Commissioner’s role to ensure equality of choice
09 March 2018
Disability Rights Commissioner’s role to ensure equality of choice — diversity expert
Internationally recognised diversity consultant Philip Patston has questioned Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero’s stance on the End of Life Choice Bill.
In an email to Tesoriero, Patston challenged her statement that, “We must first work towards ensuring, to the greatest extent possible, that all people have the same freedom of choice in life before we consider legislating choice in death.
“It’s my role to reflect the concerns of the disability community and what I am hearing is that there are significant concerns about this Bill.”
Patston, who worked for the Commission between 1994 and 1998, suggested that, as Disability Rights Commissioner, “your role as Commissioner is to ensure disabled people are not treated differently on the grounds of disability.
“Surely,” said Patston, “your role is to ensure disabled people have the same choices as other Tangata o Aotearoa/New Zealanders. This needs to include the right to choose dignity in dying.”
Named as a top 10 diversity consultant in the Global Diversity List in 2015, 2016 and 2017, Patston agreed that legislative safeguards need to be in place, to prevent coercion and to ensure informed consent and appropriate assessment.
“But this is important for the very wealthy, the very poor, and others, including people with terminal illness.
“There are many vulnerable groups, not just those who experience disability.”
Imagine, mused Patston, if we stopped all people driving cars because some people crash and kill themselves and/or others. “I'm sure there would be outrage about the infringement of rights to drive, even though it may be wrongfully lethal.”
As he said in my affidavit in support of Lecretia Seales’ case, Patston believes we land in dangerous territory when we try to protect one group by denying the rights of another. Both disabled people and those with terminal, incurable, illness deserve the right to choice and autonomy.
“My voice and those of many other disabled people who are not afraid of assisted dying and have trust in a fair, compassionate, good-willed society, need to be represented in this important, democratic conversation,” Patston said.