No agreement and disappointment after lengthy End of Life Choice bill hearing

Stuff

Ruby Macandrew and Thomas Manch

It took 16 months, almost 40,000 submissions, and a nationwide tour of 14 cities.

The result was a report that found no agreement on whether the End of Life Choice Bill should be passed, made no substantive recommendations, drew few conclusions and disappointed those on both sides of a hard-fought debate.

Both advocates and opponents of the bill – which seeks to legalise voluntary euthanasia – have resumed their default positions for a familiar battle that will span months to come.

The report, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, did not address any contentious aspects of the prospective law, with the eight Justice Select Committee MPs declining to “consider substantive policy issues on a conscience bill”. . . [Full text]

Doctors to fight new abortion law

Hawthorn Caller

Mike Billings

A group of doctors opposed to abortion say they will fight any moves in looming reforms to erode their rights to refuse to deal with patients wanting abortions. The issue of referring patients seeking abortions to another doctor has drawn opposition from the group.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says he agrees with a Law Commission proposal for doctors who are “conscientious objectors” to abortion to be made to directly refer a patient on to another doctor who they know will provide the service.

Currently, such doctors only have to advise the patient they can get the service elsewhere without specifying where. . . [Full text]

New Zealand College of GPs does not endorse euthanasia: opposes coerced referral

College of GPs does not endorse euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide: response to call for submissions on End of Life Choice Bill

News Release

For immediate release

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has submitted its response to the Justice Committee of Parliament today (6 March 2018). The submission is clear that the College does not endorse euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, which it considers a matter for individual members’ consciences, within the law.

The submission makes 17 recommendations to the Justice Committee, in light of the state of palliative care in New Zealand, the effect legislation may have on vulnerable people, and the effect euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide has on the doctor-patient relationship. The submission also goes into detail to recommend changes to specific challenges the Bill, as drafted, poses. That includes criteria for assisted dying, conscientious objection, and the role of the medical practitioner.

Dr Tim Malloy, President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, said:

“Whether for or against euthanasia, the College’s members are motivated by compassion – this is a key tenet of the profession. We believe that each general practitioner in New Zealand will have their own ethical view on whether euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is right.

“However, whether or not this Bill goes ahead, there are significant challenges that must be addressed. Fundamentally, New Zealanders need accessible, good quality palliative care. The Government should strengthen these services, so we can all experience a dignified, comfortable death.

“The College has made several recommendations to the Justice Committee for its consideration on the Bill itself. The Bill, currently, has poorly defined criteria for assisted dying. Diagnosis is difficult, we sometimes get a diagnosis wrong. And knowing if a patient is able to make a rational decision, during their end of life care, can be incredibly difficult.

“Parliament should consider our 17 recommendations carefully, given the strong apprehension from general practitioners about legalising euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.”


Background

General practice is a medical speciality, and general practitioners (GPs) treat patients of all ages, from neonates to elderly, across the course of their lives. GPs make up 40 percent of the medical workforce.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners is the professional body for GPs, and is the largest medical college in the country. The College’s mission is improving the health of all New Zealanders.

The College’s submission to the Justice Committee can be read on its website. The College has also submitted a compilation of members’ submissions.

The recommendations are:

1. The Government improves and strengthens palliative care services for all New Zealanders.

2. The Government provides more financial support for families caring for a family member at the end of their life.

3. The Government invests in ensuring Māori have access to culturally appropriate palliative care.

4. The Government implements a public information campaign to ensure New Zealanders understand what euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are, who would be eligible for it, and the wider implications of any legalisation before the Bill progresses further through Parliament. This would be of particular importance if the Government holds a referendum on this issue.

5. The Government invests more money in mental health services.

The following recommendations apply if the law is changed:

6. The Bill specifically prevents people with mental health conditions from qualifying for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

7. The Select Committee carefully considers the scope of medical practitioners and minimum practice experience of the practitioners who would offer euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide services.

8. The Bill requires that medical practitioners receive appropriate training and support to enable them to provide quality advice and care to patients and their families.

9. The minimum age of eligibility for euthanasia be set at 25 years.

10. The Bill’s eligibility criteria are reconsidered to tighten the definition of who is eligible for euthanasia and for physician-assisted suicide.

11. The Bill’s introduction be amended to remove the requirement for medical practitioners who do not wish to participate in euthanasia to refer patients to the SCENZ Group.

12. Patients seeking euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be obliged to self-refer to the SCENZ register in the first instance to consult with a registered medical professional who is trained and willing to provide physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia services.

13. Clause 8 be amended to recognise the difficulties of making accurate prognoses and to clarify whether medical practitioners’ advice to patients is limited to medical impacts.

14. The Select Committee considers how to deal with situations where a patient with reduced decision-making capacity wishes to forgo the Advanced Care Plan made when they were mentally competent.

15. Clause 15 be amended to make it explicitly clear if the Bill refers to euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, and if both, when the legislation applies to either option.

16. The Select Committee considers the complexities of euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide if something goes wrong.

17. Clause 19 be amended to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the medical professionals who elect to perform euthanasia or provide physician-assisted suicide.

Spare parts child or saviour sibling?

Sunday Star Times

Michelle Duff

A woman is pregnant with New Zealand’s first “made-to-order baby,” chosen for its genetic makeup to save its sibling’s life.

The baby was selected from other IVF embryos as a genetic match for its sick older sibling and will donate stem cells at birth.

Critics say the process is a slippery slope towards treating children as commodities.

The cells will be harvested from the baby’s umbilical cord blood and used as a transplant for the older child, which might save it from life-threatening sickle cell anaemia. The parents already have several children, and the sick child is the oldest.

The creation of Baby X comes as outgoing Health Minister Tony Ryall approves the expansion of genetic testing, which will open the door for doctors to select “saviour siblings” to help save existing children sick with certain diseases. . . [Full text]

Health website ‘not sinister’

 Marlborough Express

Heather Simpson

An online database listing health professionals who are reportedly opposed to prescribing contraception or abortions is not sinister, the chief executive of Marlborough Primary Health Organisation says.

The My Decision website launched on Sunday lists 28 doctors, nurses, pharmacies and counsellors who object for moral or religious reasons to contraception or abortions .

Former Wairau Community Clinic GP Joseph Lee is on the list. Dr Lee, a devout Catholic, angered pro-choice campaigners when it was revealed last year he had refused to prescribe the contraceptive pill to a 23-year-old woman.

PHO boss Beth Tester said Dr. Lee no longer worked in Marlborough.

She did not mind the database. “It is not that sinister. Any doctor in Marlborough that doesn’t prescribe oral contraceptives has a notice saying so in their practice. This website database is no different.” [Full text]

 

Abortion group targets pro-life doctors, nurses with new website: New Zealand

 Lifesite News

Michelle Kaufman

Pro-life health practitioners and crisis pregnancy centres in New Zealand are the target of a new website designed to intimidate those who choose not to refer for abortion or prescribe contraception.

The website, My Decision, is created by the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ).

The site lists health practitioners and crisis pregnancy centres which they believe women should avoid.  The incomplete list includes the names of individuals or organizations, the region and town, and whether they are a doctor, nurse or other provider.

Women are asked to submit their stories of “hostile or unhelpful health professionals.”  The stories are non-identifying and can be edited for length or clarity.  At the time of writing only two stories had been posted. [Full text]

 

New Zealand Green Party will force referral for abortion for non-medical reasons

Sean Murphy*

The Green Party of New Zealand has published a position paper that includes a number of statements concerning abortion in the country.  The paper notes that the law now requires that abortion must be approved by two physicians on grounds that the procedure is necessary to preserve the woman’s mental or physical health or because of fetal disability. The party states that, since “99% of abortions are approved on ‘mental health’ grounds,” the current legal situation is ‘dishonest’.  This seems to be a frank admission that 99% of abortions are not, in fact, necessary to ensure mental or physical health.

If it forms a government, the party would decriminalize the procedure completely up to 20 weeks gestation, while continuing “current practice” beyond that point.  In addition, the position paper states that “to prevent coercion either for or against abortion,” it will:

Ensure medical oversight agencies, such as the Medical Council, maintain, publicise and enforce codes of ethics mandating that personal beliefs (including religious, political and moral) are protected, however the practitioner is required to refer the patient to a neutral practitioner in a timely manner.

Three points about this proposal are of interest.

First: it implies that a physician willing to provide an abortion is “neutral” with respect to the procedure, while a physician unwilling to do so is not.  This is incorrect.  To take a position either for or against the acceptability of abortion involves a moral or ethical judgement, just as a moral or ethical judgement is involved in stealing or refusing to steal.

Second: objecting physicians not infrequently refuse to facilitate morally contested procedures by referral because they believe that doing so makes them complicit in the act.  Demanding that they facilitate abortion by referral is not protective of their freedom of conscience or religion.

Third: if the paper is correct in asserting that  no medical grounds exist for “99%” of abortions now taking place in New Zealand,  there would seem to be no reason to compel objecting physicians to refer for the procedure.

Australian and New Zealand palliative physicians oppose euthanasia

The Australia and New Zealand Society for Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) has issued a statement opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide. Statements of this kind indicate that the legalization of the procedures would generate significant conflicts of conscience among members of the medical community.

Protection of conscience laws by country

Australian flag Australia
Austrian flag Austria
Belgian flag Belgium
Bolivian flag Bolivia
Croatian flag Croatia
Cypriot flag Cyprus
Denmark flag Denmark
French flag France
German flag Germany
Guyanese flag Guyana
Irish flag Ireland
Israeli flag Israel
Italian flag Italy
Luxembourg flag Luxembourg
New Zealand flag New Zealand
Poland flagPoland
Portugese flag Portugal
Slovenian flag Slovenia
Spanish flag Spain
United Kingdom flag United Kingdom
US flag United States
Uruguayan flag Uruguay
Zambian flag Zambia