Wall’s proposed authorised dying bill falls short on a number of counts

authorised dying

Director of the NZ Catholic Bioethics Centre, Dr John Kleinsman, commenting on MP Louisa Wall’s proposed Authorised Dying Bill, noted that it was an attempt to narrow the criteria of eligibility for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

It shows that at one level she has taken on board some of the concerns raised by opponents of a law change. However, the proposed Authorised Dying Bill falls short on a number of serious counts:

Wall assumes, along with most New Zealanders, that any euthanasia or assisted regime will involve health professionals as the direct agents.

However, as the World Medical Association and NZMA statements point out, even if euthanasia or physician assisted suicide became legal it would remain unethical for doctors to be involved in any way – these practices are fundamentally incompatible with the very core of the nursing and medical professions.

It strikes at the core of the doctor-patient relationship which is based on an unimpeachable trust – it will put a serious question mark over that trust for many patients.

Kliensman said Wall also fails to recognise that moving what I call ‘the bright line of prohibition’ does not solve the problem of the hard cases.

It simply shifts the problem because it immediately creates new ‘hard cases’ on a different boundary line. If as a country we allow access to euthanasia or assisted suicide to some on the basis that they have a right to choose it, it is quite rightly and logically argued that it is discriminatory not to allow it for others who are suffering. The boundary she proposes is totally arbitrary.

The debate in the Netherlands and Belgium started in exactly the same place Louisa Wall wants her law to start.

It was all about offering people who were terminally ill the opportunity to control the manner of their death.

The debate in Holland now is about giving anyone over 70 access to euthanasia whether or not they are dying. New Zealand would go the same way and it is naïve to think otherwise.

Any law will lead to significant numbers of people choosing needless premature deaths. The key issue is not where we start but where a law will take us.


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