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Andrew Denton, an Australian TV star who has become the country’s most prominent campaigner for voluntary euthanasia, will arrive in New Zealand this week for a five-day speaking tour.
Denton, 55, turned his attention to the cause after watching his novelist father Kit suffer a painful and protracted death in hospital from heart disease. “It was horrible to watch and horrible to hear,” he said. “The pain relief they gave him wasn’t enough.”
After retiring from his award-winning TV career, Denton spent a year talking with people on both sides of the voluntary euthanasia debate and visited the Netherlands, Belgium and the US state of Oregon where assisted dying is legal and practised.
He put his interviews into a moving 17-part podcast called Better Off Dead which made a huge impact in Australia, where the issue created new headlines last week.
In Victoria, a committee of the state parliament recommended a law change allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients with unbearable suffering to end their lives.
In South Australia, the Premier, Jay Weatherill urged state MPs to pass laws giving people a genuine choice about the end of life. “I can see little point in forcing extremely ill people to needlessly endure pain that is clearly not going to stop until it consumes them completely,” Weatherill said.
Denton, who arrives on Friday, will speak at a public session of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand’s annual general meeting in Wellington on Sunday (1.30pm at Brentwood Hotel, Kilbirnie). He will address public meetings in Christchurch Monday June 20 and Napier on Wednesday June 22.
It was only Friday that Death with Dignity (DwD) announced the good news about California's new End of Life Option Act taking effect. Immediately after a group of physicians backed by anti-choice groups filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of the new law.
The plaintiffs are not merely doctors opposed to aid-in-dying -- they are red-meat political operatives with a religious radical right agenda targeting LGBT Americans, a woman’s right to choose, and Death with Dignity.
DwD had expected the opponents of assisted dying in California would attempt to deny terminally ill patients access to expanded options at end-of-life. The good news is: they have beaten back similar lawsuit by opponents of Death with Dignity in both state and federal courts, which rejected all of these challenges. The Riverside County court should do the same.
Participation in the law is voluntary. Physicians may refuse to take part for any reason. That includes the doctors who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. If they wish not to participate, they are free to do so, but they should not deny the right to use the law to others.
DwD are dedicated to bringing the option of Death with Dignity to eligible terminally ill patients everywhere. They were a leading force in the defense of Oregon’s law, all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Having been implemented safely and flawlessly, the Oregon, Washington, and Vermont laws continue to provide peace of mind to terminally ill patients. With your support, DwD will make sure the California law will do the same.
Please chip in $25 toward the defense of the California End of Life Option Act.
Thank you for helping to make Death with Dignity real for all Americans.
Voluntary Euthanasia Society
The Australian state of Victoria has made a significant move towards allowing doctors to help seriously sick people end their lives peacefully, Dr Jack Havill, President of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand, said Friday.
He welcomed recommendations for a law change by a Victorian Parliamentary Committee Enquiry into End of Life Choices released this week and noted that California has today become the largest state in America to give terminally ill patients the right to die with dignity.
Dr Havill said the New Zealand Parliament’s Health Select Committee which is currently holding a public inquiry into the issue of assisted dying could not ignore these developments overseas.
He said the Victorian committee had recommended the state government to introduce legislation allowing terminally ill competent adults suffering from a serious and incurable condition causing unendurable and unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the patient deemed tolerable to be provided assistance to die.
The committee said that in the vast majority of cases a doctor should prescribe a lethal drug which the patient may take without further assistance. Where the patient was physically unable to take the drug themselves, a doctor should be allowed to assist the patient to die.
The committee made its report after considering over 1000 submissions on the issue and visiting states that allowed physician-assisted dying.
Dr Havill said its extensive report included recommendations on the provision of palliative care, continuous palliative sedation, advance care planning, withdrawal of life support, and clarified legal aspects around end-of-life care.
The family of Lecretia Seales today welcomed the news that a cross-party select committee in the Australian state of Victoria has tabled a report recommending that the Victorian Parliament implement assisted dying law changes, acknowledging that it may have implications for the inquiry underway in New Zealand.
The inquiry was initiated in May 2015 and the report was tabled in Victorian Parliament yesterday.
“It’s hard to see how a New Zealand inquiry, looking at the same international evidence, and similar coronial evidence, could come to a different conclusion,” said Matt Vickers, widower of the late Lecretia Seales. “If the MPs on the New Zealand inquiry don’t recommend a law change, they will be going against all the evidence that is out there to support one, and the findings of their peers in Australia and Canada.”
New Zealand’s Health Select Committee initiated a parliamentary enquiry in July 2015, after the Voluntary Euthanasia Society presented a petition to parliament calling for one. Submissions for that inquiry closed in February 2016 after more than 15,000 written submissions were received.
Legislative change in Australia is supported by the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and broadcaster Andrew Denton. Mr Denton visits New Zealand in June for a series of talks, beginning on June 19th in Wellington, followed by the 20th in Christchurch, and the 22nd in Napier, discussing his experience of visiting the Netherlands, Belgium and Oregon to explore the implementation of assisted dying laws in those jurisdictions.
Assisted dying is illegal in Australia. It was briefly legal in the Northern Territory in 1995, with the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, and was the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise assisted dying. The Act was overridden at the federal level in 1997. However the report from the Victorian inquiry may see assisted dying become legal in the state of Victoria, should the Victorian government adopt the recommendations.
One of the key influences on the decision was coronial evidence that some Australians were killing themselves rather than enduring their terminal illnesses, and that it was clear that assisted dying legislation may have had the effect of helping those people live longer. Similar evidence was presented in Seales v Attorney-General in New Zealand by historian John Weaver, who revealed that between 5-8% of deaths recorded as suicides in New Zealand between 1900 and 2000 were instead terminally ill people who were seeking to avoid the worst of their illnesses. The judge in Seales v Attorney General accepted that the law as it stands may be contributing to this phenomenon in New Zealand.
The Health Select Committee inquiry in New Zealand on assisted dying continues, but has not yet given an indication on when they may produce their own report.
The husband of late Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales has announced today that a memorial lecture will be established in his wife’s name, in partnership with Dr Andrew Butler, Lecretia’s lead counsel in Seales v Attorney General, and the Victoria University Law School. The lecture will be held annually for at least eight years, and will be on the subject of law reform and the constitution of New Zealand. Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer has agreed to be the inaugural speaker.
Lecretia’s husband, Matt Vickers said: “Lecretia dedicated her career to law reform and sensible, responsible law changes for the benefit of all New Zealanders. I can think of no better way to honour her memory than to establish this event. Though we have raised funds to hold the lecture for several years, it’s my aim to ensure the lecture continues in perpetuity. Lecretia cared about a number of issues, including assisted dying, and this forum will provide an intelligent and thoughtful forum for many important issues to be explored.”
Lecretia Seales took a case to the High Court of New Zealand in May 2015, seeking a judgment that would protect her doctor from prosecution should she consent to be assisted to die. Ms Seales passed away a year ago, on 5 June 2015, on the same day the judgment in Seales v Attorney General was delivered. Though Ms Seales did not get the ruling she sought, her actions helped provoke a parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying which is currently underway. Ms Seales was named New Zealander of the Year 2015 by The New Zealand Herald.
“It is an honour for the Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Law to be associated with the Lecretia Seales Memorial Lectures in Law Reform. Lecretia will always hold a special place in the heart of the law school and the Wellington legal community. These lectures will attract high calibre speakers and the legal community will continue to benefit from Lecretia’s legacy,” says Mark Hickford, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.
Dr Andrew Butler said: “Seales v Attorney General was one of the most important human rights cases ever seen in a New Zealand courtroom. It was an honour to be able to act for Lecretia in this case, and also to be able to call her my friend. I am excited about the lecture and look forward to working with Mr Vickers and the Law Faculty of the Victory University of Wellington to secure engaging and provocative speakers for many lectures in the years to come.”
The first lecture will be held in Wellington on the 29th of August, at a venue to be confirmed. It has been funded by a number of philanthropists and friends who supported Lecretia’s efforts for law reform. It will be held jointly with the launch of Mr Vickers’ book, Lecretia’s Choice, which will be published by Text Publishing and launched in New Zealand and Australia.
Mr Vickers said: “In writing this book I aim to help people understand Lecretia’s motivations and why having a choice about how she died was so important to her. Although at its heart it is a love story, I hope too that it will be a valuable resource for informing people of the issues at the heart of the assisted dying debate.”
The debate continues in New Zealand, with Australian broadcaster Andrew Denton appearing in New Zealand for a series of talks from June 19th. Mr Denton's podcast Better Off Dead was one of Australia's top-rated podcasts this year, exploring the facts and myths about assisted dying in Europe and the United States.
For more information on the Lecretia Seales Memorial Lecture for Law Reform, please visit http://lecretia.org/memorial-lecture/
Andrew Denton, the TV producer and presenter who has spent the past 12 months making a 17-episode podcast about the right to die with dignity, will be in New Zealand in June.
"I wanted to inform the debate and I wanted to inflame the debate," he says of the podcast. "I want politicians and doctors to stop sitting on their hands while people needlessly suffer."
His interest in the topic was sparked by the awful experience of watching his father, author and broadcaster Kit Denton, die slowly and painfully.
Please try to see and hear Andrew Denton in one of these areas in June – Wellington, Christchurch and Napier.
He will also be on TV and Radio – The Nation, Q&A and interviewed by Wallace Chapman, Rebecca Macfee and others.
All 17 episodes of his podcasts “Better Off Dead” are available at this link.
Andrew will speak at the following venues:
Sunday 19 June 1.30-3pm
The Brentwood Hotel
16 Kemp St, Kilbirnie
Contact: 04 566 4893
Christchurch:Mon 20 June 1-3.30pm
Burnside Bowling Club
330 Avonhead Road
Contact: 03 741 1400
Napier:Wed 22nd June 10am-12pm
Lecture Theatre Number One
EIT [Eastern Institute of Technology]
501 Gloucester St, Taradale
Matt Vickers (Lecretia Seales' husband) spoke about Assisted Dying in New Zealand: Seales v Attorney General at a public meeting at Waikato University, arranged by the Waikato branch of EOLC, on 12 March 2016.
Thanks to Joe Baxter for the footage.
View on Vimeo: Matt Vickers: Assisted Dying in New Zealand — Seales v Attorney General
We have just received the following information. It doesn't tell us much about a timeline or a likely plan.
Be assured that as we receive further information, we will pass it on to you.
1) The Select Committee has received 15,000 submissions and staff are overwhelmed by the numbers.
2) Staff are in the process of organising submitters and identifying people to appear before the Committee.
3) The Committee will travel to hear submitters, They have not yet decided on the towns/cities where they will hear submissions.
4) This is almost the only item of business for the Health Select Committee.
Voluntary euthanasia campaigners today urged politicians to stop prevaricating and follow Canada’s example in allowing doctors to help grievously ill patients end their suffering with a peaceful death.
The Canadian government last week introduced a Bill to allow medical assistance in dying. It will come into force by a June 6 deadline imposed by the Supreme Court which ruled that existing laws banning assisted dying infringed human rights.
“Canada has become a great example for New Zealand to follow,” Dr Jack Havill, president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, aka End-of-Life Choice, said in a statement.
He said it should provide Parliament’s Health Select Committee, which is currently holding a public inquiry into the issue, with “an excellent process model”.
The committee is understood to have received at least 10,000 submissions before its February 1 deadline but has not announced when it will hear those who want to appear before to argue their case personally or if it will hold hearings in centres outside Wellington.
Dr Havill said: “Large studies in Canada over a number of years have provided a wealth of knowledge on the subject, informing the Supreme Court’s judgement in February 2015.
“In particular, they have contradicted the large amount of misinformation spread by opponents of medical assistance in dying.”
The Canadian Bill permits a medical practitioner to administer a fatal substance to a requesting patient with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” or prescribe a drug enabling the person to end their own life.
The patient must be 18 or over and in an advanced state of irreversible decline with their natural death reasonably foreseeable.
Dr Havill said safeguards in the law protecting the vulnerable were similar to those in proposed legislation for New Zealand.
Contact: Dr Jack Havill, of Hamilton, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 021-330-255
Released by David Barber, media adviser 021-072-8760
The other week the New Zealand Herald reported on the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS).
The study asked participants aged 18 years and over how strongly they support voluntary euthanasia. The data reported are drawn from the 2014/15 wave of data collection, sampling 15,270 New Zealanders.
Click to view the data via PDF »
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