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Euthanasia Referendum Threat To Hospice Movement

Right to Life believes that if the euthanasia referendum results in the ‘End of Life Choice’ Act coming into force, which would happen if more than 50% of people vote for it, there is a danger that the the government could withholding funding for palliative care for hospices in New Zealand. The objective would be to compel hospices against their conscience to allow doctors to kill their patients or assist in their suicide within their hospices.

The 16th June 2020 High Court judgement of Justice J, Mallon in the case of Hospice NZ V the Attorney General highlights the threat to world class palliative care provided by Hospice NZ.

Hospice NZ had sought an urgent hearing in May in the High Court in Wellington to ask three questions. One was on whether New Zealand’s proposed euthanasia law, the subject of a referendum would have the effect of defeating the conscience right of hospices to protect their patients by prohibiting the killing of patients under the End of Life Choice Bill.

Justice Mallon in his judgement supported the right of hospices to prohibit euthanasia, but stated in his decision that there was however nothing to prevent the government authority from withholding health care funding if a hospice refused to allow euthanasia.

The Attorney General submitted to the court, [131] Further, if a DHB determined the most efficient way to fund assisted dying services in its area was to fund a provider who is willing to provide both palliative care and assisted dying services, it must be entitled to do so. Such a decision would not be to discriminate against those holding a conscientious objection. Rather, it would be one of effective allocation of funding to service providers in accordance with the statutory requirement on a DHB that it “seek the optimum arrangement for the most effective and efficient delivery of health services in order to meet local, regional and national needs”.

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So if we consider the judgement we would have to conclude that under it, if a DHB seeking the most optimum arrangement or determined the most efficient way to fund assisted dying services… it must be entitled to do so. The words most efficient way are chilling and do nothing to negate our concerns expressed in the first paragraph of our post.

As it reads there is nothing in the above judgement that would cause any alleviation of our fears.

Let’s be clear, Euthanasia is about doctors killing patients or assisting in their suicide and it is diametrically opposed to the objective of palliative care, to neither hasten nor postpone death.

Euthanasia represents a culture of death. It is incompatible with palliative care which is compatible with a culture of life. Right to Life believes that the culture of death will not compromise, and will demand complete subservience. The End of Life Choice would grease the slippery slope and a right to die would ultimately become a duty to die.

There are 33 hospices in New Zealand providing palliative care for those seriously ill, or in a terminal condition. Government funding accounts for 60 per cent of the funding required to maintain hospices.

Right to Life believes that it is the intention of the government to compel Hospices to accept that doctors could kill patients with a lethal dose or assist them to commit suicide. This was clearly indicated in the defeat of the Supplementary Order Paper 295 to the End of Life Choice Bill, moved by the Hon Michael Woodhouse. This SOP sought to amend the End of Life Choice Bill by upholding the right of hospices to “conscientiously object to including euthanasia”, It was shamefully defeated by 68 to 52. (See Sections 58-62 of Hospice-New-Zealand-v-Attorney-General)

This important amendment was opposed by the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and 33 Labour MPs, supported by nine NZ First MPs, eight Green MPs and 15 National MPs.

Right to Life is firmly of the conviction that if they succeed with the referendum, that it is the government’s intention to incorporate euthanasia as a ‘health service’ in our hospices.

We call on all those who value the lives of our unwell and elderly to vote NO at the coming referendum. The lives of the vulnerable have never been at greater risk.

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