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1. Anybody can make a submission on our petition. It can be as short or as long as you like. You can email it to Parliament or send it by post. It is most effective when told in your own words, so this guide will not give you formulaic statements to repeat. It will however help you to say what you want to say and tell you how to submit your submission.
“That the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable.”
The petition asks for a change to existing law. Therefore the committee will undertake an investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand. In order to fully understand public attitudes the committee will consider all the various aspects of the issue, including the social, legal, medical, cultural, financial, ethical, and philosophical implications. The Committee will investigate: 1. The factors that contribute to the desire to end one’s life. 2. The effectiveness of services and support available to those who desire to end their own lives. 3. The attitudes of New Zealanders towards the ending of one's life and the current legal situation. 4. International experiences. The committee will seek to hear from all interested groups and individuals. The committee requires 2 copies of each submission if made in writing. Those wishing to include any information of a private or personal nature in a submission should first discuss this with the clerk of the committee, as submissions are usually released to the public by the committee. Those wishing to appear before the committee to speak to their submissions should state this clearly and provide a daytime telephone contact number. To assist with administration please supply your postcode and an email address if you have one.
“I believe people have a right to determine how and when they die under certain circumstances and with appropriate safeguards. I have come to this conviction through watching my mother die badly……..” (or whatever your own story is).
“I wish to register my strong support for assisted dying for people who are terminally ill or whose irreversible condition makes their life unbearable.” And leave it at that.
VES Honorary member
Below is the last page of Parliament’s booklet “Making a Submission to a Parliamentary select committee”. It provides a format to follow.
Appendix: Suggested submission format
Date Page number
To the (name of Committee) Committee
This submission is from (name of individual/organisation and address).
I/we wish to appear before the committee to speak to my/our submission.
I can be contacted at: (List your daytime contact telephone number and email address or the name, address, contact telephone number; and email address of the contact person for your organisation if different from above).
I/we wish that the following also appear in support of my/our submission: (list names and positions in organisation).
If an organisation, give brief details of your organisation’s aims, membership and structure and the people consulted in the preparation of the submission.
I/we wish to make the following comments (general views).
I/we wish to raise the following matters under term of reference 1, term of reference 2, etc (expand on your views and give reasons).
(List any further recommendations or conclusions you wish the committee to consider. You may wish to restate recommendations mentioned earlier.)
John Murray is a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, NZ former member of the National VES Committee. He sent this to the Kapiti Independent Newspaper.
As I sat in No1 Court this week and looked across to see the slumped body of Lecretia Seales, I knew again my answer.
Here was the desperately ill figure of a vital, lively and intelligent woman in the grips of an aggressive brain tumour.
She was pleading to the Court for her GP to be allowed to ease her way into death when the time comes, without being charged with the crime of assisting suicide.
In the great passing out parade, when our time comes, who would not ask, whatever their faith, in the words of the compassionate Saint Francis:
"And thou most kind and gentle death
waiting to hush our latest breath..."
"And thou most kind and gentle death
waiting to hush our latest breath..."
So I sat there and listened to the lawyers dividing the law with the greatest of competence and the least of human kindness.
The Counsel for the Crown declared that the law is the law. This is a matter for Parliament not the Court. And the learned professor supporting him, quoted at length the law in the State of Montana and said "having liberty did not include the right to die" ....... whatever that meant?
Counsel for the Care Alliance - basically a religious group - opposed any change in the law and raised "fears" of what might happen – "all people would be at risk ... the right for euthanasia would might lead to a "slippery slope" leading to euthanasia on demand". Was there an echo here of the Nazi death camps? The Counsel never mentioned the vital word "voluntary".
Counsel for Lecretia said, among other things, that "a total ban is asked for ... it is the individual that matters ... the only way to test the law is for GP to do it and be prosecuted."
Counsel for the Human Rights Commission, quoting the Bill of Rights said "the Bill champions human dignity and value," and its section 6 is to be preferred over the law.
The Judge sat quietly pondering what is the real question and what should be his judgment - which he will give as soon as possible for the sake of the plaintive.
To me as I listened there seemed a dreadful irony in the proceedings. Here in No1 Court, a place for criminals to be tried and punished, sat an innocent woman being tried for asking that the law be changed to respect her right to die with dignity. Is that a crime?
Or will the Judge rule that "the Crimes Act is inconsistent with her [human] rights"?
This would test the preference of the Bill of Rights ] to set aside the law and allow Lecretia Seales the right to die - with dignity.
Is it left to Parliament then to change the law? I believe that is so but the leaders of all Parties refuse to face the question or even set up a Select Committee to start the debate.
There is so much involved in this issue - fear of death, fear of losing control over "morality", fear of the "slippery slope", what is human dignity, on what grounds must laws be changed.
All this needs a deeper conversation, such as this "paper" KIN could promote, on how "to die with dignity"
Counsel for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, aka End of Life Choice, simply said the purpose of the case was to relieve Lecretia's suffering and that of others.
Here are two links to one of his presentations which we recorded.
Debbie Purdy, the UK right-to-die campaigner who won a landmark court ruling to clarify the law on assisted suicide, has died aged 51. Here is the last article she wrote. We may not agree with or have reservation about some of her statements but they are made in the light of the law in Britain at the time.
Read more »
Doctors in Canada’s Quebec province will be able to administer a lethal drug to terminally-ill patients and others suffering “constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain” by the end of next year.
A law which significantly affirms “the right of everyone to end-of-life care that is appropriate to their needs” was passed in the provincial National Assembly by 94 votes to 22 in a free vote on June 5. Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the law would come into force within 18 months, as soon as a commission on end-of-life-care was established.
Quebec joins Oregon, Vermont and Washington as North American jurisdictions allowing medical aid in dying. The law, which draws heavily on Belgian and Dutch models, is designed “to ensure that end-of-life patients are provided care that is respectful of their dignity and their autonomy and to recognize the primacy of wishes expressed freely and clearly with respect to end-of-life care”.
Basic requirements are that the patient:
The bill does not use the term euthanasia. Defining the act of hastening death as a medical service, and therefore a matter of provincial competence, the Quebec government seeks to avoid Canadian federal criminal law which defines all assistance in dying as culpable homicide.
The Canadian House of Commons overwhelmingly rejected a bill legalizing physician-assisted dying in 2010. A private member’s bill on similar lines has since been introduced in the federal parliament, but reports indicated it is unlikely to be debated in the near future.
The bill says institutions, palliative care hospices and private health facilities must offer end-of-life care and “ensure that it is provided to the persons requiring it in continuity and complementarity with any other care that is or has been provided to them”. Doctors and private health nurses may provide it at the patient’s home.
Every palliative care hospice must inform persons of the end-of-life care it offers before admitting them.
The Quebec bill says the provision of end-of-life care is to be guided by the following principles:
Two doctors, including an independent one who is not treating the patient, must verify the request. A doctor unwilling to act must notify the responsible authority so that another physician can be called in to administer the fatal dose. (Ends)
Gillian Bennett, an 85-year-old New Zealand-born woman living in Canada and suffering dementia killed herself on August 18 after writing a suicide note that writer Gary Mason said in the Toronto Globe and Mail "should be read by everyone, especially those who remain uncomfortable talking about a person's right to die with dignity".
Mason said the note showed abundant clarity of thought and total lack of self-pity. He went on:
On Monday afternoon, Ms. Bennett dragged a mattress out to a favourite spot near her hilltop home on B.C.'s Bowen Island. She downed a lethal dose of barbiturates and chased it with a shot of whisky. Jonathan, her husband of 57 years, helped her lie down. Unhappy with the stool he was sitting on, he left briefly to find one more comfortable. He returned two minutes later to find his wife in a peaceful repose. She was gone.
She was gone but not before leaving us a clear-minded explanation as to why she decided to take her own life. It can be read in its entirety at deadatnoon.com. Ms. Bennett's mind was being ravaged by the effects of dementia - a "stealthy, stubborn and oh-so reliable disease," she wrote in a note composed over the past couple of years.
"Ever so gradually at first," she continued, "much faster now, I am turning into a vegetable."
Ms. Bennett, 85, a brilliant psychotherapist, was aware that there would soon come a time when she was no longer competent to guide her own affairs and she wanted out before that day arrived. She was already forgetting the most basic of things: where she kept the coffee; where the backspace tab on her computer was; the name of the book she was reading. She did not relish the prospect of being committed to a medical institution when her husband was no longer able to care for her.
"Understand that I am giving up nothing that I want by committing suicide," she said in her farewell note. "All I lose is an indefinite number of years of being a vegetable in a hospital setting, eating up the country's money but having not the faintest idea of who I am.
"Each of us is born uniquely and dies uniquely. I think of dying as a final adventure with a predictably abrupt end. I know when it's time to leave and I do not find it scary."
Ms. Bennett's note is written with the kind of clear-eyed pragmatism that can only be admired. Keeping her "mindless body" alive would cost Canadian taxpayers up to $75,000 a year, she estimated. And for what good reason? Nurses would find themselves perpetually changing her diapers and "reporting on the physical changes of an empty husk." It was ludicrous, wasteful and
unfair, she thought.
She also didn't want to become a burden to her husband and two adult children, who would not be able to communicate with her in any meaningful way.
Jonathan Bennett was feeling "miserable" when I spoke to him this week. Not because of the decision his wife made - he supported it - only because he missed her. "It's been a long time since I had any practice living without Gillian."
He said it was his wife's hope that her death would provoke more debate on a subject that urgently needs discussing. She imagined a day, he said, when everyone made out a living will that articulated how they wanted to die. And she hoped that the medical profession would eventually mandate the
administration of a lethal dose to end the suffering of a terminally ill patient in accordance with the instructions made clear in that will.
It is not for me to say whether Gillian Bennett did the right thing. She believed that it was ultimately her right to decide the terms under which she left this good earth and it is impossible to argue with that.
The manifesto she left us should not be wasted. Rather, we should honour her life by using her thoughts and words to help further educate us on a critically important matter.
"Today, now, I go cheerfully and so thankfully into that good night," Ms. Bennett said in her final words. "Jonathan, the courageous, the faithful, the true and the gentle, surrounds me with company. I need no more."
Gillian Bennett's note can be read in full at: www.deadatnoon.com
© End-Of-Life Choice • PO Box 48 241, Silverstream, Upper Hutt 5142 •