Key euthanasia claim 'wrong'

23:31, Aug 23 2012
gerrie ligtenberg
Gerrie Ligtenberg

Timaru gerontology nurse Gerrie Ligtenberg says euthanasia is not happening in our hospitals.

Her comment comes after Prime Minister John Key raised the issue, saying euthanasia is happening in our hospitals - and if he was terminally ill, he would consider it.

Ms Ligtenberg, who is also a Green Party spokesperson, said her comments were based on her own views, not those of her nursing colleagues.

She said she understood that, in some palliative care cases, it was possible that patients were given extra pain medication "to make them less aware" of how ill they were in their final days. However, she did not regard that practice to be euthanasia.

"Euthanasia ... is not happening because it's illegal, but what goes on when you look at palliative care is that possibly people are getting [an increase in pain] medication, so they don't feel the pain.

"You increase the medication - it's not the medication as such that causes death."


Some doctors have also disagreed with Mr Key's statement, saying his view of the situation was too simplistic.

Timaru doctor John Doran, who has been in the profession for almost 50 years, said although he did not believe euthanasia was happening in New Zealand, he understood what Mr Key had based his comments on.

"I'm sure the prime minister is not exposing any treatment that's illegal or inappropriate. I think what John Key was referring to, and many of us understand, is where we need to provide pain relief or other forms of palliative care to make [patients] more comfortable in their final days, we are more willing now to do that than we were in the past.

"That is not euthanasia. It's just sensible, kindly and appropriate medicine."

Labour MP Maryan Street has drafted a bill which would give people the right to choose how and when they exit this life. The private members bill needs to be drawn from the ballot to get a hearing.

Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew, who has a medical background, said she supports people's right to die with dignity, but stopped short of saying she would support euthanasia.

She said she understood pain relief given to someone who is dying can "hasten death" because it has the potential to "depress respiration. I don't believe that is euthanasia."

The Timaru Herald