Not a member? Join now »


Welcome to our news page. Please note: you must be a member and signed in to leave comments.

You can browse our newsletters and annual reports here »
<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • 09 Jan 2018 12:02 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Many patients simply want a good death with those they love around them and the ability to say goodbye with dignity while conscious. Photo / 123RF

    Source: NZ Herald

    By: Jack Havill

    • Dr Jack Havill is a former intensive care medicine specialist with more than 30 years' experience of watching people die associated with critical illness. He is a past president of the End-of-life Choice Society.

    Opponents of medically-assisted dying typically resort to emotive misleading language in their bid to continue denying choice to the majority of New Zealanders who want a compassionate change in the law.

    Dr Paul Moon's article on Friday was no exception and by linking the state's long-gone death penalty for capital crimes with the End of Life Choice Bill currently before Parliament's justice select committee he made some bizarre assertions and does those who desire a serious debate on the issue a disservice.

    He chooses to forget that voluntary assistance in dying (VAD) is at the request of a competent patient. Dr Moon suggests, without any evidence, that the psychological effects on past executioners could be the same for doctors performing VAD. It is a fact that every day, intensive care doctors and others undertake compassionate acts which cause the death of patients.


    Let us look at some facts. People die cruel, agonisingly painful, deaths in New Zealand every day. Many suffer horribly for days, some for weeks, while others linger at death's door for months, even years, awaiting merciful relief.

    Scientifically-conducted opinion polls show that at least 75 per cent of New Zealanders do not believe this is right in a modern civilised society and thousands explained why in submissions to an inquiry conducted by the last Parliament.

    In moving testimony they recounted terrible tales of family members and friends dying in conditions that a number observed would provoke criminal charges if the sufferers were animals.

    Parliament is not being asked to take a leap into the unknown. One-in-six Americans now have end-of-life choice in their states — California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia. VAD is legal in Canada and Colombia and in the European nations of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland and will be legalised in the Australian state of Victoria next year.

    Oregon has allowed VAD for 20 years with no official complaint that its strict safeguards protecting the elderly and disabled are not working. The numbers accessing the law are small and only about two-thirds of those who get a prescription for a lethal drug use it. It seems that for many the knowledge that they can end their suffering if things become unbearable is enough.

    The Victorian State Parliament's select committee, whose members travelled to overseas jurisdictions where VAD is legal to study the situation for themselves, talked to a wide range of people on both sides of the debate and specifically rejected opponents' oft-claimed fears of a "slippery slope" threatening the vulnerable.

    The Human Rights Commission told Parliament it supports VAD in principle and the last Government's Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson, when exercising his obligation to review the validity of all proposed legislation, said David Seymour's bill would not infringe basic human rights.

    It is well recognised that palliative care cannot relieve all suffering of the terminally ill and surveys show 70 per cent of New Zealand nurses support VAD. From my soundings, I estimate about half of general practitioners support a law change. (Only 20 per cent of doctors belong to the NZ Medical Association, which opposes it, and they have not been surveyed for their opinions).

    Palliative care specialists who oppose VAD reject claims that doctors use morphine to end patient's lives, but other more powerful drugs such as midazolam, fentanyl and methadone are often used. Their use can lead to death, even if the doctor pretends that they don't intend this result which is known as the "double effect".

    Even though palliative care cannot always relieve suffering, hospices commonly sedate persons heavily while trying, and some are even anaesthetised by the drugs, while relatives sit at the bedside hoping that death will come quickly to end their misery.

    Many patients simply want a good death with those they love around them and the ability to say goodbye with dignity while conscious. That is what this End of Life Choice Bill is all about, not about misleading and emotive claims of "state-sanctioned killing".

  • 20 Dec 2017 2:19 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Public submissions are now being called for End of Life Choice Bill on the Parliament website.

    The closing date for submissions is midnight on Tuesday, 20 February 2018

    This bill proposes to give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying. 

    The bill: 

    • defines who is eligible for assisted dying 
    • details the provisions to ensure that this a free choice 
    • outlines the steps to ensure a person is mentally capable of understanding the nature and consequences of assisted dying.  

    What do you need to know?

    • Submissions are publicly released and published to the Parliament website. Only your name or organisation’s name is required on a submission. Please keep your contact details separate, because if they are included on the submission they will become publicly available when the submission is released.
    • If you wish to include information of a private or personal nature in your submission you should discuss this with the clerk of the committee before submitting.
    • If you wish to speak to your submission, please state this clearly.  The committee will decide at a later date how it will hear from submitters. 

    Further guidance on making a submission can be found from the ‘How to make a submission’ link in the ‘Related documents’ panel.

    If you have any questions about your submission or the submission process please contact the Committee Staff through the contact details provided on the Parliament website.

  • 13 Dec 2017 10:14 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    The public campaign to get euthanasia legislation over line has begun with a plea; "get it to select committee". 

    If MPs voted it through the first reading, it would be the first such legislation to reach a point where the New Zealand public had a chance to submit. 

    The MPs and organisations backing a law change were imploring New Zealanders make their views known to their local MP and to engage in respectful debate.

    Read more on Stuff »

  • 11 Dec 2017 3:00 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    by Graham Adams / 12 June, 2017

    SOURCE: Noted

    Voluntary euthanasia is suddenly back in the news. The strongest opposition to a law change will come from religious groups but why are they so shy about mentioning God or their faith?

    The assisted dying debate which was thrust into national prominence in mid-2015 by Lecretia Seales’ case in the High Court has been quiet for most of this year, despite health select committee members touring the country to hear personal testimonies. Now it has suddenly roared back into life.

    David Seymour’s member’s bill was plucked from the ballot on June 8 in a flurry of publicity, including a media standup at Parliament that saw Seales’ widower, Matt Vickers, and former Labour MP and assisted dying campaigner Maryan Street interviewed alongside the Act MP.

    Even if the government manages to delay the first reading of the bill until after the election — which is quite likely given Bill English’s opposition as a devout Catholic — there is no chance the topic will be sidelined. As well as Seymour’s bill, the health select committee has said it hopes to report back to Parliament before the election, and the trial of Suzy Austen is also likely to be under way before the end of the year.

    Austen, who was chair of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society's Wellington branch, faces two charges of importing the class C drug Pentobarbitone, also known as Nembutal, and another of aiding the suicide of an elderly woman. The charges followed Operation Painter, in which the police mounted a bogus alcohol checkpoint in Wellington to gather information about voluntary euthanasia supporters.

    Austen has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial will be followed closely here and around the world by anyone interested in the topic.

    Opponents of assisted dying have wasted no time in launching their resistance to a law change. Within hours of Seymour’s bill being selected, Family First put out a press release headed “Campaign Launched to Kill Act’s Assisted Suicide Bill”.

    The battle lines were immediately drawn, with familiar arguments cited, including the risk of coercion to the elderly, vulnerable and disabled.

    And, unfortunately, followed by an outright lie: “The international evidence backs up these concerns.”

    In fact, the international evidence strongly refutes them. The Canadian Supreme Court, the Royal Society of Canada, and, in Australia, the Victorian Inquiry into End of Life Choices found no evidence of coercion, abuse or a “slippery slope” after investigating how assisted dying laws operate around the world. Neither did the Economist, which is campaigning in favour of assisted dying.

    And there are plenty of jurisdictions to examine these days, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, and the US states of California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Vermont, as well as Washington DC. More than a hundred million people around the world now have access to assisted dying but not New Zealanders.

    Opponents, however, are not going to let facts get in the way of their story, especially those whose religious beliefs dictate their view. As Seymour noted in a party news letter: “The Bible says thou shalt not lie but some assisted dying opponents must think they’re specially exempted. If they’re not breaking the letter of the commandments they are certainly outside their spirit. We do not say this lightly — the dishonesty in their campaign is breath-taking.”

    The dishonesty does not lie solely in ignoring the evidence from countries where assisted dying laws have worked successfully, sometimes for decades. It lies also in the fact religious opponents often don’t declare their religious motivation because they know it will work against them. Many of us see religion as little more than mediaeval superstition, and the proportion of the irreligious in New Zealand is probably at least 50 per cent, so arguments framed in religious terms will cut little ice with most people.

    Consequently, the churches are keen not to reveal their hand too clearly. Among the churches, the Roman Catholic Church is the prime organiser against assisted dying legislation around the Western world, but it has explicitly warned the faithful against couching public arguments against assisted dying in religious terms, or even mentioning religion.

    “Avoid religious or moralistic language. Be factual,” was the advice from Catholic bishops to those faithful who wanted to petition MPs after Maryan Street had withdrawn her assisted dying bill from the member’s ballot in the run-up to the 2014 election. She promised to reintroduce it after the election.

    In 2015, in response to the health select committee inquiry, a list of 21 “key arguments” the church recommended to be used did not include a single reference to religion, biblical authority, or church teaching, including the “sanctity of life”. The suggested arguments included praising palliative care, raising concerns about the vulnerable, and reference to the “long-standing convention against killing persons”.

    Mounting only religion-free arguments is the clearest indication of how much the churches have lost their once-supreme moral authority in the community. Their relentless hugging of the shadows in a debate that goes to the core of their beliefs is an indication of defeat, and of their terminal weakness.

    Effectively, the religious have been forced to fight the battle on the grounds of secular humanism their opponents have marked as their own: an appeal solely to non-religious concerns.

    The church’s recommendations to not use religious references in submissions therefore make a mockery of Family First’s second press release, two days after Seymour’s bill was drawn, titled: “Claim of 'religious' opposition to euthanasia debunked”.

    “Family First NZ says that a full analysis of submissions made to the Inquiry on assisted suicide by the Care Alliance shows 77 per cent opposition to any change in the law, but also conclusively rebuts the claims made by Act MP David Seymour and other supporters of assisted suicide that opposition to euthanasia is driven by ‘religious’ people only.

    “13,539 (82 per cent) of the 16,411 submissions opposed to euthanasia contained no reference to religious arguments, while 1535 used some, and just 1337 relied mainly on religious arguments. Ironically, 208 submissions referred to religious reasoning in supporting euthanasia.”

    First, no one claims that opposition to assisted dying comes only from the religious. Second, Family First director Bob McCoskrie must know that the Catholic church waged a nationwide campaign to urge the faithful to make a submission opposing a law change, but without including religious arguments.

    The invidious position the Catholic church finds itself in was spelled out clearly to the health select committee in early 2016. John Kleinsman, fronting for the Nathaniel Bioethics Centre, the mouthpiece for the Catholic bishops in New Zealand, wrote:

    “It is well known that Catholic moral teaching is unequivocal in its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia. The reasons for this are many and varied. They include reasons that some people would regard as 'religious' in nature because they reflect a certain understanding of the divine origins of life. They also include reasons that are linked to questions of the common good, human dignity, human choice, justice, human rights and human well-being, reasons shared by people of all other faiths and none.

    “Religious arguments have their own validity and rationale within a particular faith-based framework. However, we recognise (i) they will not be compelling for persons who do not share our faith perspective and (ii) they are not sufficient for shaping public policy in a secular society. For this reason our submission will focus on arguments of a social, cultural, ethical and philosophical nature that can be understood and appealed to by all persons irrespective of their religious background.”

    This is reasonable enough except for one thing: anyone who has a deep religious conviction that rejects any human interference with what they consider to be a natural life span ordained by God is not putting all their cards on the table if they don’t explicitly argue that position. Because if they did, they would have to admit that there is absolutely no evidence that would change their minds, no matter how compelling.

    The most common arguments used by religious opponents (and others opposed) are that killing is intrinsically wrong; that legalisation could result in abuses, particularly to the vulnerable; and the possibility of a “slippery slope” that could see the initial tight safeguards expanded.

    These arguments aren’t particularly strong. The convention against killing is not absolute — society allows major exceptions for state-sanctioned killing during wars and for anyone in self-defence, including police. And, of course, suicide is legal.

    Assisted dying legislation in other countries hasn’t led to abuse or vulnerable people being pressured; and the slippery slope argument is basically a paternalistic, anti-democratic position of “If we give you an inch, you’ll take a mile.”

    Given that these positions are weak — especially now that there is so much evidence from so many jurisdictions where assisted dying has been used successfully — religious opponents are forced to use tactics of misinformation and fear-mongering.

    Australian TV presenter and assisted dying campaigner Andrew Denton calls these tactics FUD — Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. He related his experience of attending an international conference hosted by the HOPE anti-euthanasia organisation in Adelaide in 2015, convened by a one-time senior officer of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

    Denton said the conference “heard a lot about how to influence politicians”, including how former New Hampshire legislator Nancy Elliott spelled out the tactics that had worked for her in the States.

    “‘When you have lots of arguments,’ Elliott said, ‘if one argument gets blown out of the water, you still have more, and each argument will reach somebody else.

    “‘Right now the disability argument is really kicking it. It's very powerful. Will it always be powerful? We don't know. Two, three, four years from now that may have holes kicked in it, just for different reasons, so we have to be flexible.’”

    Denton said that after citing elder abuse and suicide contagion as other possible arguments, Elliott went on to say: “You only have to convince legislators that they don't want this bill. You don't have to win their hearts and minds; all you have to do is get them to say, ‘Not this bill’, and then you have got your win.”

    We have seen the process at work in New Zealand over the past two years since Lecretia Seales’ situation became public. At first, many of the arguments in opposition rested on the false claim that palliative care could cure all pain and distress.

    Now that argument has been shelved, for the moment anyway — mostly because so many personal testimonies of loved ones’ deaths, made in submissions to the select committee (including my own), showed it to be a lie. And Justice David Collins in his judgment in the Lecretia Seales case concluded that palliative care cannot cure all pain.

    Instead, we can expect other arguments to be recycled in the debate ahead, to find one that is “kicking it”, as Nancy Elliott said.

    The question inevitably arises: “Why have the formerly all-powerful churches been reduced to encouraging their followers to hide their true motivations in public discussion?”

    David Seymour put it like this to Noted: “The idea that my religious sensibilities will be offended by other people’s freedoms has no vote appeal.”

    Most damaging, the churches have lost the argument over compassion, which is supposed to be a bedrock of Christian belief and action. Instead, they have to appeal to possible harms that might arise through legalising assisted dying while actual harms are being suffered by those dying in pain.

    The churches have to avoid revealing much about their deepest beliefs because many of them would inspire scorn, if not revulsion, among the general public. Chief among the beliefs they want to hide is that suffering is seen as a means of sanctification, and a way of sharing Christ’s suffering on the Cross.

    Bill English, a practising Catholic, revealed as much in the 2003 parliamentary debate on Peter Brown’s assisted dying bill — and not only the experience of suffering, but watching it as well. English said: “Pain is part of life, and watching it is part of our humanity. Many of us have become more human for watching it, whether or not we liked doing that.”

    For New Zealanders who are irreligious and don’t see suffering as virtuous, this is simply sadistic, mediaeval nonsense.

    Little wonder, then, that the religious prefer to hug the shadows in the assisted dying debate.

    Follow Noted on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

  • 04 Dec 2017 1:30 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Dr Lance O’Sullivan, an outspoken advocate for medically assisted dying, is a finalist nominee for the New Zealand Herald’s People’s Choice as  New Zealander of the Year.

    Voting is open for one week only so get your vote in before midnight next Saturday, December 9.

    The following in Saturday’s paper does not mention his advocacy for MAID, but he could be expected to speak out if he won the title – remember Lecretia Seales was named New Zealander of the Year by the Herald after she had died.

    “Dr Lance O'Sullivan isn't wanting for accolades or recognition over his tireless efforts to help his Far North community.

    But admiration and respect for the Kaitaia GP was renewed when he stormed the stage at a local screening of an anti-vaccination documentary.

    The film — Vaxxed: from Cover-Up to Catastrophe — attempts to make the long-debunked link between vaccines and autism.

    O'Sullivan leapt before the audience, telling them their mere presence would "cause babies to die". He warned of the harm caused to non-immunised children and others in the community, pleaded with other health professionals to leave the viewing, and performed a passionate haka.

    The move drew personal threats and "vile" comments from the anti-vaccination community, he said — but also widespread praise.

    Prominent microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles, said the film was "dangerous" and came at a time when there was an outbreak of mumps in New Zealand.

    "There's a whole generation of children who are not protected against these horrendous diseases, so we really need people of high profile like Lance stepping up and protecting their community."

    Already, O'Sullivan's impact on local public health has been immeasurable, including setting up a low-cost health clinic at Kaitaia Hospital and the MaiHealth programme, which offers a remote consultation to people without ready access to primary healthcare.

    He has also been instrumental in establishing programmes aimed at improving child health, including the Manawa Ora Korokoro Ora (Moko) foundation and the Kainga Ora (Well Home) initiative.”

    You can see how to vote for him at the end of the following article » 

  • 24 Nov 2017 10:15 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Source: NewstalkZB

    Getty Images

     There's concern vulnerable people, like the elderly, will be at risk if euthanasia is legalised here.

    The Australian state of Victoria is one step away from bringing an assisted dying bill into law.

    Last night, the state government's upper house voted to pass the bill. It now just needs support from the lower house before it becomes enshrined in law.

    It will be the first state in Australia to legalise assisted dying.

    It has turned attention back on David Seymour's euthanasia law, which is expected to come up again in Parliament here soon.

    Doctor Sinéad Donnelly, a palliative care doctor, said instead of a right to die, it'll become a duty.

    "Older people who feel that they are in their nineties and their getting older and they are a burden to their family and their money, their finances, are being used for rest home care."

    She said a doctor giving a lethal injection should never be normalised.

    "It's an extraordinary action that is counter to, in my view, everything that being a doctor is about."

    Donnelly said euthanasia is not needed to relieve suffering as there are many other options to do that.

    However, End of Life Choice Society president Maryan Street said it's about terminally ill people making a choice.

    She said the reasons for that will vary from person to person.

    "So they may feel 'I cannot bare to see what my suffering is doing for my loved ones. I would rather end all of this now, it's not going to get better'."

    Active euthanasia, in which a doctor is allowed to intentionally help a patient die, is currently legal in Belgium, Netherlands, Canada and Japan.

  • 14 Sep 2017 11:51 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Source: Lecrecia's Choice

    A few days ago, National Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor publicly commented that Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was hypocritical in her dismay at New Zealand’s deplorable youth suicide statistics while supporting assisted dying. He believes there are no shades of grey with suicide: that the ending of a life by one’s own hand, or the assistance of another, is always suicide, no matter the circumstances of the person involved, and that Ardern’s views on suicide and assisted dying were inconsistent.

    Like the Pharisees of the New Testament, he has chosen to cleave to the letter of the law, rather than its spirit. And in doing so, he has blinded himself to the different circumstances a person at the end of their life might find themselves in, and the choices they might want. For him, it’s all the same, and he’s got the dictionary to prove it.

    I don’t hold the same view as Mr O’Connor. Like most New Zealanders, I look beyond raw semantics, and see a world of difference between a depressed teenager, who needs help and support to choose life, and a rational, terminally ill human being whose quality of life is in sharp decline, who seeks to abbreviate their suffering when the outcome is almost certainly death. I am as shocked and appalled at New Zealand’s terrible record on suicide as anyone. Both Lecretia and I had the experience of losing people close to us to suicide during our youth.

    Losing friends and family to suicide is utterly heartbreaking, and it’s something New Zealand must act on. But heartlessly forcing the terminally ill to suffer against their will in service to a dictionary definition, by putting them in the same category as suicides, is not the way to do that. For all the reasons someone might have to oppose assisted dying, this must rank among the worst.

    In a speech I gave at parliament last year, I said:

    “You will notice I use the words assisted dying. I find the word suicide offensive in relation to my wife. It stifles the debate and mischaracterises my wife’s intent and those of people like her. She did not want to die. She was not depressed. She loved her life. But she was dying, and she knew it. All she sought was to exercise control over how. That distinguishes her from a suicide, whom society must help and give hope. It does not help the debate when we refer to assisted dying as suicide as it is distinct and separate and we must continue to advocate strongly for suicide prevention, which is a separate issue. We can’t do that when we call assisted dying the same thing as suicide. Words matter.”

    When the Health Select Committee began hearing submissions on ending one’s life in New Zealand, I was invited to be the first to address them. I sat across from Simon O’Connor and the rest of the committee and gave him my views. Mr O’Connor had previously told the media he would listen to all views, and welcome debate.

    However, in that hearing, Mr O’Connor would barely meet my gaze. From the time I began speaking, to the time I finished, he spent the majority of his time looking at the papers laid out in front of him. Nevertheless, I felt I had to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    This was despite some significant evidence that Mr O’Connor was not being completely impartial. Mr O’Connor is on record as being a guest speaker at a Palmerston North Parish in November 2015, outlining anti-assisted dying arguments, while the inquiry was underway. In interviews with Catholic publications during the inquiry, he encouraged people to submit to the committee against assisted dying. These are not the actions of a respectable select committee chair, a job he is paid over and above his standard MP salary to do.

    The inquiry itself chose terms of reference which reflected O’Connor’s beliefs. Instead of investigating attitudes to assisted dying in New Zealand, as the petition requested, the committee declared the terms of reference would be ‘an investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand.’ It’s subtle, but the choice to conflate suicide with assisted dying was immediately apparent, along with the intent to drive the inquiry in a particular direction. The result, released a couple of months ago, was a fairly tepid summary of views, with no real recommendations either way.

    Despite the many emotional and personal stories presented to the committee, it’s clear that Mr O’Connor remained unmoved, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his recent comments regarding Ms Ardern.

    In a forum with Family First earlier this year, Prime Minister Bill English said: “If you’re looking to the Government to be the arbiter of morality, you are going to be constantly, consistently disappointed. What drives in my view constructive social behaviour is our families, our iwi, our churches, our communities.”

    Despite not holding the same views as the Prime Minister on assisted dying, I agree with Mr English that it is not the role of government to enforce a particular flavour of morality: Catholic, Anglican, Islamic or otherwise. And when it comes down to it, the choice to be assisted to die, or not, is one that should be consistent with one’s personal views on the morality of the act. Respecting an individual’s beliefs on this, when we each have our own views on religion and spirituality, is what a Western democracy should do. I have no problem with the Catholic church preaching against assisted dying to their congregation, but it’s wrong for them to try and use the law to impose their beliefs on those that do not share them. To steal a favourite cliche of opponents of assisted dying, that path is a slippery slope to theocracy.

    O’Connor’s comments were made on World Suicide Prevention Day, and his timing couldn’t be worse. At a time when people were grieving for friends and family lost to New Zealand’s terrible mental health epidemic, he chose to try and score political points by using the lens of his beliefs to question Ardern’s sincerity. It’s incredibly disappointing and insensitive, and I trust his party will reprimand him for it. O’Connor represents a combination of moral prescriptivism and tone-deafness that I believe our parliament would be better off without: the same strain that’s common to Colin Craig, Gordon Copeland, and Graham Capill. The National Party needs to reflect on whether it’s really appropriate for them to be an asylum for that kind of thinking while claiming as their values personal responsibility, and individual freedom and choice. That is the true inconsistency.

  • 21 Aug 2017 11:22 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    "Should we pass a law allowing doctors to help people end their lives? But big questions remain - that could fundamentally change our society. Is helping someone to die a compassionate act which allows dignity in death? Or does it legitimise a risky option that could endanger the vulnerable?"

    Join Miriama Kamo and the team as they delve into this important subject.

    Click to watch the episode »

  • 16 Aug 2017 8:13 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Kia ora koutou katoa.

    Greetings to you all.

    It is my pleasure to present the 2017 EOLC/VES AGM President’s Report.

    It has been a year full of activity – some of it desirable and of our own making, and some of it less welcome but able to be turned to our advantage.

    First however, I wish to thank all the Officers of our Society and the members of the National Committee who have supported me unfailingly over the course of the year. Jack Havill, as Immediate Past President and Carole Sweney as Secretary, have been towers of strength for me and I am very grateful to them for their work and their extensive experience and knowledge. Pete Cowley has been ready at all times as our Treasurer and our Administrator, to ensure that processes have moved efficiently and appropriately and Elizabeth Cronje as our Membership Secretary has kept constant tabs on our membership, including reminding people to renew their membership when it lapses without them knowing.

    Our National Committee members too have been wonderful, constant volunteers who have taken on all kinds of activities from arranging public meetings, to envelope stuffing, fundraising and lobbying MPs – all to further our reach and support our cause. To them I am hugely grateful. Volunteering gets few extrinsic rewards, so I am grateful that they survive on intrinsic ones! I could not have done my work without all of theirs.

    We have seen the constitutional changes of last year’s AGM bear fruit as Mary Panko now steps up into the new position of Vice-President. Thank you for that Mary – I look forward to working with you in that new position. And as a result of a further move at last year’s AGM, we now have a new name for our organisation, achieved after a year of debate, consultation and finally voting. We will be known from now on as the End of Life Choice Society (in brief). Thank you to all who participated in that debate from both sides of the discussion. The result of that vote was 477 in favour of the name change; 42 were opposed. All the thresholds required for the motion to pass were met.

    The activity of our own making to which I referred includes the progress of our petition before the Health Select Committee of Parliament, the organisation of the speaking tour of Professor Jan Bernheim from Belgium and the commissioning of further polling to update our 2012 efforts. These have all had or will have substantial media coverage and public profile, to good advantage.

    The Parliamentary Health Committee opened the petition hearing up to submitters last year, closing to new submissions at the end of March this year. There was an historical record number of submissions – nearly 22,000 in total. While that is an impressive register of public interest, it was never going to be about the numbers at that point of the process. It was always going to be about the quality and uniqueness of the deeply personal stories which were told to the various members of the committee. I want to put on record my heartfelt thanks to all those who steeled themselves to present deeply personal and often distressing accounts of what it means not to have a law permitting aid in dying. Your efforts were outstanding and helped to broadcast the issue into the regions and cities where the committee conducted hearings. At the point of writing, we are still awaiting the report of the Select Committee which I am sure will be delivered before the House rises in August at the end of the Parliamentary year. We await its deliberations and recommendations with a great deal of interest.

    The visit of Prof Jan Bernheim has been a resounding success. He has spoken at public meetings in Tauranga, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and today in Auckland. He has also fielded Kim Hill on RadioNZ. Importantly, he has also spoken to medical professionals in large numbers at Palmerston North, Napier and Wellington, which has been of particular benefit to us. His experience of aid in dying embedded within palliative care has been instructive for many and very helpful in refuting some of the baseless opposition of our opponents. He also met with a cross-party group of MPs at Parliament who found the Belgian experience much more persuasive when explained by a Belgian!

    The results of the Horizon polling conducted last month have been gratifying. Support for medically assisted dying in 2012 was 63%. Last month’s poll shows that support, in the case of terminal illness, has risen to 75%. In the additional case of irreversible or unbearable suffering, the level of support is 66%. 72% of the poll supported legally binding Advance Directives in either case (terminal illness or unbearable suffering) where the person has ceased to be mentally competent. Interestingly, in the case of legalising Advance Directives made while competent, for those now suffering from severely advanced dementia, support was recorded at 67%. Some of these results will be made public very shortly.

    I now turn to the activity which we did not precipitate, but which has ended up working in our favour and that is the Police’s efforts in Operation Painter. When a bogus breath-testing stop was erected in Lower Hutt in October last year with the purpose of identifying people coming away from an Exit meeting, some of whom were also members of our society, I immediately lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA). I was, by a small margin, beaten to the punch by the Police themselves who realised they needed to engage in damage control for what was both illegal and intimidating behaviour. We then agreed to merge that complaint with one to the Privacy Commissioner and allow them to investigate both complaints together. We are still awaiting that report although I believe it is imminent. The trial of Suzy Austen, a much loved member of ours, will proceed later this year and expose yet again the injustice of the current law. We did however see a marked pick up in memberships happen in October last year, after the Police campaign – between the beginning of October and the end of December last year, we gained 82 new members!

    Finally, just 10 days ago, David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill was unexpectedly drawn from the Parliamentary ballot. This was very good news for us and will make our issue an election issue, but one which we will probably have to wait for the incoming government to include in the Reinstatement motion and the new Parliament to pick up. It is highly likely that 2018 will be our campaign year and the year when we could finally get the kind of law reform we are seeking.

    Our cause has only gained in strength through all of these activities. Thank you for all your constant activism over the last year. I look forward to another active and ultimately successful year next year.



<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 

© End-Of-Life Choice • PO Box 48 241, Silverstream, Upper Hutt 5142 • Email:

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software