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PCNNZ on inquiry into euthanasia and assisted suicide

Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand

PCNNZ on parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia and assisted suicide

A parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia and assisted suicide commends palliative care providers and services and states that “life has an innate value and introducing assisted dying and euthanasia would explicitly undermine that idea. To do so would suggest some lives are worth more than others.”

Jane Rollings, PCNNZ Chair, states that the debate around euthanasia and assisted suicide remains a hugely complex and emotive issue and raises many ethical and moral challenges for NZ society. The government report just released however sends a clear message from the New Zealand public, with an overwhelming 80% of submissions being opposed to a change in legislation that would allow assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Whilst acknowledging that everyone is entitled to their personal opinion, PCNNZ believe that nurses and doctors should not be involved in euthanasia. “Our strong message to law makers and the politicians is ‘Leave us right out of it.’ Euthanasia and assisted suicide does not belong in our profession and opposes the fundamental ethical principles of palliative care nursing and our philosophy to neither hasten nor postpone death.” The government report echoes this belief by stating, “Palliative care and assisted dying are incompatible.”

Our members have extensive experience and knowledge caring for people with life limiting illness, as well as their families/whanau. As nurses we are committed to supporting all individuals to achieve the best possible quality of life when curative treatment is no longer an option. New Zealand palliative care emphasizes and incorporates a caring approach that is appropriate for Maori, children and young people, adults of any age, immigrants, refugees and those in isolated communities. We fear for the vulnerable population should euthanasia be legalized.

It is our experience that euthanasia requests often come from patients concerned that their symptoms and end-of-life experience may become intolerable. It is also our experience that these requests disappear with expert communication, adequate pain and symptom control and the New Zealand multidisciplinary approach to palliative care. We routinely observe the changing markers regarding quality of life for our patients. We witness our patient’s acceptance and adaption to what they had once considered a diminished quality of life. To be involved in and to witness such adjustment because of the dignified care we provide is a tremendous privilege and we believe that the promotion of good palliative care is key.

“We care for people who are dying – it is what we do and we urge society to change attitudes towards death and start acknowledging dying and death as normal.” PCNNZ strongly agrees with the report that the focus should be on investing in helping the NZ public better understand the role of palliative care services and increasing access to services.

Ends

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