In the wake of the first reading of the End of Life Choice bill in Parliament, New Zealand’s Catholic bishops will be sending a letter and fact sheet to all parishes in this country for Masses in late January, 2018.

The bishops are urging people to make their voices heard on this crucial issue by sending a submission to the Justice Select Committee and by writing to or visiting their local MPs.

On December 13, MPs voted 76-44 in Parliament for the first reading of the End of Life Choice bill.

The bill was voted through to the Justice Select Committee which met the following day. Submissions are now being accepted up to the February 20 next year.

The bill seeks to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide as an option for those over 18 years of age with a terminal illness likely to end their lives within six months or who have a grievous and irremediable condition.

The person has to be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, experiencing unbearable suffering they consider intolerable and mentally able to understand what will happen.

Leading up to the debate on the first reading, Nathaniel Centre director Dr John Kleinsman wrote to all MPs urging them to reject the bill as dangerous and unnecessary. Dr Kleinsman stated, “there has never been a more dangerous time, as far as our elders are concerned, to contemplate legalising euthanasia or assisted suicide [EAS]. Our elders will find themselves having to increasingly justify their right to life, and the socalled ‘right to die’ will be increasingly perceived as a ‘duty to die’. This is not real choice”.

“EAS,” Dr Kleinsman continued, “will place many of our elders at risk of a premature death under the guise of ‘personal choice’. This is unacceptable, particularly because it is well known that persistent requests for euthanasia are extremely rare when patients have
access to quality palliative care.”

The fact sheet which will be sent out by the bishops will also be available online by visiting the website of The Nathaniel Centre — the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre — http://www. nathaniel.org.nz/

In introducing the bill, Act MP David Seymour argued that New Zealand’s “laws surrounding end of life choice currently do not work and we must improve them”.

Speaking against the bill, Leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister Bill English responded by saying, “as law makers, the reason there is a blanket prohibition is because ‘you’ are not always the best judge of the value of ‘your’ life, and the price that our community pays for enabling a doctor to take your life, free of criminal scrutiny, is that many other people are more vulnerable.”

National MP Nuk Korako commented, “euthanasia is foreign to Māori and has no place in our society”.

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