Media ReleaseJoint Statement from Anglican & Roman Catholic Bishops on Euthanasia
Media statement 6 November 2019
Religious leaders urge MPs to reconsider euthanasia bill
Religious leaders from a number of New Zealand’s faith traditions have written a joint letter to members of Parliament expressing their grave concerns about passing the End of Life Choice Bill.
The End of Life Choice Bill, which comes up for its third and final reading on Wednesday 13 November, “gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying,” according to its description on Parliament’s website. It will legalise both euthanasia and assisted dying in New Zealand were it to pass.
The letter is signed by leaders of the Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican and Lutheran churches, the Federation of Islamic Associations and the Salvation Army. “We speak out of our extensive experience of actively caring for the dying and their whanau,” they say, adding they are expressing their ethical, philosophical and practical concerns, not religious arguments.
In their letter, the religious leaders list seven concerns about the final form of the bill which will be voted on.
Among the listed concerns is the risk that people will choose a premature death because they lack proper care choices. The letter refers to Canadian and American evidence which shows that euthanasia/assisted suicide laws have led to numerous patients choosing assisted deaths because of unmet service needs. High-quality palliative care for the terminally ill is not yet available equitably throughout New Zealand, they write.
“Until it is, there is a strong likelihood that New Zealanders will also choose assisted death because of a lack of other meaningful choices. In such a context, there is the real risk that people in lower socio-economic groups will find themselves being channelled unnecessarily and unjustly towards a premature death.”
The religious leaders also express their fears that the introduction of an assisted death law might have an adverse effect on our already tragic rates of suicide, noting that there is some overseas evidence that it may contribute to an increase in non-assisted suicides.
Finally, the religious leaders identify the failure of parliament to include an amendment to the End of LC Bill that would allow for institutions to exercise a right of conscience not to participate. The letter describes this failure as “the unethical imposition of assisted death on those carers and healthcare providers for whom the provision of assisted dying would directly contradict their medical, ethical, philosophical, spiritual and/or historical traditions.”
The letter concludes that this is not the right time for New Zealand to be contemplating a euthanasia law: “Only when effective palliative care is a real choice for all New Zealanders will we as a country be in a position to have a proper discussion about offering assisted dying as an additional end-of-life option.”
Meanwhile, more resources need directing to enhancing palliative care nationally and addressing rising rates of depression and social isolation of our elders, they add.
More Information: Rev Dr Graham O’Brien (Co Chair InterChurch Bioethics Council) 021 0601774
Story Published: 7th of November - 2019