of us haven’t really bothered to listen in on yet. We simply make up our minds, then move on.

But when you get digging through that 21,000 high stack of submissions made on the bill, you find an unbelievably vast array of life experiences and reasons both for an against euthanasia. It really makes you think. It might even change your mind.

As I mentioned to those in the discussion online, I made up my mind on this issue after a huge amount of reading and research. Initially I didn’t think it was such a bad idea. By the end of my reading I was convinced it is a terrible idea.

The reason (if you are interested) goes a little something like this: Euthanasia laws create a right to die, for people who fit a certain category, and generally are introduce with very good protections in place. However, over time, people in excluded categories begin to claim their right to die is being discriminated against. As a brief internet search shows, this is already happening in countries where euthanasia is legal for the depressed, children and the elderly without terminal illness, among others.

So, the evidence shows us that when we create a right to die, the original restrictions around it are soon challenged, and removed. After all, if there is a right to die, how can we tell some people they are not allowed it? It gets even harder to say no when international law shows that right to die being upheld by all sorts of people the law was never originally intended for.

As the groups of people allowed to die grows, the protections in the law weaken.

If the elderly can die when they feel life is complete, despite not suffering terminal illness, those being bullied and abused by relatives or pressured to pass on an inheritance, might easily end up euthanased. New Zealand’s media is full of stories of elderly people being abused like this, and through the budgeting service we help out with, I know elderly people often get themselves into dire financial straits because they love their children too much to say no.

The examples go on, with the disabled, the suicidal and those experiencing any sort of suffering at any time all being placed at risk by the trajectory this law places us on, in my view.

Add to this the fact that people are people, and we break the law. What is to stop us from doing so with euthanasia, where we would have to rely on difficult concepts like consent or coercion to decide if a person was murdered or not, instead of relying on the toxicology report or coroners findings? There is always a balance with every law between the freedom of choice for an individual and the potential impact on others in that society. Here, the potential impact includes undesired death, and to me, that is just too high a cost.

But that is just my voice. There are 16,000 others (that’s three in four submitters) who made their opposition clear on this, including doctors, vets, the terminally ill and Maori. If  you would prefer to hear their thoughts, head to www.16000voices.org.

 

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