In September New Zealanders will be voting on two important and society-changing issues. Both will have far-reaching consequences beyond what our present generations can foresee. One of the referendum questions will ask the voter if they support the End of Life Choice Bill in its current form. Politicians have now designated responsibility to the public, with the media being the main voice of information. Mainstream media has a tendency to be unbalanced in its messaging when it comes to physician-assisted suicide.
Patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families often live in diverse worlds with vastly different resources. The commonality between them remains love, relationship, a need to belong and the reassurance that they will be cared for as they face the end of their lives. The End of Life Choice Bill does not promise better care, it does not bring love and relationship and it certainly does not value life. It only brings premature death using medicine as legitimacy.
CMFnz has been part of the Care Alliance for many years, a network of organisations working against euthanasia and fostering communication about normal dying. Now the government has voted for a referendum, CMFnz has put together a sub-committee to help everyone part of the CMFnz community understand the issues surrounding the Bill and to educate others. As the referendum approaches, this webpage will be regularly updated with short editorials and videos on the major issues related to euthanasia and the End of Life Choice Bill Referendum. We encourage you to share these widely.
Faith, Medicine & Choice at the End of Life
Webinar with Dr Steve Withington, Dr David Tripp, Dr Amanda Landers & Dr Wendy Pattemore | June 2020
1. Good and faithful end of life care, and how to move beyond reluctance to discuss dying and discontinuing a treadmill of treatment.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic and particular issues around end-of-life it raises.
3. The End of Life Choice Act and upcoming referendum, and potential consequences if the Act comes into force.
To read a summary of the webinar, click here.
Choice & End of Life Care
Palliative Care Physician Dr Amanda Landers discusses the options that good end-of-life care offers New Zealanders and outlines some of the risks of the End of Life Choice Act.
Dr Wendy Pattemore | June 2020
We make choices every day. Some are great. Some we wish we had never made. We’d have made a different choice in two years or two weeks or two days! This is the same when it comes to choices about our health. The decisions we make when we are 20 or 30 about our health are different from those we make when we are 70 or 80. So when we are able to run in the park and go to work every day and to the club every night we cannot imagine what life could be like unable to do these things. But interestingly, we adjust as our bodies age and change and there are new and different things that enthrall us. Things you would never dream of when you were 20!
We see the same thing in advanced illness. People still find enjoyment and fulfillment in life, and people still inspire others – life is not a burden. It can be if you don’t have the care you need, or if you don’t understand what is happening and what can be done to help.
This is why we have Palliative Care and why we need Compassionate Communities to promote wellbeing. We have so many choices for a good life and in the end a good and natural death – we just need to know about them.
Cutting it Short
Life is something most of us enjoy. Even without the resources to travel to the far ends of the earth, we have beauty around us and relationship between us. This makes life sweet. We go with each other on life’s rollercoaster of love and disappointment, joy and sorrow, fear and bravery.
I heard Jane Fonda talk recently of old age being the “Third Act”. The Third Act in the play or story is where everything is revealed, the important stuff comes out. But then there is the “Denouement. This is the closing of the play – the resolution of the action, bringing things to an understandable end.
Life has a denouement. It is called dying. It can be shorter or longer. But it is always important. It is the completion of life. It is where things are resolved. Or would be if we let it happen – it leads to a satisfactory end to the sometimes glorious story of one’s life. The denouement can be sad, or scary or hard – but it is important. There is work to be done in those closing lines – we need to set up the next episode, the sequel. We need to pass on clues and advice, we need to encourage bravery and fortitude for the future.
We must not cut it out because we, or the producer decides the play is long enough. The curtain comes down or the credits roll – but the people watching feel that it is unfinished, They don’t quite know what they are expected to think or do.
This is what assisted suicide is like. It cuts off the story before the end, before we find out the important stuff for the next actor to know.
Choose to Protect the Vulnerable - Choose Doctors Saving Lives - Choose Better Care
Dr Amanda Landers, CMFnz Advocate for End of Life Care | May 2020
Dr Amanda Landers discusses the End of Life Choice Act Referendum in light of New Zealand's recent response to COVID19. In lockdown, New Zealanders worked together to protect the vulnerable in our society. Can we do the same in our upcoming referendum?
'Just a Few Short Months'
Dr Amanda Landers, CMFnz Advocate for End of Life Care | May 2020
In just a few short months life has changed, both locally and globally, in ways we could not have imagined. We now have rules and regulations we must follow under the auspices of the government wanting to save lives. What was once a choice, is no longer. We cannot go to the hairdresser, have dinner in a restaurant, hug friends or neighbours, and shake hands to show respect or even move about freely. But we make these sacrifices for the good of our vulnerable communities, for the frail and elderly. We do these things because it is the right thing to do. New Zealanders have made immeasurable sacrifices during this time, and the consequences we will be witnessing for years to come.
In just a few short months, New Zealand is supposed to vote for their choice of politician, their choice of political party. Alongside those critical votes are two referendum questions. One about legalising recreational cannabis and the other to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide. It is now I find myself in strange territory. The End of Life Choice Act is built upon the right to choose to end your own life using doctors for the final deed. It is about no-one else telling you what you can and cannot do in this life. Advocates of assisted suicide believe autonomy trumps justice and conscientious objection by the medical profession. But we now live in a world stripped of its autonomy for the greater good.
In just a few short months, the critical importance of doctors and the medical profession has stood out in sharp relief across the world. Doctors are hailed as heroes because they are saving lives. They know how to work ventilators, and pump oxygen into lungs, and do amazing research that discovers cures and vaccines. People stand on the roadside and clap for their ‘new’ heroes. Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable by the thought of doctors and the medical profession then being involved in ending people’s lives on purpose? Particularly as we know from statistics around the world that many people who opt for assisted suicide are the very people, frail and elderly, who we are trying to save. They feel isolated, lonely and a burden to society. New Zealanders have just stood up as a ‘team of five million’ and told them that they matter. Can we vote the same way in just a few short months?