Today we made a submission in support of the End of Life Choices Bill. You can read our submission below.

 

Justice Committee Secretariat
Committee Secretariat
Justice Committee
Parliament Buildings
Wellington

29 January 2018

To the Justice Committee,

Submission on the End of Life Choices Bill
This submission is from the Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.)

We wish to appear before the committee to speak to our submission. I can be contacted by email at [email protected],

Introduction
About the Humanist Society of New Zealand

The Humanist Society of New Zealand is the only national charity working to promote Humanism, support and represent the non-religious, and promote a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The Humanist Society of New Zealand works on behalf of the 41% (over 1.5 million) of people in NZ who declare themselves non-religious, and who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity.

About Humanists
Humanists are non-religious people who live by moral principles based on reason and respect for others.

One of the aims of Humanist organisations around the world is to promote humanist views on public ethical issues, especially where others are actively promoting views opposed to humanist values or the non-religious voice is excluded or weak.

Humanists use reason, evidence and compassion to form views on issues that arise as we develop new technologies and treatments to sustain life.

Submission on the End of Life Choices Bill
The Humanist Society of New Zealand supports reforming the law to give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.

Under a reformed law, the choice of an assisted death should not be instead of palliative care, but part of a comprehensive, patient-centred approach to end of life care available to as many people who want it.

Being able to die, with dignity, in a manner of our choosing must be understood to be a fundamental human right.

Clause 4
Under clause 4 we would like the restriction where this option is only available to a person with a “terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within 6 months” removed. We think this is an arbitrary amount of time and doesn’t take account of the unpredictable nature of many different diseases and illnesses, or people’s wishes.

We would also like to see the age limit removed. In 2014 Belgium lifted assisted dying age restrictions and the Netherlands also allows minors over the age of 12 to seek an assisted death under certain circumstances.

Clause 6 and 7
We support the steps laid out for medical practitioners who have a conscientious objection. We believe that these steps will accommodate medical practitioners while minimising the impact of the conscientious objection on the person seeking an assisted death.

Clauses 8-12
We support the steps laid out in clauses 8-12 as providing the appropriate legal safeguards to empower people to utilise their right to make rational choices themselves regarding their end of life care, free from coercion.

Clause 19
We support the establishment of the SCENZ group to maintain lists of medical practitioners willing to provide this service, and pharmacists willing to dispense medication for this purpose.

Recommendations
In public ethical issues humanists follow the principle that individuals should have the right to live by their own personal values and the freedom to make decisions about their own lives, as long as these do not result in harm to others or to the general aim of minimising suffering and advancing human happiness.

Because of this we recommend that the End Of Life Choices Bill is passed.

We think the Bill allows people to be able to die, with dignity, in a manner of their choosing, free from unnecessary pain or suffering.