A confluence of social and medical factors makes it more dangerous than ever to legalise assisted suicide, says former Taranaki man John Kleinsman.
The director of the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre was in New Plymouth last week where he talked to close to 140 people at a public meeting about why he believed euthanasia should not be legalised in this country.
The meeting was organised by the North Taranaki Catholic Parishes and Anglican churches.
Though head of a religious organisation, Kleinsman said his opposition to euthanasia was based on social concerns that its introduction, when coupled with increasing rates of depression and elder abuse, could see the elderly pressured to take their own life to avoid feeling like a burden and a cost.
"The right to die would very quickly become a duty to die," he said.
"We have to be cognisant that elder abuse in the western world is one of the fastest growing problems we have.
"It's going to put pressure on people who are sick, people who are disabled. It's going to put pressure on people to justify why they are still alive," he said.
The issue of legalising euthanasia in New Zealand is off the agenda for now, with Labour MP Maryan Street withdrawing her End of Life Choice Bill from the member's bill ballot last year to avoid the potential of it becoming a political football during the election.
The bill would allow people aged 18 or over to be helped to die if they were proven mentally competent by two doctors, after consultation with family, and after a "stand-down" period of a week.
The person must either be suffering from a terminal illness which is likely to cause death within 12 months, or from an irreversible physical or mental condition that, in the person's view, renders his or her life unbearable.
Street has committed to reintroducing the bill once the election is over.
The last attempt to legalise euthanasia, in 2003, failed by 60 votes to 58.
Euthanasia is legal in seven countries.
- Taranaki Daily News
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