Euthanasia backers cite fear of burdening others

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 05:00 27/07/2012

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Healthy pro-euthanasia pensioners would rather cut their lives short than be a financial drain on society, a study shows.

Auckland University researchers interviewed 11 healthy men and women aged between 69 and 89 on why they supported voluntary euthanasia.

Reasons included not wanting to be a burden on their families and healthcare resources and fears of losing their independence and dignity.

"If you couldn't do your basic care, couldn't wash yourself or go to the loo by yourself, I don't want to go on after that," an 86-year-old woman said.

"And I don't expect [my husband] wants me to go on like that either, or my family."

Being remembered in "a good way", not as a shadow of their former selves, was also important. Many had watched a loved one die and did not want to be in a position where they could not make decisions for themselves.

One woman, who looked after her dying mother more than 50 years ago, said: "I was the last one to get married so she lived with me . . .

"I just feel that I don't want to be a burden on my children. And when I get old, I don't want them to have to look after me; it's too hard for them . . ."

Euthanasia is illegal in New Zealand, although a 2003 survey found that more than 70 per cent of respondents supported medical assistance in hastening death when someone was terminally ill.

Labour MP Maryan Street has been working with the Voluntary Euthanasia Society on her End of Life Choice Bill, which would give people the right to "choose how and when they exit this life".

However, anti-euthanasia group Family Life International said passing a law to legalise voluntary euthanasia would open a "gigantic Pandora's box" for the sick and disabled.

"Euthanasia preys on the vulnerable members of society who feel obliged to die rather than impact on the lives of others,” spokesman Brendan Roberts said.

All participants of the study were European and members of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which supports legal medical assistance in dying.

Six had no religious affiliation and the others identified as either atheist, Baptist, Quaker or agnostic Christian.

The study, I wouldn't want to become a nuisance under any circumstance, is published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today.

A second study, yet to be published, will reveal the results of interviews with a similar group who do not belong to a pro-euthanasia group.

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- The Dominion Post

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