1,500 'Doctors Say No' to End of Life Choice Bill

By Tema Hemi

An open letter from doctors opposing euthanasia has recently received its 1,500th signature. The 'Doctors Say No' letter is aiming to vote down the End of Life Choice Bill. This comes after Act Party leader David Seymour successfully narrowed the bill to only allow assisted dying for terminal patients. 

Palliative care specialist Dr Sinead Donnelly says there is no place for a doctor intentionally ending the life of another person. 

"All of our training and all the young doctors who are training now as medical students, they're inspired to want to care. Their inspiration to do medicine, their vocation is not to end someone's life," she says.

Donnelly says she stands with the World Medical Association, which represents 114 countries and nine million physicians, who say it is not the role of a doctor to end someone's life.

"Assisted suicide is very like the phrase suicide, so what's that mixed message going to be to New Zealanders about what society thinks about suicide? she says. 

"And then just thinking about who are the most vulnerable in relation to suicide in New Zealand? And clearly youth and then Māori youth in particular."  

Māori health lecturer at Otago University in Wellington, Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho wants Māori MPs to not 'sit on the fence' and instead make a definitive decision on the bill based on tikanga Māori. 

"I want them to make a decision that is a Māori decision, that is based on our tikanga, that is based on our respect and recognition of the mana and the mauri of every single one of our whānau."

But Act Leader David Seymour says, "These 1,500 doctors have the right to express their concerns but over 16,000 NZ doctors have supported this End of Life Choice Bill." 

Seymour told Te Ao, "I think what's important is that these doctors haven't said anything new. New Zealand's had over 20 years of debate on this topic and nothing they've said in the last few days hasn't been asked and answered already."

However, Donnelly says she truly believes that we can care for people who are suffering and facing death very well and can improve all the time.

"The reasons for people taking euthanasia asking for it and receiving it, it's not pain. It's feeling a burden on the family and on society," Donnelly says. 

The third reading of the End of Life Choice Bill is set to occur this Wednesday night.