Hospices against euthanasia, MPs told

  • 21/09/2016
Hospices against euthanasia, MPs told

Hospices have told told Parliament's health select committee that they oppose changing the law to allow voluntary euthanasia.

The committee is listening to public opinion on voluntary euthanasia and will report its conclusions to Parliament in response to a petition asking for a law change.

On Wednesday Andrew Leys, chief executive of Hospice Southland, said his team was extremely concerned about a possible law change.

He told the committee hospice workers often faced questions about euthanasia from patients.

"The vast majority move beyond the point of wanting euthanasia," he said.

"My team is concerned that voluntary euthanasia could lead to less support for people to help them cope with their circumstances."

Mary Potter Hospice director Brian Ensor said hospices would have to be kept entirely seperate from any assisted dying.

"The last days of living should be made as comfortable as possible, and it may involve sedation," he said.

"But euthanasia as a solution would be very problematic."

The Human Rights Commission said a legal framework permitting it could be acceptable but it would have to be surrounded by safeguards.

"The process must be accompanied by accurate legal and procedural safeguards, and palliative care must always remain a first choice option," said the HRC's legal adviser Janet Anderson-Bidois.

"There must be ongoing monitoring and provision for conscientious objection by medical practitioners who don't want to get involved."

The InterChurch Bioethics Council told the committee voluntary euthanasia supporters were "a small but vocal group" and the law change they wanted would change society for ever.

"Evidence in other countries has shown that suicide rates increase when voluntary euthanasia is legal," said council member Helen Bichan.

The hearings are continuing.