It's always interesting throwing around a hot potato. The euthanasia debate, if it can be called such since there seems to be a desire to try and push it back into the cupboard, is such. Once again I will state I support the right for safe legal euthanasia, it's not for me but I believe it should be an option for those requiring it. I do wonder about the funding though - seems getting Pharmac to pay out for any drugs is quite a challenge.
If we were to legalise euthanasia what exactly are we legalising? Usually the debate raises its head when some one "self euthanises". (Euthanasia is medically agreed to be the termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient). From looking at countries where euthanasia is legalised it seems to me that often this is not the act that has been legalised. Would legalising it actually mean family members and friends would no longer be at risk of being charged with assisted suicide?
It seems to me it's a bit like the whole civil union thing. We'll give you something like what you've asked for but not the actual thing.
In the Netherlands they have a Termination of life on request and Assisted Suicide Act. It states the criteria that must be met and requires a second doctor (see, it is medically driven) to agree. Even when all requirements are met the doctors can still be the subject of investigation.
Under current Dutch law, euthanasia by doctors is only legal in cases of "hopeless and unbearable" suffering. In practice this means that it is limited to those suffering from serious medical conditions and in considerable pain. Helping somebody to commit suicide without meeting the qualifications of the current Dutch euthanasia law is illegal.
Switzerland is a slightly different story. In Switzerland, assisted suicide falls under Article 115 of the Swiss penal code. As such it is ‘a crime if and only if the motive is selfish’. What is important in Switzerland is motive, not intent. All assisted suicides in Switzerland are video-taped. Once a death is reported to the police, the police, an officer from the coroner's department and a doctor all attend the death. At this time family and friends are interviewed. If a selfish motive cannot be established, there is no crime. I'm not sure how that would work with regard to wills in favour of family members (as most are) or insurance payouts to cover the cost of burial etc - death by suicide is currently excluded on many if not all insurance policies
So are what would the New Zealand law look like if it eventuates? I'd be guessing pretty much in line with the Netherlands rather than Switzerland. In my opinion the Dutch system is less stressful for family because they are absolved of any involvement but I really don't know.
Who knows what will happen. we've moved from civil union to looking at legislating equal rights to marriage for single sex couples so maybe we'll see it as a more expedient decision to make the big step and follow Switzerland. I'm sure sensible advocates will certainly be reading any proposals very carefully to look for any tricky phrases which are subjective rather than objective.
I don't think all of the people are going to end up happy all of the time and if it eventuates it may be a smaller proportion than desired of some of the people who will be happy. Clear as mud?
Now I'll stop chasing controversy and go back to sunshine and lollipops.
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