In June 2015, New Zealand’s Health Select Committee received a petition requesting that the House of Representatives “investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable.” The petition asked for a change to existing law, and the committee began an investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand.
As an organisation, the hospice sector does not support any change to the legislation around euthanasia or physician assisted death. Hospice services and palliative care, as defined by the World Health Organisation, “intends neither to hasten or postpone death”, and this is the cornerstone of hospice care in New Zealand.
Euthanasia or physician-assisted death goes against this because it hastens death. Hospice believes that death is a natural part of life and that with the right palliative care, a person with a life-limiting condition can have a good quality of life.
The palliative care team will work with a person to manage their symptoms and help them feel as comfortable as possible, with their dignity maintained. Services are also in place to support family and whanau both before and after the death of their loved one. In our experience, good palliative care allows people to die as comfortably as possible. We must focus on helping people to live well until they die.
Hospice New Zealand recently presented to members of the Health Select Committee in Wellington. To view a copy of our written submission, please click here.