[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Three members of New Zealand’s InterChurch Bioethics Council (ICBC) have made an oral submission to the country’s parliament’s Health Select Committee as part of their campaign against the legalisation of assisted suicide or euthanasia. The ICBC made a written submission to the committee in January; and this was followed by a submission by nine bishops from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
Now, the Revd Dr Graham O’Brien from the Anglican Diocese of Nelson; medical Doctor Helen Bichan from the Presbyterian Church; and Mr Filo Tu, the national youth liaison officer for the Samoan Synod of the Methodist Church; made a joint oral submission to the parliamentary committee that is considering whether legislation should be introduced.
The trio argued that assisted suicide and euthanasia are not widely accepted or practised, for good reason. As well as grey areas over who qualifies for such deaths, they say, there are too many social and cultural side effects not apparent when euthanasia laws first come into play.
They also argued that the lack of Māori and Pacific voices in the public debate raises questions over whether the country’s cultural diversity has been actively considered on the issue.
In their submission, the church leaders argued that overseas experience pointed to suicide being promoted and normalised through the introduction of assisted suicide; and that euthanasia can change the doctor-patient relationship and the responsibility of doctors to always promote life.
The three quoted Theo Boer, Professor of Ethics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who said that “the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort into a normal procedure – don’t make our mistake”. And, also from the Netherlands, they cite the case of a 24-year-old sexual abuse victim diagnosed with “incurable post-traumatic stress disorder” as an example of how the boundaries of terminal illness move over time.
- The full ICBC oral submission can be read here.
- Additional reporting by Anglican Taonga
- This article was corrected on 25 September. The original version incorrectly described the Revd Dr Graham O'Brien as the Bishop of Nelson.