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Wellington coroner may get more than he bargained for


Wellington coroner may get more than he bargained for.

The Wellington coroner, Ian Roderick Smith is reported today to be calling for M.Ps to debate the issue of euthanasia in an extension to his findings on the death of an elderly woman. According to some reports she was a member of a pro-euthanasia group and may have received assistance to die from a voluntary agency. If such is the case, the coroner may well be correct in labelling the death ‘euthanasia.’ .

The only Bill in the offing that would seek to legalise euthanasia is The Hon. Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill. If it is that Bill that the coroner has in mind for MPs to debate, - presumably with the intent to legalise it – the coroner is actually calling for the enactment of legislation that includes a spectrum of indications considered appropriate for a request for euthanasia so broad that it overlaps with personal and social reasons for which people commit suicide. New Zealand society would then be faced with a dilemma.

On the one hand, responsible officials such as Mr. Smith’s boss, Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean would be anguishing about New Zealand’s high suicide rates as reported recently, while on the other, virtually anyone aged 18 and over would be able to have their lives terminated by the State provided they took a little care with the wording of their application! Moreover, not only would we see ‘suicide’ by euthanasia, but if trends in New Zealand followed those in Oregon State, U.S.A., the rate of suicide would not fall but would actually increase from the day euthanasia was legalised.

Suicide rates in Oregon are reported to be 35% higher than the national U.S. average: in that state, suicide appears to have become ‘normalised’. If euthanasia is legalised in New Zealand , the Wellington coroner may get more than he bargained for.


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