Right to Life welcomes the submission of the Disability Commissioner, Paula Tesoriero in defence of the right to life of the disabled in New Zealand. She believes that there are major concerns about safeguards in the bill and that, “the key thing for New Zealanders to understand is that this bill goes beyond terminal illness,” and that “quite a range of disabilities or chronic health conditions could be considered a grievous or irremediable condition.’ She states that safeguards in place in this bill are woefully inadequate for terminal illness”, and that ““This whole bill is premised on a medical model, not the social model of disability which says that you are only disabled by the barriers that are put in your way. What we have to focus on is improving the support systems available to disabled people to enable them to live good lives rather than focusing on enabling a good death”.
Peter Thirkell the Secretary for the Care Alliance also expresses concern about the bill. In an article on the Newshub website on 9th March, entitled ‘David Seymour needs to listen to NZ about euthanasia’, he claims Seymour is a “master of spin”.
In an article by Thomas Coughlan, on the Newsroom website on 8th March 2018, Couhglan states that David Seymour has said that the bill’s drafting was clear and that only people with terminal illnesses, whether disabled or not, could make use of euthanasia services. This misrepresents his bill to falsely claim that the disabled are required to be in a terminal condition to qualify for assisted suicide or a lethal injection. They are not as is clear from the actual wording of the bill. (link to Parliamentary website)
Note here are the relevant sections of Section 4 of the bill, (with Right to Life comments in blue)
(c) suffers from— (i) a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within 6 months; or
(ii) a grievous and irremediable medical condition; and [WHO DECIDES WHAT CONSTITUTES A GRIEVOUS AND IRREMEDIABLE MEDICAL CONDITION]
(d) is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and [WHAT DISTINGUISHES THIS FROM THE NORMAL PROGRESSION OF AGING?]
(e) experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable; and [THIS CONDITION IS SUBJECTIVE TO THE DEGREE THAT IT IS EFFECTIVELY MEANINGLESS]
(f) has the ability to understand—
(i) the nature of assisted dying; and
(ii) the consequences for him or her of assisted dying.
David Seymour is now presenting himself as a human rights crusader; he is not. He promotes his bill as the answer to the “last great human rights issue.” His crusade is not to promote human rights but to attack and undermine the foundation of our human rights, the inalienable right to life. It is appalling and deeply offensive to promote to the disabled and to our community the insidious and false notion that your life has no value, that it is not worth living and that you have a human right to have a doctor kill you with a lethal injection or assist in your suicide.
There is not one major disability organisation in New Zealand that supports the End of Life Choice bill.
There is nothing in the bill that would prevent a doctor from offering a lethal injection or assisted suicide to a disabled person.
Members of the disability sector have the most difficulty in accessing medical treatment, care and support, this bill would aggravate this situation.
David Seymour in response to the Commissioner said, that disabled people should be given the same rights as anyone else to choose to end their lives, but that the bill’s drafting was clear that only people with terminal illnesses, whether disabled or not, could make use of euthanasia services. He believed the bill as drafted granted equal access to end of life choices, while safeguarding against vulnerable people making use of the law unnecessarily.
There were 74 Members of Parliament who voted for the first reading of the End of Life Choice bill on the 13 December 2017. Right to Life requests that these Members show their support for members of the disability sector by reflecting seriously on the real concerns expressed by the Disability Commissioner and vote against this bill at its second reading.
Right to Life