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Disabled people petition Parliament to amend euthanasia bill

For immediate release


Representatives from Euthanasia-Free NZ, the disability advocacy group Not Yet Dead Yet Aotearoa and the Wellington disability community are presenting a petition to Parliament ahead of the debate on Part 4 of the End of Life Choice Bill.later today.

More than 2,600 people have signed the petition, which has been online for only five days and available at three recent public talks on euthanasia.

The petition requests that Parliament provides disabled people and others the choice to receive services only from health professionals who don't engage in 'assisted dying'.

"We launched this petition in response to concerns by disabled and elderly people who say they would feel very vulnerable if this Bill were to become law," says Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.

"This Bill still targets disabled people. A terminally ill person would be eligible to receive a lethal dose under this Bill only if they are also in 'an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability'. The phrase 'decline in physical capability' means 'physical disability'.

To provide euthanasia or assisted suicide, a health professional would have to agree with a person that their life is not worth living. It's then very easy for the same health professional to judge the lives of other people with disabilities as not worth living either.

"Many disabled and elderly people, and their loved ones, feel that they cannot trust a doctor or nurse who intentionally ends the lives of some of their patients. They are concerned that a health professional who makes the judgement that some patients' lives are not worth living might not give them the level of care that they need."

Disabled people are already at risk of having judgements made about the quality and dignity of their lives.

"Not Dead Yet Aotearoa strongly supports this petition", says convener Wendi Wicks. "Given the negative judgements around our lives, disabled people need to have trust in our healthcare providers not to make these negative judgements."

"We are delighted that MP Chris Penk is proposing Supplementary Order Paper 381 in response to this petition," says Ms Joubert. "The amendment would stipulate that "a consumer has the right to request and receive services only from a provider who does not provide services authorised by the End of Life Choice Act 2017."

The petition will be presented outside Parliament at 11.45 am today.

Petition to the House of Representatives (Parliament)

Please amend the End of Life Choice Bill to provide disabled people and others the choice to receive services only from health professionals

who don’t engage in 'assisted dying'*.

If such an amendment were to be absent from the final version of the Bill, please vote against this Bill at its Third Reading.

* 'Assisted dying' means administering a lethal dose with the intention of hastening a person's death, or giving a person a lethal dose to self-administer.

Explanation: David Seymour claims that it's possible to provide both choice to those who want 'assisted dying'* and at the same time, protection for those who want nothing to do with it.

But we think that the End of Life Choice Bill, as currently amended, would not protect disabled people who want nothing to do with 'assisted dying' at that time.

This Bill’s eligibility criteria are all about disability. A terminally ill person would be eligible only if they also have "an irreversible decline in physical capability" – that is, a disability.

To provide euthanasia or assisted suicide, a health professional would have to agree with a person that their life is not worth living. It's then very easy for the same health professional to judge the lives of other people with disabilities as not worth living either. Such judgements may influence the health professional’s clinical decisions and the quality of care they would give us and our loved ones.

Those of us with disabilities are particularly at risk of having judgements made about the quality and dignity of our lives. We often hear comments from the able-bodied majority such as, "I would rather be dead than be like you," or that it is undignified to need assistance with daily living. Many of us have been ignored, patronised, excluded, neglected or abused by able-bodied people.

We want the option for ourselves, our loved ones, and disabled people in general, to receive services only from doctors and nurses who have not engaged in any part of an 'assisted dying'* process under this Bill. We put more trust in such health professionals.

ENDS


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