Sir Michael Cullen, distinguished parliamentarian, publicly expressed support for the End of Life Choice Act on Daffodil Day, unfortunately encouraging New Zealanders to vote yes at the referendum on October 17th. His concern is not unbearable suffering but what he conceives as a loss of dignity. His support is misdirected, Sir Michael deserves good life affirming care, not a lethal injection.
Sir Michael said, “I do not want to lose control of my bodily functions so that my dignity has disappeared with the ebbing of my life. When I reach those last stages, if that is the prospect, I want the choice to be able to decide when the time is right to complete the circle of life.” It is not a big jump from Michael Cullen’s argument here to arguing that people who are not dying but who experience loss of bodily functions (eg, paraplegia, neuropathy, Myasthenia gravis) should also qualify for a lethal injection or assisted suicide. Herein lies a great danger. We believe that when well known people like Michael Cullen expresses views that express a right to be given a lethal injection, then that may influence other more vulnerable people into accepting euthanasia.
Sir Michael already has the right to discontinue treatment. Right to Life has a duty to point out to the community that “loss of dignity” is not a criteria under the End of Life Choice Act to qualify for a lethal injection from a doctor or assistance in suicide. Sir Michael Cullen would therefore not qualify. New Zealand’s world class palliative care provides compassionate care to uphold the dignity of patients suffering from a loss of control of bodily functions.
Our dignity as human beings is conferred on us by our Creator at conception, our dignity is inalienable, it cannot be taken from us nor may we give it up. Our dignity is intrinsic and is not dependent on our control of bodily functions. Loss of control does not reduce our dignity as human beings. We come into this world vulnerable and dependent. May Sir Michael receive the grace from His Creator to embrace his vulnerability as he prepares to leave this world.
It is disappointing that David Seymour, the architect of the End of Life Choice Act, welcomes the support of Sir Michael Cullen and chooses to remain silent in confirming that “loss of dignity” is not a criteria for a lethal injection. We have to ask why David Seymour continues to further encourage misinformation about this Act, which clearly poses a significant threat to the vulnerable in our community?
There are many people in our community who, because of illness or disability lose control of their bodily functions, yet they still maintain their dignity. Our society must care for such people not enable a doctor to kill them.
Right to Life believes that Sir Michael Cullen after a lifetime of public service, deserves the support of our community and the care and compassion of our world class palliative care.
Right to Life
Authorised by Philip Creed, Right to Life, 28 Ensors Rd, Christchurch.