“All views on assisted suicide matter” says Bioethics spokesperson

24 Aug 2016 | JUSTICE

Director of The Nathaniel Bioethics Centre, Dr John Kleinsman, is surprised and appalled at the disingenuous tactics being employed by assisted suicide supporters. Both Matt Vickers and Act MP David Seymour have in recent days described the unprecedented number of submissions to the Health Select Committee and the overwhelming 78% opposition to a law change as nothing more than the result of formulaic submissions collected in bulk by mostly religious institutions or as religious bullying from the pulpit by pastors.

“Their insinuations are two-fold: (i) that the only possible basis for opposition is a religious one and (ii) that the views of people with a faith perspective don’t count or count less,” says Dr Kleinsman.

“The first is totally inaccurate – just read the many evidence-based submissions by professional groups and others – and the second is nothing more than an example of bigotry – a smoke screen, a distraction based on an elitist view of what counts as legitimate political discourse.”

“It is actually impossible to know the precise numbers of submitters whose views on assisted suicide may be influenced by their faith. One analysis of the submissions shows that approximately 17% of opponents and 4% of supporters of a law change drew on religious concepts,” said Kleinsman.

 

“The Health Select Committee Process is an important part of the way we exercise democracy in New Zealand and all citizens have a right to express their views in their style and in their own language. Some people will express that view in a sentence, others in a few pages. Since when did a person’s view depend on their level of education or ability to be articulate? To think otherwise is to imply that some New Zealander’s views count more than others. I believe most New Zealanders, whatever their personal position on this issue, will see such claims for what they are – as an assault on our principles of inclusion and fairness.”

“The idea that some people’s views count more than others is a very small step away from the very dangerous view that some lives matter more than others – something that disabled people encounter all the time. This debate needs to focus on the evidence.”

“I urge the Committee to pay attention to the Palliative Care Physician who, as part of her oral evidence pointed out ‘that people often change their mind, they don’t know all of their choices and that the evidence shows that people who engage in palliative care early not only live better, they live longer.’”

“These are doctors who deal with deaths from all kinds of illnesses every single day – if anyone is in a position to say that assisted suicide is unnecessary or dangerous it’s them.”

“The key question is whether a law allowing assisted suicide can adequately protect those who are vulnerable to coercion because of illness or disability. Let’s have a respectful debate about that.”

For more information please contact Simone Olsen, Communications Adviser, 021 611 052