For ACT, euthanasia is a free market solution to health – why I will always oppose euthanasia in NZ

By   /   June 9, 2017  /   45 Comments

TDB recommends Voyager - Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can get

In a country with a mental health system as horrifically underfunded as ours, euthanasia would simply become a tread mill by faceless Wellington bureaucrats for cost cutting purposes on the most vulnerable.

So David Seymour gets to debate his euthanasia bill.

How awful.

For ACT, euthanasia is a free market solution to health.

In a country with a mental health system as horrifically underfunded as ours, euthanasia would simply become a tread mill by faceless Wellington bureaucrats for cost cutting purposes on the most vulnerable.

Look at the way CYFS abuse children in its care.

Look at the way mental health services shrug off their responsibilities for the suicide rates.

Look at how Housing NZ don’t care about toddlers in freezing homes.

Look at how the Ministry of Development simply shoves people into motels.

Look at how WINZ torment rape victims and trap beneficiaries into debt.

Are you seriously telling me the neoliberal welfare state of NZ cares about NZers so much they can be trusted with administering euthanasia?

I don’t support euthanasia in NZ.

I’ve heard the arguments, I’ve listened to the debate, and I just don’t support it.

“If you were an animal you wouldn’t let it suffer” – Yes but we aren’t animals are we. We are self-conscious free thinking human beings.

“Letting people live in pain is wrong”. Yes it is, and we have incredible pain management these days, only very rare cases are left to writhe in agony.

“People have the right to end their life”. No they don’t. They may have the right to commit suicide if you want to go that far, but the right to ask another to end their life? That’s not been agreed to at all!  This is a decision whanau and the wider community are all party to because of it’s ramifications upon the very fabric of our society.

I have 3 main reasons I disagree with euthanasia in NZ.

The first is the type of person and the reasons they push for euthanasia. It always seems to me to be alpha type personalities. Over achievers, people of deep independence who pride themselves on that independence. People who would consider the embarrassment of being unable to control their body functions worse than death itself. Their demand for death revolves around their inability to control the process of death. That doesn’t warrant allowing another to administer a medical cocktail that ends life.

Which brings me to my second reason, the humility of death. Dying as a process isn’t supposed to be clean and efficient. It’s painful, it’s human, it requires the family and friends you’ve built in a  lifetime to nurse you through your final moments. It is a deeply emotional time, a journey where the journey is far more important than the destination. The process of letting go, of saying goodbye is a deeply personal and intimate part of the human experience. To deny that is to deny one of the most important rituals of human life.

But the biggest reason I would never want euthanasia in NZ is Jenny Shipley.

One of the most important pieces of journalism investigative reporter Selwyn Manning ever wrote was in the mid 1990’s when he single handedly managed to expose a secret program by then Minister of Health Jenny Shipley to begin a defacto state euthanasia policy…

Back in the mid 1990s Jenny Shipley (then Minister of Health in the Bolger National Government) established a governmental body called the Core Health Services Committee (CHSC) which was chaired by former broadcaster Sharon Crosbie.

The CHSC was known to exist, but no one paid much attention to it, and also getting information out of it was problematic as it would cite commercial confidentiality as a reason for withholding information. So a lot of its work went under the radar.

Back then, National had created a commercial model that replaced health boards with Regional Funding Authorities (RHAs) and hospitals became Crown Health Enterprises. It wasn’t until 2000, that the new Helen Clark-led Labour-Alliance Government disestablished the RHAs and CHEs and reestablished publicly elected health boards, and, hospitals became public hospitals once again.

But back in the early to mid-1990s the Core Health Services Committee was accountable directly to the Minister of Health, Jenny Shipley, and was tasked with creating health funding frameworks, protocols, criteria that the then RHAs would rely upon when deciding what health services the government would pay Crown Health Enterprises (CHEs) for – when providing health ‘services’ to ‘clients’ (patients).

The Core Health Services Committee was tasked to evaluate a way of reducing the cost-burden on the Government for health services and come up with a set of criteria that CHEs and doctors would have to abide by when deciding which ‘clients’ (patients) would get treatment and, importantly, who would not.

In August 1994, I became aware that the Core Health Services Committee had been evaluating the most costly procedures, including renal dialysis treatment for people with end-stage renal failure. I was told by sources that the CHSC had drafted a document that included a framework for how expensive treatments would be handled, and that the Minister of Health had approved the plan.

Generally, there are two types of criteria:

inclusion – (meaning patients that met certain criteria would be eligible for treatment)

exclusion – (meaning those that could be labeled as possessing or exhibiting specific criteria would exclude then from being offered treatment.

In August 1994, I was leaked documents that displayed how the Minister had approved the CHSC protocols that used exclusion criteria and that the protocols had been presented to doctors and the exclusion criteria enforced.

What this meant was people who presented with end stage renal failure, and who required dialysis to stay alive, would be excluded from getting this life-saving treatment if they were deemed:

* to be blind

* to have an intellectual disability

* had a history of mental illness

* exhibited or expressed anti-social behaviour

* had a history of imprisonment

* had an unrelated health condition that may cause complications

* were over the age of 65-years…

The set of exclusion criteria continued on.

Without a public debate having ensured, CHE doctors were required to administer the changes and CHEs were required to report back to the RHAs with details on how the exclusion criteria was being applied.

Up until then, doctors and clinicians had decided on whether a patient would get dialysis treatment – the assessment was based on what health benefits a patient could expect, and were not required to consider exclusion criteria that were determined by the State.

The doctors silently rebelled and, as a journalist, as I mentioned above, I was leaked the CHSC protocols and exclusion criteria documents.

…the National Party were actively and secretly looking for ways to disqualify the sick and vulnerable from state health care. If they were prepared to do it when euthanasia was illegal in the 1990s, imagine how quickly they will begin to pressure hospitals to start euthanasia as a cost cutting measure if it becomes legal?

We know how poorly Corrections look after the welfare of prisoners. We know how badly CYFs looks after children in their care. We know how damaging Housing NZ, WINZ and the Ministry of Development treat beneficiaries.

So what would stop Government agencies applying the same disregard for the poor and sick if euthanasia is passed?

The demands of those too proud to die needing others, denial of our humility in death and a hard right Government who see euthanasia as a cost cutting mechanism are not good enough reasons to legalise euthanasia.

Mountain climbing lawyers might consider ending their life on their own terms a victory, but the real losers will be the poor and voiceless in state hospitals being pushed into ending their expensive treatment of a life.

***
Want to support this work? Donate today
***
Follow us on Twitter & Facebook
***

45 Comments

  1. Pat O'Dea says:

    Hanging on to political life by a thread. And after almost a decade on life support, (courtesy of the National Party), with no hope of recovery in sight, it’s cruel to prolong the suffering

    The ACT Party’s voluntary euthanasia is long overdue, time to pull the plug.

    • Chris O'Brien says:

      Did anyone else find visiting Belgian Euthanasia advocate’s statements unsettling? His comments to the NZ Herald were that NZ should make Euthanasia simple and not have too many safeguards. This is really chilling given what we know about what is happening in Belgian and the Netherlands. Really appreciate the post by Martyn Bradbury which gets to the heart of the issue.

    • wattnot says:

      Personally, I want to elect to die when I am ready. If I find I am ready one day, and exit, it does not matter if I would have felt differently the next day, because, for me there was no such thing. There are approximately 7 billion too many humans. Anything that gets the number down without coercion or bloodshed is a good thing.

      • Ed Correia says:

        Euthanasia is suicide. Euthanasia involves giving some people (doctors) a licence to kill. Even the state should not have a licence to kill innocent human beings, though here in New Zealand they do. It’s called abortion. Once you allow doctors the licence to kill one group of human beings (unborn children), the logical next step is to give them the licence to kill another group of human beings (the ill) and then another (the disabled) and then another and another….

  2. Stephen Howard says:

    I sit here with my father (who is blind and legless and losing his mind slowly ) and my high risk aggressive cancer. I may have many years but my father is quite keen to die with dignity. Euthanasia may be misused by the market but keeping people alive while their dignity and quality of life are slowly destroy does seem rather cruel. If my health worsened and could not look after my father, he would have to enter a home which for him would be worse than dying with dignity in his own home

    • Red Buzzard says:

      there should be nursing and medical support for those wishing to die at home…and in dignity…and adequate nursing and medical support for their friends and relatives trying to care for them at home

      I do believe in euthanasia( especially with terminal cancer)…but very carefully used and with lots of safe guards… so that elderly and disabled and fragile are not persuaded or pushed into death prematurely …because of health cost cutting, pension cost cutting/ freeing up housing , or relatives wanting their assets.

      … I believe that many NZ elderly are being killed off in hospitals and rest homes with the use of opioids…and against their wishes and their families expressed wishes…ie these elderly New Zealanders do NOT want euthanasia

      • Patrick says:

        Where is your proof?
        Your post is demeaning of dedicated medical staff.

      • Andy says:

        “the National Party were actively and secretly looking for ways to disqualify the sick and vulnerable from state health care. If they were prepared to do it when euthanasia was illegal in the 1990s, imagine how quickly they will begin to pressure hospitals to start euthanasia as a cost cutting measure if it becomes legal?”

        > you completely miss that point somehow buzzard.. Don’t you think euthanasia would increase pressure to cost cut???

      • Red Buzzard says:

        Our health system under Nactional has been hugely underfunded.

        This is not a criticism of medical professionals as a whole, who do the best they can within underfunding, financial constraints and huge pressure on DHBs and hospitals.

        They have to prioritise…so who gets pushed off the health system conveyer belt?…who gets put on the waiting lists and taken off medical lists for urgent surgery?….the elderly?..who gets put on the not worth resuscitating lists?…who gets the easy drugs which sedate and kill? ( is this euthanasia or something else?)

        Recent email from from Andrew Little and the Labour Party (7 June, 2017):

        “A new report out today shows that over eight years, National has cut $2.3 billion in real terms from our health system.

        They’re just not putting in enough to keep up with our growing and ageing population.

        This is up from the $1.7 billion shortfall the same report showed last year.

        Our health system used to be the envy of the world. And as a father and a cancer survivor, it really worries me that people aren’t able to get the treatment they need at the moment.

        … over 21,000 people … signed a petition calling on the government to fund the health system properly.

        But we have to make this a much bigger issue this election. One way we can do that is by building a huge petition to highlight how many Kiwis are concerned about health underfunding.

        Labour’s fresh approach will invest in New Zealanders. We’ll health fund properly, provide more operations, provide access to new medicines, and make it easier to access mental health services…

        http://www.labour.org.nz/_2_3_billion_shortfall_in_health?utm_campaign=170607_healthsp&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nzlabour

    • Michal says:

      We do not come into the world with great dignity, I know that as a mother of a large family. Life is not all tidy get over it. Palliative care should be a much higher priority and some of that needs to be in the home when people want to die at home. The stuff that has gone in the Netherlands is very frightening. Numbers of people from mental institutions have been knocked off and I doubt they were of sound mind to make the decision for themselves. In america a woman died and her husband said he couldn’t live without her so he took a pill an died beside her. This is now how life is or is meant to be. STOP before we get on this slippery slope.

      The safe guards can never be good enough for me.

  3. XRAY says:

    No matter how they disguise it, National would see profits as the main objective of death by order. That and they are Masters and Cpmmanders of the Empire types.

    And how many elderly would be convinced by conniving uncaring relatives “to do the right thing” and just check out prematurely for the greater good.

    And let’s not get started about the crime for those who would not do the right thing, but did it anyway without choice but disguised as euthanasia.

    • Psycho Milt says:

      And how many elderly would be convinced by conniving uncaring relatives “to do the right thing” and just check out prematurely for the greater good.

      Probably about the same number as are convinced now – not very many at all, I expect. Why do you imagine the number would be different? If conniving relatives aren’t succeeding in convincing old people to commit suicide now, how exactly would this proposed law make relatives start successfully convincing old people to commit assisted suicide?

      • Michal says:

        There is a considerable difference between someone committing suicide and someone being persuaded that their life has no quality therefore they should pop a pill with the assistance of a doctor. Outrageous.

        • “There is a considerable difference between someone committing suicide and someone being persuaded that their life has no quality therefore they should pop a pill with the assistance of a doctor.”

          Who is persuading “someone committing suicide and someone being persuaded that their life has no quality”, Michal?

  4. Michal says:

    And me, and my large etended family. It is the thin end of the wedge. See how many mental health patients have been knocked off in the Netherlands. You’re telling me that they are of sound mind and choose to be knocked off…. !!!! Truly dangerous move.

  5. Psycho Milt says:

    Dying as a process isn’t supposed to be clean and efficient. It’s painful, it’s human, it requires the family and friends you’ve built in a lifetime to nurse you through your final moments. It is a deeply emotional time, a journey where the journey is far more important than the destination. The process of letting go, of saying goodbye is a deeply personal and intimate part of the human experience. To deny that is to deny one of the most important rituals of human life.

    You believe whatever you want about dying Martyn, and good so. However, if you want to require other people to conform to your views about dying, not so good. In fact, no fucking way.

    …the National Party were actively and secretly looking for ways to disqualify the sick and vulnerable from state health care.

    Which is the kind of shitty thing you’d expect from them, but is a different issue from physician-assisted suicide.

    If they were prepared to do it when euthanasia was illegal in the 1990s, imagine how quickly they will begin to pressure hospitals to start euthanasia as a cost cutting measure if it becomes legal?

    If you let people marry someone the same sex as them, next thing they’ll want to marry their dog! Reductio ad absurdum may be entertaining, but it’s not much use as an argument. In this case, the argument is that somehow the government will put pressure on hospitals to carry out more physician-assisted suicides than there are people who want a physician-assisted suicide – how exactly would hospitals achieve that?

    • Michal says:

      It is not physician assisted suicide it is murder! If people want to knock themselves off they have always been able to just don’t implicate someone else. I was with both my aprents when they died and with a friend of 49 who died of cancer and have watched my sister in law slowly died of cancer.

      • It’s not “murder” if you’re (a) consenting and (b) requesting. Your attempt to frame it as “murder” reminds me of the abortion debate.

        You might have a different view if you’re stricken with a horrible cancer and suffering a lingering death for no good reason. You might choose assisted suicide.

        And if you don’t want to choose assisted suicide, Michal, that is also your right. You see, I support your right to choose. Will you respect my right to choose as well?

  6. Historian pete says:

    First a pro vaccine hysteria and an unwillingness to look at the evidence, including backing a doctor who thinks it is all right to run roughshod over other peoples rights to investigate both sides of the story.In the late sixties activists went to jail for free speech, against the efforts of the capitalist establishment to close them down . I detect elements on the left who are willing to close down other people on the left who have a contrary opinion!Euthanasia is an issue that is greatly effected by peoples personal experiences.It is an issue that needs to be carefully investigated and discussed .It should not be decided by some ridiculous “class analysis”!!

  7. Bronwyn says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but I am thinking that life insurance would become invalid.

  8. Whispering Kate says:

    I agree Martyn completely. This God forsaken subject of condoning the ending of life is repugnant. If these proponents of euthanasia are so keen to have state funded “booked” in dates for dying then let it be completely outside of the medical profession.

    Let them have their death houses where they can make a booking but keep our hard working ethical doctors right out of the process. What an arrogance these people have. Don’t they realise these professional medicos are humans with families and consciences they have to live with. Jesus I can’t believe what this country is coming to.

    Get a life folks, we are all in for the dying process and people who want to have absolute control over their lives will just have to grow some cajones and do it for themselves – thousands are quite successfully doing it every day. Don’t pass the buck onto the poor medical profession who are sworn to do their very best to keep their patients alive.

    If you can’t tackle the thought of “end of life” then just go somewhere quietly and rid yourself of it on your own – don’t ask somebody else to do the unpleasant job for you. If you whinge that you may want to live that bit longer and then be too incapacitated – then do it a bit earlier when you are able to do it.

    And, yes I have nursed dying patients and thoroughly experienced the dying experience with patients and family. It’s called dying folks and we all have to come to the reality that its going to happen to us. You would be better preparing yourself spiritually and mentally and then you will work your way through this one journey we all have to undertake like a mature human being would do.

    Leave our doctors and nurses well away from this disgusting task you are asking them to do.

    • Red Buzzard says:

      +100 Kate…”Let them have their death houses where they can make a booking but keep our hard working ethical doctors right out of the process”

      yes have to agree!…abortion is not done in a maternity ward with new mothers and babies,but in specially designated abortion clinics

      ….if we must have euthanasia in a few exceptional thoroughly examined cases…it must NOT be confused with the medical professional’s absolute duty of care to do their best to make people well and their accountability when they fail to do this

      …euthanasia must be kept away from hospitals and rest homes and be conducted in special clinics with the appropriate safeguards to the rights of the person making their own personal decision and assistance must be done by specialised medical professionals

      …otherwise we risk the public becoming terrified of doctors and the medical profession

      …and doctors conflicted as to their duty to make people well

      …and the contamination of ethics, standards of health care and accountability by the medical profession

  9. Red Buzzard says:

    Fentanyl is killing off young Americans…questions need to be asked in parliament if it is also killing off New Zealanders? ( when cannabis and medicinal cannabis is outlawed)….also why are hospitals using it on our New Zealand elderly?…are doctors being paid by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe Fenanyl?

    ‘Drug Overdoses Now The Leading Killer Of American Adults Under 50’

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-06-07/drug-overdoses-now-leading-killer-american-adults-under-50

    “The opioid crisis that is ravaging urban and suburban communities across the US claimed an unprecedented 59,000 lives last year, according to preliminary data gathered by the New York Times. If accurate, that’s equivalent to a roughly 19% increase over the approximately 52,000 overdose deaths recorded in 2015, the NYT reported last year.

    Overdoses, made increasingly common by the introduction of fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids into the heroin supply, are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. And all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017. One coroner in Western Pennsylvania told a local newspaper that his office is literally running out of room to store the bodies, and that it was recently forced to buy a larger freezer.

    The initial data points to large increases in these types of deaths in states along the East Coast, particularly Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine. In Ohio, which filed a lawsuit last week accusing five drug companies of abetting the opioid epidemic, the Times estimated that overdose deaths increased by more than 25 percent in 2016…

    ‘One company symbolises everything sickening about the opioid crisis’

    https://www.businessinsider.com.au/opioid-crisis-and-insys-therapeutics-fentanyl-spray-2017-4?r=US&IR=T

    ‘Prince’s death drug prescribed to New Zealand’s elderly’

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/83570824/princes-death-drug-prescribed-to-new-zealands-elderly

    https://www.hqsc.govt.nz/our-programmes/health-quality-evaluation/projects/atlas-of-healthcare-variation/opioids/

  10. Bob Lack says:

    Never really thought of myself as an alpha type, Bomber, but yes, I do demand the independence to make my own decision on dying if I choose. And if someone is willing to help me if I need it, then why should the state interfere? We’re all going to die sooner or later and there’s no benefit in delaying this in a painful, undignified and expensive way. I respect your concerns about treatment rationing, but is there any evidence from the nations which permit assisted dying of a surge in involuntary euthanasia?

    • Michal says:

      YOu have it already, it is called suicide. Don’t involve someone else, we are all free to take our own lives pretty well anytime we want.

      • Except, Michal, it’s generally the able-bodied who can “take our own lives pretty well anytime we want”. If you’re bed-ridden and rotting from within from cancer, you’re not able to “take our own lives pretty well anytime we want”.

        That is the curious paradox of your assertion.

    • Michal says:

      Yes read this, if this doesn’t get you alarmed then nothing will. All of these wonderful first world nations:

      https://lozierinstitute.org/tag/assisted-suicide/

      • Red Buzzard says:

        +100 MICHAL…Everyone should read this!…It is horrifying!

        …and I believe it is happening in New Zealand…even without the legalisation of euthanasia

      • Historian Pete says:

        The Lozier Instute is a fetal rights think tank ie anti -abortion.Hardly a balanced view!!!

        • RedBuzzard1953 says:

          ..doesn’t mean that their research is not valid ! …this depends on the integrity of the researcher(s) and the research

          ( btw I am for thoroughly considered euthanasia as an individual right in a person of sound mind and with good reason ( not an imposed decision by medical profession or others)… and abortion as a woman’s right, when absolutely necessary and all other options have been thoroughly considered by the individual…ie. there must be stringent safeguards that these decisions really are the will of the person concerned…as with organ donations/transplants )

  11. XRAY says:

    That kill list, approved by Shipley was, and this is not an exaggeration, text book Nazi Germany.

    It is chilling to even consider that this was silently put in place, no arguments, done,

    A rather foreboding sign of Keys Brighter Future!

  12. Craig Young says:

    And Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995) is worth looking at on this issue too. Jewish philosopher, Holocaust survivor and political progressive who opposed the decriminalisation of euthanasia:

    http://www.gaynz.com/blogs/redqueen/?p=13126

    • Craig Young says:

      These articles also provide some damning insights into the political context in which Dutch neoliberalism occurs (very much akin to that in New Zealand, let it be added) and how assisted suicide policies have been used to supplement benefit and social service cuts. One of the authors, Alex de Jong, is a socialist journalist.

      Sorry, but this is alarming and it is also independent verification that something is deeply wrong within Dutch euthanasia policy. Its Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy is clearly cut from the same cloth as National and ACT in New Zealand:

      Flavia Dzodan: “Euthanasia as a Dutch neoliberal success story” Medium: 30.06.2016: https://medium.com/@flaviadzodan/euthanasia-as-a-dutch-neoliberal-success-story-23c0a1e13940

      Alex deJong: “The Netherlands: Neoliberal Dreams in Times of Austerity” New Politics: Winter 2013: http://newpol.org/content/netherlands-neoliberal-dreams-times-austerity

      Britain’s Left Unity Party also opposes decriminalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia, in solidarity with the British disabled community, who have suffered atrociously under the Cameron and May administrations:

      http://leftunity.org/draft-policy-statement-on-assisted-dyingsuicide/

      • Craig Young says:

        And for the record, I am a fairly out gay man, long-time supporter of women’s reproductive freedom, the comprehensive welfare state, antidiscrimination law protection for the transgender community, a written constitution, and the decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis. I am also a person living with depression and Type 2 diabetes. I would ask other leftists who are reading this to check out the resources I’ve posted above, particularly the articles by Alex deJong and Flavia Dzoden.

  13. Chris says:

    I came to this to hear a reasoned and rational debate on the issue. I am leaving now, convinced of the blogger’s one good conclusion: that the medical authorities, in their infinite wisdom, have been cutting corners.
    They appear to have closed the asylum from which the blogger should never have been released.

  14. […] It is vitally important that if we are too protect the lives of our vulnerable citizens that we must do all we can to persuade the many undecided politicians that voting even for a first reading of the bill is a dangerous road to go down.  Right to Life does not often agree with the views of Martyn Bradbury of the daily blog website, but in this article we could not agree more. […]

  15. Craig Young says:

    I see that there’s been some dissent about this related to the presence of RTLNZ in this context. Now, I’m on the opposite page from them on most other issues- transgender rights, marriage equality and women’s reproductive freedom (especially!)

    However, as a disabled gay man, I am also opposed to decriminalisation of assisted suicide/euthanasia. May I suggest that anyone unaware of what’s happening in the Netherlands read the material from Alex deJong and Flavia Dzoden that I’ve cited above? Assisted suicide/euthanasia is *not* akin to abortion rights- it reinforces the existing vicious stigmatisation and demonisation of people with disabilities that is occuring under European neoliberalism and may spread to New Zealand.

  16. […] views of contributors to the the left wing  ‘the daily blog’ website.  However in relation to this post by Martyn Bradbury of June 9th 2017, we are in complete agreement and we re-post it here.  It is encouraging to know that there appears […]