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SMC Bulletin - Attitudes to euthanasia

Attitudes to euthanasia
A review of 20 years of research has indicated strong public support among Kiwis for euthanasia or assisted dying, and that support had remained stable over time.

Otago researchers examined 26 existing studies which asked what people thought of euthanasia, and found on average, 68.3 per cent of people support euthanasia and 14.9 per cent oppose legislative change.

The research comes as New Zealand considers the End of Life Choice Bill which proposes to give people with a terminal, grievous or irremediable illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

Lead author and research fellow Jessica Young told Radio NZ it was less clear what forms of euthanasia should be available or when and how it should be accessible.

People have different reasons for supporting or opposing assisted dying, she said. Some people did not want to be a burden on family. "I think that was related to society valuing independence, autonomy and being able to reciprocate in relationships."

Speaking on Breakfast, Young said there was slightly less support for assisted dying in non-terminal cases, "for example, if someone has a condition like motor neuron disease that will ultimately shorten their life but won't be the thing that takes their life".
The researchers found support and opposition varied across health professional specialities, with palliative care specialists being mostly opposed to euthanasia or assisted dying, while GPs were more evenly divided in their views.
More research was needed to examine the attitudes of both Kiwis who are approaching the end of life, and people with disabilities, as those two views were missing from the review.
Public consultation painted a different picture, as there was a certain "motivated" group of people who were likely to make a submission, she said.

More information about the study is available on

Quoted: Newsroom
"You only have to look at the latest The Block NZ to see it - artificial turf going in for simple low maintenance. They're not looking at the cost benefits, and the benefits definitely outweigh the costs."
Uuniversity of Auckland urban ecologist Dr Margaret Stanley on the loss of tree canopy in Auckland's inner city suburbs over the past 10 years.

Abortion law reform options
Options for decriminalising abortion have been outlined in a briefing paper to Justice Minister Andrew Little, after he commissioned the work in February.

The 300-page briefing, prepared by the Law Commission, outlines three options for reform – all of which include taking abortion out of the Crimes Act.

The sticking point is around whether a statutory test should be required before an abortion could be performed – meaning the health practitioner performing the abortion must be satisfied the procedure is appropriate, taking into account the woman’s physical and mental health.

This differs from current practice, which requires two doctors to agree pregnancy would put a woman in physical or mental danger.

The options are:
A: no statutory test: decision made by the pregnant woman in consultation with her health practitioner
B: statutory test
C: no statutory test until 22 weeks.

University of Otago Associate Professor Joe Boden, deputy director of the Christchurch Health and Development Study, felt option A was the best way forward - saying the statutory test options were too problematic.
The test requires a physician to certify that a woman’s mental health and wellbeing will be improved if she has an abortion, but there was currently no evidence to suggest this happened, he said.

"Elective abortion does have an effect on life outcomes, such that it allows women to continue on their life course pathway without interruption."
Associate Professor Liz Beddoe, a University of Auckland social work researcher, said it's important not to lose sight of the people wrestling with these decisions, as options are debated and politicians lobbied.

"[W]hile this debate is happening, real people are facing decisions over an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, or a wanted pregnancy where hopes have been dashed by a medical diagnosis."

The Law Commission has also suggested removing the requirement for doctors to perform the procedure and allowing them to be carried out by nurses and midwives - a call which has been backed by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.
The SMC gathered expert reaction on the options.

Mobile phone risk questioned
US research suggests a link between mobile phone radiation and cancer in male rats, but experts have said the results may not be directly applicable to humans.

Published by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the study concluded male rats developed cancerous heart tumours after exposure to high levels of radiation similar to that used in 2G and 3G phones. The effect was not found in female rats or in male or female mice.
The US Food and Drug Administration responded to the study by pointing out some unusual findings, including that rats exposed to whole body radiofrequency energy lived longer than the unexposed control group. The FDA concluded that existing safety levels remained acceptable for protecting public health.

Massey University's Dr Faraz Hasan said the study was useful in that it measured the impact on living creatures, but had "considered the worst case scenario" by starting with the maximum exposure allowed by international standards.

Professor Kevin McConway from the UK's Open University told the UK SMC the study did not shed any light on the risks of phone use in humans. "I'm not going to stop using my mobile phone in light of this".

The SMC gathered expert reaction to the study.

Policy news & developments

Pike River options: The Pike River Recovery Agency has identified three re-entry options to recover the mine's drift.

NAIT improvements: MPI has opened consultation on proposed changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme.

Space agreement: MBIE has signed an agreement with Airbus to develop capability in New Zealand's Unmanned Aircraft and space data technology sectors.

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