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Euthanasia may devalue the lives of older people


Age Concern expert says euthanasia may devalue the lives of older people

10% of older people in New Zealand experience some form of abuse, according to Age Concern professional educator on elder abuse and neglect, Hanny Naus. Age Concern see a wide range of older people who are abused, with 4 out of 5 of them being abused by family members.

In an interview with RNZ’s Jessie Mulligan for Elder Abuse Awareness Week (15–22 June), Ms Naus said, “People automatically think this happens in a terrible rest home, but the reality is that within our families, the possibility of being abused by family members is much greater.”

Financial abuse is present in half the cases Age Concern see. Usually the abuse starts quite small. “Next thing, family members are using all the money to supplement their own needs rather than caring for the needs of the older person.”

The University of Auckland also published a study in the New Zealand Medical Journal this year which found that older people are more likely to self-harm due to physical illnesses. Senior lecturer in psychiatry, Dr Gary Cheung, said the study showed a need for specific suicide prevention strategies for older people. “Loneliness and isolation are significant factors,” Ms Naus said.

Speaking about David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill Ms Naus said, “Certainly, one of the issues around euthanasia is whether people’s life is of value. When it comes to elder abuse particularly, often the psychological threat that sits below it is that older people have no value – and so when it comes to euthanasia, from an elder abuse point of view, we would certainly argue that anybody’s life has value.”

Barrister, Grant Illingworth QC, who appears in several #DefendNZ documentaries this year, certainly echoes Naus in his assessment of the risks a euthanasia bill could create, “There are many good people who would never think of destructively influencing another person, but there is also a group of people who are really willing to do almost anything to get money, or to abuse. And once a vulnerable person comes under the manipulative control of another, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between whether that person is exercising free will or not.

“Believing that doctors will always be able to tell whether or not someone is making a free choice is a mistake,” Illingworth argues. “Doctors are fallible, just like any other human being.”

#DefendNZ are concerned that any euthanasia or assisted suicide Bill would make older people more vulnerable and less supported. They urge MPs to vote ‘no’ to the End of Life Choice Bill and in doing so protect older and vulnerable New Zealanders.


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