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Limiting euthanasia Bill to terminally ill won’t protect all

Monday 27 May 2019

Disability Rights Commissioner says limiting euthanasia Bill to terminally ill won’t protect disabled people

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero MNZM was quoted on TVNZ’s Sunday programme last night speaking against the effectiveness of proposed changes to the End of Life Choice Bill to limit access to euthanasia or assisted suicide to those with terminal illness and with six months left to live.

The Bill’s sponsor has suggested this will fix the Bill. Presenter Miriama Kamo reports Tesoriero saying that such a change would not safeguard disabled people. "Overseas experience has shown the scope is likely to expand over time and take in groups initially excluded," she said.

In an interview with Stuff this month, journalist Henry Cooke quoted Tesoriero saying, "This Bill undermines the position of disabled and vulnerable members of our community and poses significant risks to them. The proposed safeguards in the Bill are deficient, both procedurally and substantively, for both terminal and non-terminal conditions."

Sunday reported Tesoriero’s quote after airing its story about tetraplegic Claire Freeman, in ‘Live and Let Live’ on Sunday night, reported by respected veteran Janet McIntyre who was awarded Broadcast Reporter of the Year for Sunday/TVNZ earlier this month at the Voyager Media Awards.

McIntyre told the story of Freeman, whose life was forever changed by a car crash at the age 17 years old which caused her to be permanently physically disabled. Freeman was a staunch euthanasia advocate for 20 years and attempted suicide many times due to depression and a lack of support. Health care providers at two suicide support clinics suggested that she pursue assisted suicide overseas.

Freeman is also featured in the #DefendNZ documentary ‘A Deadly Double Standard’ which includes commentaries from international experts such as Bioethics Professor Margaret Somerville, former UK House of Lords staffer Robert Preston and Auckland human rights lawyer Richard McLeod.

Together with academic Dr Huhana Hickey, McLeod has since founded Lawyers for Vulnerable New Zealanders, a growing group of 100+ lawyers who are speaking out against the End of Life Choice Bill.

The lawyers identified ‘35 Fatal Flaws’ with the proposed Bill including that, "It poses significant risks to groups of vulnerable elderly, terminally ill, chronically ill, mentally ill and disabled New Zealanders who could find themselves potentially eligible for euthanasia and assisted suicide at a time when New Zealand’s under-funded and overburdened health system is failing to cope with meeting their needs."

#DefendNZ encourages Parliament to consider and heed the concerns of these experts that the Bill cannot be made safe for disabled and other vulnerable people.


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