Vote allowing assisted dying met with dismay

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and New Zealand’s Catholic bishops conference, Hospice New Zealand, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists have all expressed dismay at the vote allowing assisted dying.

NZMA says it goes against medical values and is a “step too far” for many doctors.

NZMA chair Kate Baddock says while the association opposes the concept of euthanasia, it would work through the details of the Act before it came into effect next year.

She says the majority of medical professionals are against assisted dying.

“The main concerns for doctors is that it alters the fundamental relationship with the patient.

“There is going to be lots of implications which need to be worked through in some detail.”

Coercion is an issue NZMZ says it must be “particularly careful about coercion. It could be so subtle no one picks it up.”

Over 1800 doctors signed an open letter opposing assisted dying, entitled “Doctors say No”, stating that assisted dying is unethical, regardless of whether it is legalised.

NZMA says the outcome has created a “complex” situation for medical professionals, particularly in rural areas with few GPs.

Doctors will work within the legal framework and just as they can with abortion, will be able to conscientiously object to taking part in ending lives.

Bioethics expert for the Catholic bishops, Dr John Kleinsman (pictured), says it puts vulnerable people and those who care for them on an unwelcome and dangerous path.

Kleinsman says the Act will bring a new and unwelcome dynamic into many people’s lives.

“The very presence of the option of euthanasia will present as a burden and a pressure for many people and families,” says Kleinsman.

Those who work with the dying will also be affected, he says.

These include doctors, nurses and other health carers, as well as chaplains, priests and lay ministers.

“We will be reflecting in the coming months with these groups as to how the law will impact the people they care for, as well as the carers themselves. Among the questions raised will be ones about the provision of the sacraments at the end of life, and the impact on funeral celebrations.”

Friday’s preliminary results saw 65.2 percent of votes cast in favour of the End of Life Choice Act, with 33.8 percent against.

Assisted dying is defined in the End of Life Choice Act as a doctor or nurse practitioner giving a person medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death, or, the taking of medication by a person to relieve their suffering by bringing on death.

Those opting for an assisted death have to be 18 or older and suffering a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months.

The official results will be released this Friday.


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