Religious leaders from a number of New Zealand’s faith traditions have written a joint letter to members of the country’s Parliament expressing their concerns about passing the End of Life Choice Bill. Source: Scoop NZ.
The bill, due for its third and final reading next week, “gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying,” according to its description on Parliament’s website. If passed, it will legalise euthanasia in New Zealand.
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 [family],” the leaders say, adding they are expressing their ethical, philosophical and practical concerns, not religious arguments.
They list seven concerns about the final form of the bill which will be voted on.
These include 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 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.
They also identify the failure of the NZ Parliament to include an amendment to the bill that would allow for institutions to exercise a right of conscience not to participate.