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Is the Government Serious about Suicide Prevention?

Right to Life asks how can the government be serious about supporting its Suicide Prevention Strategy while at the same time the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and an overwhelming number of government MPs support government sanctioned and funded doctor assisted suicide?

A total of 668 people died by suicide in New Zealand in 2017/18 Our statistics are appalling, we have the highest youth suicide rate in the 41 member OECD.

In December 2018 a total of 37 Labour MPs and nine NZ First MPs voted to support the End of Life Choice bill at its first reading. This Private Member’s bill of David Seymour seeks to legalise assisted suicide for those who have a serious terminal illness or irremediable disability. How can the Prime Minister say that she was weary of sending any message, “that there was a tolerance for suicide in New Zealand.”

Right to Life does commend the government for including in the budget for 2019 funding for suicide prevention; specifically $40m for M?ori and Pasifika suicide prevention, more suicide prevention services in district health boards, bereavement counselling and a review of the Coroner’s data-sharing service. Free counselling for up to 2,500 people is to be provided (four sessions per person) for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. The Ministry of Health is finalising a draft national suicide prevention strategy under urgency.

The government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy 2017 defines suicide as, “a death where evidence shows that the person deliberately brought about their own death”. In New Zealand a coronial ruling decides whether a death is classified as suicide. The strategy does not seek to define suicide as rational or irrational. All suicide is irrational.

The He Aranga report recommended that the government set a target for the Governments Suicide Prevention Strategy to reduce the suicide rate by 20 per cent by 2030. The Minister of Health, the Hon Dr David Clark stated, “We’re not prepared to sign up to a suicide target because every life matters, and one death by suicide is one too many … this Government is committed to tackling our terrible record on suicide.”

The Prime Minister is commended for stating ,”We were very wary of sending any message, particularly to bereaved families, that there was a tolerance for suicide in New Zealand. Every single life matters and it’s important for us to send that message,” The government is going to set up an office of suicide prevention.

How though can the government on one hand say that they are going to invest $40 million on a Suicide Prevention Strategy to reduce suicide in New Zealand, while on the other hand invest in providing doctor assisted suicide. This would be the eventuality should the EOLCB be passed, that will empower doctors to kill their patients or assist in their suicide.

Ken Orr,
Spokesperson,
Right to Life


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