Euthanasia: Catholic agencies are the progressive voice


Representatives of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) presented their reservations about David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill to the Justice Select Committee on Tuesday.

Bishop Charles Drennan, Dr Caroline Newson, who works in acute psychiatry medicine, Dr John Kleinsman and researcher Dr Sue Buckley from the Nathaniel Institute made submissions.

Drennan talked about the selfless staff working in rest homes, hospices and hospitals who accompany the dying and their families and whanau daily.

He noted the Catholic Church’s long involvement in palliative care.

A group of catholic sisters, the Little Company of Mary, founded Mary Potter Hospice, the first hospice in New Zealand.

He took issue with the principle of individual choice as it is presented the End of Life Life Choice Bill.

He said, “choice is good but not always good. What is important is to choose what is right or dignified or best.”

New Zealand prides itself on being a progressive nation, the bishop said.

But the Bill, if passed, would usher in a regressive and unnecessary backward move.

Assisted suicide of the elderly or sick, like the tragedy of youth suicide, would be a cause of great whakamā or shame for Aotearoa.

It is progressive to challenge ageist attitudes and eliminate the sense that being sick or old or dependent equates to being a burden, Drennan said.

Newson argued that making it legal for those with a mental illness to have a doctor assist their suicide would contradict the Government’s pledge to better support mental health.

She asserted that euthanasia and assisted suicide had no place in healthcare and that doctors did not want it.

Their training prepares them to provide care and give hope to their patients.

So they should not have the burden of being the ones to end people’s lives imposed on them.

“This Bill places a heavy burden upon the medical profession to aid in the suicide of, or actively kill, a person who seeks such an end to their life and is deemed to satisfy the Bill’s eligibility criteria,” she said.

Kleinsman spoke to the Bill’s problems.

  • Its imprecise terminology
  • Its vague and subjective language around eligibility
  • Its failure to consider broader social implications
  • The ethical contradiction of involving doctors in ending the lives of their patients
  • The impossibility of ensuring people were not coerced.
  • The absence of effective safeguards within the proposed legislation.

Kleinsman cited the growing rates of elder abuse as well as growing social isolation amongst older people along with an increased sense amongst our elders that they are a burden.

“There has never been a more dangerous time to implement an assisted death regime in New Zealand.”

He cited international examples showing a year-on-year increase in numbers of euthanasia.

The practice of euthanasia, Kleinsman said, is contributing to a “new norm around dying” in places such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

These countries have regimes similar to to the proposed legislation.

The NZCBC’s social justice agency, Caritas, also presented to the Select Committee.

Their media statement on their submission can be found by visiting their website

Others presenting to the Select Committee included Not Dead Yet Aotearoa, Care Alliance, Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Grace Presbyterian Church of NZ, Palliative Care Nurses, Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine and Hospice New Zealand.


  • Supplied: Amanda Gregan Communications Advisor – NZ Catholic Bishops Te Huinga o ngā Pīhopa Katorika o Aotearoa
  • Image: Supplied: Amanda Gregan Communications Advisor – NZ Catholic Bishops Te Huinga o ngā Pīhopa Katorika o Aotearoa
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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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