Though still uncertain, voluntary euthanasia could be legalised in New Zealand this year. This week, a bill passed a second reading in the country’s unicameral parliament by 70 votes to 50.
While this looks impressive, the numbers are closer than they seem for the End of Life Choice Bill. One party has supported the second reading in order to insert an amendment mandating a referendum at the next stage of debate.
The bill legalises voluntary euthanasia by allowing adults with less than six months to live or those with a "grievous and irremediable medical condition" to request a lethal dose of medication.
Debate will continue when the bill returns to the House in about a month’s time. It is likely that hundreds of amendments will be proposed.
New Zealanders are divided on the issue, as an emotional debate in Parliament showed.
One MP said that he had to tell his mother that without treatment she would die within a month; with it, she could live for a year and a half. "She just sat up and said 'What a month? … Bugger that, I'll have the treatment.'. And it wasn't easy. It was awful. But she did as much from her desire for us to have a farewell," he said. "I don't think we should have a bill, passed into an act, that makes that choice to end a life so much easier than it is at the moment."
A thousand Kiwi doctors signed a letter saying that they "want no part in assisted suicide". “We endorse the views of the World Medical Association and the New Zealand Medical Association that physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are unethical, even if they were made legal.”
And the Muslim community released a statement saying euthanasia is against their religion and against the interests of their immigrant community.
Islam considers all human life sacred. Life is to be protected and promoted and not terminated prematurely. It is neither permissible in Islam to kill another human being, nor even to kill one’s own self. God Says, “Do not take life, which God made sacred…” (Qur'an 17:33), and “Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves...” (Qur'an 4:29-30).
As a community we implore our elected democratic Ministers of Parliament to join us to also oppose euthanasia – and to instead focus our efforts on how to better support and care for every New Zealander. It is not for us or doctors to kill or aid others in destroying themselves. Our predominantly immigrated community will be made vulnerable under the proposed bill.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is backing the bill. "It's been my view that while there are a range of strongly-held beliefs, and people have the right to hold those, I ultimately want people to make their own individual decisions," she said.
Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge
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