Feb 22 2018
I wish to make a formal complaint against the item titled “Stay out of my life and my choice” broadcast on Tuesday 20 February 2018 in the Project.
My complaint is that it breached Standard 8 – Balance, of the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
In my view this item was on a very contentious issue of great public interest. In matters of great controversy it is important that sufficient time is allowed for the presentation of comment from both sides of the issue. The issue was euthanasia, which is about doctors killing their patients or assisting in their suicide. The item was timed at an estimated four minutes. The item was clearly presented to advocate for euthanasia with the generous and enthusiastic support of the members of the Project team. I am assuming that there was an effort to provide balance with a brief five second sound bite provided by Matthew Jansen of Care Alliance. I suspect that the interview was very carefully edited resulting in an innocuous one sentence statement. In my view, this sound bite did not constitute an adequate opportunity to present cogent and effective reasons why Parliament should vote at the second reading to reject the contentious End of Life Choice bill of David Seymour MP.
I am a dedicated supporter of Newshub and I am not aware of any opponents of euthanasia being provided with the opportunity to present the substantial and convincing case for upholding the ethics of the medical profession not to be involved in the killing of patients nor the upholding of the prohibition against the taking of the life of another innocent human being, which is the foundation of the law and medicine.
I believe that the media are at the service of the community and that you have the privilege and the duty to ensure that the community are provided with factual information from both sides of the debate that will allow for a properly informed debate within our community.
Are you aware that Emeritus Professor David Richmond a retired palliative care specialist who is professor emeritus of geriatric medicine at the University of Auckland stated in the NZ Herald on 16 January 2018 a response to Dr Havill.
“Dr Havill’s opinion piece in last Tuesday’s Herald.
is a fine example of the genre of emotionalism he rails against in those who oppose his attempts to convince the public that legalised euthanasia is the holy grail of medicine.
Unfortunately he has not been able to save himself from the mire of emotionalism and exaggeration he criticises so keenly in others. He complains his opponents “typically resort to emotive misleading language”.
Excuse me, but how are we to define statements he makes such as, “People die cruel, agonisingly painful deaths…every day”. “Many suffer horribly for days….weeks… while others linger at death’s door for months….years”. “Terrible tales of family members…dying in conditions that would provoke criminal charges”. “Relatives sitting “at the bedside hoping that death will…quickly end their misery”, as anything but blatant attempts to milk the emotions of his readers?
In more than 40 years of medical practice as a physician, geriatrician and terminal care manager, I cared for many dying people. My testimony is that I have never seen a person dying with unmanageable suffering.
If Dr Havill’s statements are to be taken at face value and not merely as rhetoric, one can only wonder what steps the senior clinicians such as he were taking to upgrade the skill levels of the palliative care staff to whom he is referring. Or wonder how long in the past these events took place. We cannot judge the effectiveness of today’s palliative care by comparing it with what was available even just 10 years ago.”
Dr Sinead Donnelly a palliative medicine physician with 28 years experience in caring for patients and their families at the end of life stated in an opinion article in the NZ Herald on 15 December 2017;
“I am affronted by the fact that a politician would imply he understood the finer details of medicine and medical treatment better than me or my colleagues.
To Mr Seymour I say, how dare you accuse my profession and my colleagues of illegal practices.
How dare you confuse quality and ethical care with the intentional ending of a person’s life. What makes you think you know better than the World Medical Association or the New Zealand Medical Association?
It is unacceptable that such uninformed statements go unopposed. For too long we have retained our professional discipline and shown restraint by not reacting publicly to such loose and ill-informed pronouncements. It is unfortunate to even repeat what has been said, but I do so to explain my justified outrage.
We do not intentionally end the lives of our patients by giving too much morphine. We train under strict supervision according to national and international standards of excellence in the discipline and science of use of morphine and other drugs for symptom control.
Morphine is not used to euthanise people in Netherlands or Belgium, morphine is a very effective analgesic in patients suffering from moderate to severe pain and it is safe in the hands of medical prescribers who are trained as we are in its use.
There is no evidence that doctors are using morphine to kill patients in New Zealand.
There are extensive safeguards in the training and practice of medicine. The correct titration of all the drugs we use to relieve symptoms and minimise side-effects is at the heart of training in palliative medicine.”
In conclusion I believe that Project would be providing a great service to the community if you included on your program palliative care specialists who could provide expert advice and evidence on the world class palliative care provided in New Zealand which ranks third in the OECD. This action would ensure that we have an informed debate on whether Parliament should change the Crimes Act to allow doctors to provide patients with a lethal injection or assist in their suicide.
Right to Life.