3 Aug 2017

Euthanasia report 'deeply disappointing'

10:18 am on 3 August 2017

The final report on the public's attitudes towards assisted dying is 'deeply disappointing' and more like a cowardly essay, the former MP who instigated the inquiry says.

Former Labour MP Maryan Street

Maryan Street says the report is cowardly Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Parliament's health committee yesterday published its report without making any recommendations.

It said voluntary euthanasia was "very complicated, very divisive, and extremely contentious".

For that reason, it said, the authors wanted everyone with an interest to read the report in full and draw their own conclusions based on the evidence.

Former Labour MP Maryan Street, who submitted the 8974-strong petition calling for the inquiry two years ago, said the committee lacked bravery.

"[It's] a fairly cowardly report. It's more like an essay that puts out some of the evidence for and against, and it fails to arrive at any conclusion except to say 'this is a complicated issue', which anybody could have told them," she said.

The 49-page report weighs the arguments for and against, yet rarely analyses them and makes no firm recommendations.

Committee chair Simon O'Connor, a National MP who is opposed to assisted dying, said that was because it was asked to investigate and that was what it has done.

"Our recommendation is for MPs and the public to read our report.

"In many ways it's distilling the most comprehensive, largest parliamentary inquiry in the parliament's history. Trying to distill a very complex, divisive argument down to a few pages in the hope that people can make up their own minds while actually delving more deeply into the issue," he said.

Matt Vickers, whose wife Lecretia Seales died while fighting in the courts for the right to end her life, said he was disappointed the report made no recommendations.

"It would have been great for them to recommend some form of legislation but looking at the make-up of the committee and the people on it, that was a lot to ask for."

The report was useful in some ways, Mr Vickers said.

"What they have done is to lay out all the claims and the evidence supporting those claims, and I think that will be useful when David Seymour's legislation reaches [parliament]."

Lecretia Seales' husband Matt Vickers.

Lecretia Seales' husband Matt Vickers. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

ACT MP David Seymour, whose member's bill on the same topic was drawn from the ballot in June, was also disappointed.

He allowed it had at least scotched some urban myths, such as elderly people in the Netherlands wearing 'do not euthanise me' bracelets: they don't.

Matthew Jansen, the secretary of the Care Alliance, a coalition opposed to assisted dying, was glad the report made no recommendations but said the inquiry was a wake-up for the medical community.

He said it showed many people no longer understood death.

"In our grandparents' generation, they were very familiar with death because it happened at home.

"With the hospitalisation and the medicalisation of dying, people have lost the direct contact. So they don't necessarily understand what is 'normal'.

"There is a big requirement for there to be an education process so people understand what to expect, and that some of the things they see are not about pain or distress, they are about the dying process. That's natural."

Despite 80 percent of the 22,000 submissions being opposed to assisted dying, multiple polls and studies have found New Zealanders [http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/322293/growing-support-for-euthanasia-in-nz-study

are at least two-thirds in favour].

Mr O'Connor expected many opinions could change on reading this report.

"Our committee is saying very strongly to Parliament and to the public, 'step back, take some time, read this report and think about it'.

"This is not a simple issue, it is a complex, divisive issue. It's trying to add a voice, if you will, against those who say 'this is just a no-brainer'," he said.

In the meantime, David Seymour's bill is awaiting its first reading.

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