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New Zealand Health Select Committee on Euthanasia

24 Oct

This Friday, 28 October 2016, the Health Select Committee on Euthanasia will receive verbal submissions from the public in Christchurch.

This is the next step in a process which began last year with written submissions where individuals were able to tick a box indicating their willingness to also speak before the Health Select Committee.

Each person who speaks before the committee is given five minutes. In my five minutes I intend to say the following:

I want to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak in opposition to the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand. 

I want to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak in opposition to the legalisation of euthanasia in New Zealand. 

Post-Hippocratic World

People are to be valued vs. Utilitarianism

For over 2,000 years of human history medical professionals across the world, spanning diverse cultures pledged themselves to some version of the Hippocratic Oath. This ancient code reads, in part:

“I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

In purity and according to divine law will I carry out my life and my art.”[1]

With the advent of the field of bioethics, a very modern area of study, along with numerous other seismic shifts in Western culture we now live in a post- Hippocratic world. Utilitarianism rules the day.

Human beings are no longer universally valued as having inherent dignity and worth. They are seen has having value only in relation to their perceived, relative contribution to society.

This current debate on Euthanasia is not happening in a vacuum. We have arrived at this point due to the slow erosion of society’s conscience where people are only people if others conclude they offer something of value.

The façade of Governmental regulations

Promises and intentions vs. Reality

Our Government bodies are not immune to this utilitarian thinking. Decisions are made based on values determined by economics and social Darwinian ethics.

We are presented with a façade built of promises and intentions to guarantee close scrutiny and ensure no abuse will take place. The very idea that some can publicly discuss the idea of helping someone kill themselves and this is considered as potentially helpful to society is deeply troubling.

Yet, we are not left to our imaginations or even supposed “slippery slope” arguments to suggest this is something which no amount of government regulation can control. There isn’t a single example in human history where the door to Assisted Suicide has been opened upon a society and that same government which opened the door is capable of keeping it opened “only so far and no more.”

When the door was opened upon Germany and Austria it took a war to close it again!

We see today in Holland and Belgium where all the promises of government regulation lead. It is now legal to euthanise a child of any age in Belgium. The Groningen University Medical Centre in Holland has developed a three step protocol which has been published without criticism in the New England Journal of Medicine providing a simple process whereby a doctor can determine after a safe, live birth whether a child’s life should be terminated with impunity.[2]

Social Hypocrisy

Suicide prevention vs. Assisted Suicide

Finally, the social hypocrisy in New Zealand is palatable. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen, almost daily, articles and media releases regarding the staggering suicide statistics in New Zealand – Canterbury ranks at the top.

With this there is a great outcry and concern for those who are suffering and would consider the tragic step of ending their own life. I applaud this outcry. As a family who has been directly affected by suicide I long to see those who are at such a place receive the help and assistance they need.

At the same time the public debate of these two issues is equally staggering. What is the intended outcome?

If you are considering suicide are to call an 0800 helpline and in doing so will you hear something like, “If you are contemplating taking you own life, please press #1 for help. If you would like assistance in taking your life, please press #2 for the number of a local clinic which will prescribe an end of life treatment. Thank you for calling.”

The time is past for us as a culture and society to stop talking about people, image bearers of God as commodities. Objects that can be assigned value based on any criteria other than the fact they are fully human.

The time is past for us to stop insulting the countless palliative care doctors and nurses who tirelessly care for those precious members of our society, who are dying, to ensure their value and dignity is never compromised by labelling the sanctioned killing of others as “death with dignity”.

You who serve in public office have an obligation to represent and use your voice to defend the most vulnerable.

I pray you will.

[1] https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/greek_oath.html

[2] https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/10/euthanizing-children

I highly recommend the following book:

Smith, Wesley J. Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. San Francisco, Calif: Encounter Books, 2016.

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Posted by on 24/10/2016 in Current Issues

 

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