Two years ago Lecretia Seales, a woman dying from brain cancer, asked the New Zealand High Court to give her the legal right for a doctor to help her end her life. The court ruled in June 2015 that there was no such right under existing law and Ms Seales, 42, died hours later of natural causes. Shortly after, Labour MP Maryan Street and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society presented a petition to parliament for a law change to allow doctor-assisted suicide.
The government responded to the petition – signed by 8975 people – with a public inquiry into end-of-life issues. More than 20,000 people made submissions to the Health select committee and oral submissions from 1800 of them are continuing. Three out of four of them oppose euthanasia – a fact that is not widely known
To change that, a campaign called 16,000Voices is publishing written and video testimonies representing the variety of people who have made their views known to the committee. In the following interview with MercatorNet, Dr Jane Silloway Smith, whose analysis of submissions forms the basis of the information provided in 16,000Voices, talks about the encouraging opposition to the latest attempt to replace care with killing in New Zealand.
MercatorNet: A New Zealand government committee of inquiry has received more than 20,000 submissions from the public on the issue of euthanasia? That seems a very large number – what accounts for it?
The Health Select Committee reported receiving 21,435 unique submissions to their inquiry on assisted suicide and euthanasia. To put that in perspective, last year another parliamentary committee considered the highly controversial (in NZ) TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) – that inquiry received around 8,000 submissions.
I think the reasons for seeing such a high participation rate in this particular inquiry are 1) because many people realise the gravity of the issue (we’re talking about fundamentally changing the way the law treats and values human life); and 2) there are a lot of communities that have passionate ideas about assisted suicide and euthanasia who wanted to be heard and who were effective at informing and mobilising their members: the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES), disability advocacy groups like Not Dead Yet Aotearoa, medical professional associations, churches, those who work in suicide prevention and grief counselling, the Hospice movement, and many others.
Read more at Mercatornet.