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Euthanasia A Threat To Government Funding Of Hospices- An Election Issue

A majority support for the referendum on euthanasia could be a threat to palliative care and hospices in New Zealand. Continued government funding of hospices in New Zealand is an important election issue. The Prime Minister claims that we have the most accountable and transparent government we have ever seen. Why then, does Jacinda Ardern refuse to disclose to our nation what her policy will be on funding of hospices in the event that the euthanasia referendum is passed? Right to Life believes that the Labour led government supports a policy of incorporating euthanasia with palliative care in New Zealand’s thirty-three hospices and defunding hospices that refuse to allow doctors to give to their patients in their hospice a lethal injection, or assist in their suicide.

Hospice NZ has made it very clear that euthanasia and palliative care are totally incompatible, euthanasia is not health care, it is diametrically opposed to the objective of palliative care, to neither hasten nor postpone death. There are 33 hospices in New Zealand providing palliative care for those seriously ill or in a terminal condition. Government funding accounts for 60 percent of the funding required to maintain hospices.

It is disappointing that the Prime Minister, in response to a letter from our Society dated 30th June refused to advise our Society of government policy concerning the future government funding of hospices. In our letter we asked:-

“In the event of the euthanasia referendum receiving majority support, would you, if re-elected, give an assurance that your government would not withdraw funding for palliative care to hospices if they refuse to allow euthanasia in their hospice?”

The Prime Minister, referred our letter to the Minister of Health. Hon Chris Hipkins; the Minister also refused to answer our question.

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 was clearly indicated in the defeat of the Supplementary Order Paper 295 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 defeated by 68 to 52.This important amendment was opposed by the Prime Minister and 33 Labour MPs, supported by nine NZ First MPs, eight Green MPs and 15 National MPs

Hospice NZ had sought an urgent hearing in May in the High Court in Wellington to ask three questions. One was 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, however, there was 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] that 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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