by MICHAEL OTTO
There are plenty of secular arguments against the legalisation of assisted dying, a church audience heard in Auckland.
About 35 people gathered at St Mark’s Parish Centre on May 4 to hear Renee Joubert from Euthanasia-Free NZ explore the issues.
But Ms Joubert started by detailing something of her journey, which led her to be passionate about the subject.
“My journey started when my best friend committed suicide, when I was 20 and she was 22. It turned my life upside down,” she said.
“In fact, my life is in two halves — before her death and after her death, because it was such a huge experience.
“I became very interested in life and death issues.
“And then I was at the deathbed of a friend who died of liver and kidney failure about two years ago. It was so hard to see her looking like an old woman, even though she was only 33 at the time.”
Ms Joubert also spoke of her concerns for a relative struggling with mental health issues.
Had former MP Maryan Street’s End of Life Choices bill become law, Ms Joubert said her relative would have been quick to request assisted dying.
This makes the issue “very close to my heart”, she said.
In 2013 she interviewed people in Belgium and the Netherlands who are involved in euthanasia there.
From their stories, as well as peer-reviewed studies, she concluded that the Belgian and Dutch legal safeguards are unenforceable.
At St Mark’s, she spent more than an hour listing common arguments for legalising assisted dying, then rebutted those arguments gently but firmly.
Topics touched on included the place of individual choice versus social responsibility, the
advances in the treatment of pain, the contradiction of having legalised assisted dying alongside ordinary suicide prevention programmes, and the difficulty of legislating for
Ms Joubert ended by pleading for “a law with a stern face and a kind heart”.
“We need a criminal law that is black and white, that is clearcut, that gives the message to assist in someone else’s death, to deliberately end someone else’s life, is by default, not
a good idea. It is wrong.
“But then the court needs to have a kind heart and look at extenuating circumstances and specific individual cases. And we have got that already.”
For more information on arguments against legalising assisted dying, visit www.euthanasiadebate.org.nz