The proposed referendum question on the End of Life Choice Bill is “vague, narrow and misleading” and a “robust and honest education campaign” will be needed to enable New Zealanders to fully understand it involves euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The director of the NZ Catholic Bioethics Centre, Dr John Kleinsman, expressed concern about “the euphemistic nature of the bill’s name”.
“As per an amendment put forward by NZ First, the wording of the referendum question, a topic of much debate, is closely tied to the title of the bill: ‘Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force?’
“This is problematic insofar as it is vague, narrow and misleading as to exactly what is being voted for,” Dr Kleinsman said.
He said a 2017 Curia poll showed how much confusion there was around the term “assisted dying”.
In that poll, 85% thought assisted dying included turning off life support, 79% thought it included ‘do not resuscitate’ requests and 67% thought it included the stopping of medical tests, treatments and surgeries.
“All of these things are already legal because they result in people dying of natural causes — their underlying medical condition,” Dr Kleinsman explained.
“There would need to be a robust and honest education campaign so that New Zealanders understood exactly what the bill would allow, i.e. legalising doctors and others to be able to directly end the life of their patients by way of euthanasia or assisted suicide,” he said.
“This is not a simple issue, as some seem to think, but one fraught with complexity. It carries many risks for all New Zealanders, not least the fact that, as is happening in Canada, people will choose it because of a lack of adequate end of life care and other health services.”