MEDIA RELEASE

Referendum vote on a knife edge - Poll

Support for the End of Life Choice Act is at a record low, according to a nationwide poll conducted on Monday.

In less than a week, support for the Act has dropped from 60% to 55% and opposition has increased from 25% to 34%. About 11% are still unsure how they would vote.

“An increasing number of people supports the idea of euthanasia or assisted dying, but is voting ‘no’ to this specific Act,” says Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.

Supporters are twice as likely than opponents to be uninformed about the Act’s details.

Interestingly, 62% of people who had already voted ‘yes’ think that the End of Life Choice Act is about turning off machines that are keeping people alive  –  even though this choice is already legal. Of people who had already voted ‘no’, 30% shares this misunderstanding.  

67% of people who had already voted ‘yes’ mistakenly think that the Act requires two witnesses when someone signs their request in front of a doctor – compared to 29% of people who had already voted ‘no’. It's a reasonable assumption, since the assisted dying laws in the US, Canada and Australia require this safeguard. 

Half of ‘yes’ voters are unaware that the Act makes euthanasia available to eligible terminally ill people, even if they don’t have any physical pain. Among ‘no’ voters, 29% are unaware of this fact.

Euthanasia-Free NZ encourages all voters to check whether their assumptions about the Act are in fact correct.  

www.euthanasiadebate.org.nz   

This poll was conducted by Curia Market Research and has a maximum sampling error of ±4.8% for a result of 50% at the 95% confidence level.

“One wrongful death is one too many”

10 October 2020

Hamilton widow, minister and disability advocate is concerned that as would-be law-makers, Kiwi voters do not know what the End of Life Choice Act is about.  Although she just spent 24 hours in Garden Place on Sunday, she will be back in Garden Place, Hamilton this Friday 9th October 12pm-3pm to answer questions joined by retired lawyer Ruth Wilson.  A casket will make the poignant point that one wrongful death is one too many.  

Heather has been giving talks about the proposed Act to over 1200 voters in the last 2 months.  She finds that there are 4 camps: those who don’t care, those who are for assisted dying and for the Act, those who are against assisted dying and against the Act, and an increasing number of people in the 4th camp who are pro-the choice but anti-risk.  They would like the option for themselves but because of safety concerns for others they will not be voting for this Act.

A recent Otago study said healthy older Kiwis who want the End of Life Choice Act primarily support it because of fear of becoming disabled and not wanting to become a burden.  Fear of pain did not feature greatly in these participants' reasons for supporting assisted dying.

https://www.odt.co.nz/news/decision-2020/most-expected-support-assisted-dying-otago-researchers  

Heather decided to return to Garden Place after reading a nationwide Curia poll from 30th September that found that about 80% of New Zealanders are still confused about what the End of Life Choice Act would legalise.

Less than a third (28%) of people surveyed knew that this Act would make euthanasia available to people even if they don’t have any physical pain.

Only 21% knew that this Act would not make it legal to have life support machines turned off. “Most people don’t realise turning off life-support is one of several existing end of life choices we can name in an Advanced Care Plan already”, Heather said.  

Just 18% were aware that terminally ill people who meet all the eligibility criteria but also have depression or another mental illness, would indeed be allowed assisted dying under this Act.

The Act states that a person cannot be eligible for a lethal dose when their only reason is mental illness, advanced age or disability. However, the Act would not exclude people who are mentally ill, elderly or disabled if they also have a terminal illness and meet the other eligibility criteria.  This alarms Heather who says “Voters need to know for example that a friend’s mental illness could be the underlying medical condition that drives them to request assisted dying, a condition that may be connected to their terminal illness but also treatable.” “Unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person considers tolerable” means it is up to the person to define their suffering as unbearable.

There are no witnesses at any point in the process in the proposed Act including the day the lethal dose is administered which doesn’t protect the person or the doctor.  About 41% of respondents assumed that the Act would require two witnesses when a person signs their euthanasia request in front of the doctor and about 40% were unsure.  Only 18% knew that the Act does not include this safeguard.  Parliament did not discuss why the witnesses were left out of the law New Zealand is voting on.  This is despite the fact that it has been included in the assisted dying laws of Canada; Victoria and Western Australia; and nine US states.

Doctors (https://doctorssayno.nz/), lawyers (https://lvnz.org/) and most recently psychologists (http://www.unsafelaw.org.nz/) have signed open statements warning New Zealand against this particular Act.  

Heather Major and Ruth Wilson strongly encourage voters to understand the Act before they vote from the legal, ethical, medical and Maori perspectives.

To contact Heather please call 0273156031 or heatherjmajor@gmail.com (don't forget the 'j')

(The poll was conducted by Curia Market Research on 30 September. Respondents were randomly selected and contacted by landline or mobile phone. The maximum sampling error (for a result of 50%) is ±4.9% at the 95% confidence level.)

Hamilton widow stages 24-hour End of Life Choice Act vigil

2 October, 2020

Hamilton woman Heather Major is staging a 24-hour vigil at Hamilton’s Garden Place to raise awareness of the details of the End of Life Choice Act New Zealanders will vote on in the upcoming election.

Heather is alarmed at the lack of community knowledge of the binding referendum.  Unusually voters are the law-makers and the question “Should the EOLC Act 2019 come into force?” will see it come into force 12 months after final votes are counted if it gets 50+% support.

“I've decided to hold a 24-hour vigil in Garden Place because what I'm finding within our community is not enough people are informed for such a colossal decision. This will impact those able to make a free, personal choice but also our most vulnerable people.  We need to take the gravity of this seriously,” Heather said.

Heather has been involved in assisted dying research and conversations for about five years and recently her 18-year-old daughter Rachel has joined her education campaign.

“We have spoken at events across the region.  We have been invited as educators as we are familiar with the Act inside and out and have our own experience of my husband and Rachel’s father Glenn’s terminal cancer journey. He was given just six months to live when Rachel was a baby and went on to live for the best part of a decade, which gave Rachel the chance to get to know her Dad and make many happy memories.”

Heather will sit in Garden Place for 24 hours from lunchtime this Sunday to lunchtime Monday with a sign “#our whanau, our concern”.   She actively opposes the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force. 

“My biggest concern about this monumentally flawed Act is that nowhere in the process is there an independent witness, for the protection of both the patient and the doctor. Other countries with similar legislation require 2 independent witnesses when a person signs their request in front of the doctor.  This Act has no witnesses at all.  Many Kiwi voters don’t know that.”

Heather has actively supported several people with terminal and chronic illnesses and disabilities since her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1997, and more recently in her role as a minister.

“Many people are completely unaware that Māori health model – Te Whare Tapa Whā – is missing in action from this Act, and that there are about 200 lawyers, both for and against assisted dying, who strongly oppose the Act in its current form. (Lawyers for Vulnerable New Zealanders).”

Heather’s motivation for the vigil is helping others to be informed of exactly what they are voting for before election day.  She will speak on the hour every hour about the Act for anyone who comes.

Her other, more personal reasons, for her tireless five-year campaign, are listed below.

“At times, it has been a lonely journey for Rachel and for me. Many people are complacent and under-educated about this matter of massive societal change with regard to how we face dying and potentially allowing for one person to legally end the life of another.  I’d ask every New Zealander to be well-informed, so they can make an educated call with their vote.”

Heather says she is staging the End of Life Choice Act vigil for: 

My homeless friend with a terminal illness whom I failed to help.

My late husband Glenn whom I loved in sickness and in health, till death did us part.  He outlived his first 6-month prognosis by eight years.

My brave daughter Rachel who speaks about the vulnerability of sick parents who feel like a burden and about the disregard for whānau in the Act.

Claire Freeman who was encouraged to go to Switzerland to die when she went to a NZ Suicide Prevention clinic https://www.defendnz.co.nz/

Dr Huhana Hickey and about 200 other lawyers both for and against assisted dying who oppose the Act because of the 37 fatal flaws they have identified https://lvnz.org/

Dominique Tamihana sharing Maori concerns at http://whanauconcern.nz/

Voters/lawmakers in what I call the 4th camp who want the choice of assisted dying for themselves but won’t vote for this Act because it is unsafe for others.

The sick people I care for now and in the future and their families and friends.

The 94-year-old woman who at 91 years of age in a NZ hospital was asked if she wanted euthanasia by her doctor.

Those who are dying believing they are unloved or unloveable.

The doctor who said he won’t be referring a patient to another doctor because he won’t assist any of his patients to die.

Those who know or are just realising Te Whare Tapu Whā is missing from the Act.

The healthy older adults who support assisted dying not because of pain but because of fear of becoming disabled and not wanting to become a burden. 

For those looking for safeguards like independent witnesses, counsellors, cooling-off periods and assessments for competence, coercion or depression and finding them missing.

Raymond Mok and Vicki Walsh who bravely shared their stories with the nation https://www.votesafe.nz/

Local Hamilton woman Kylee Black who told us when a choice is not a choice https://www.riskylaw.nz/

Palliative care physicians and teams who never stop trying to treat the symptoms of dying patients.

Grandparents and equally all those without family who are tempted to die prematurely.

To arrange an interview contact Heather Major 0273156031 heatherjmajor@gmail.com (don’t forget the ‘j’)

End of Life law fails safety check

21 September, 2020

To the Voters of New Zealand,

At the upcoming General Election, you will be asked to vote in a binding referendum on the End of Life Choice Act 2019. We, the undersigned religious leaders, wish to share with you our grave concerns about the final form of this Act.

We speak out of our extensive experience of caring for the dying. We know the effectiveness of compassionate end of life palliative care – care that is able to address not just the physical suffering of people who are dying, but also their emotional, spiritual and psychological suffering, as well as that of whānau and friends.

Medical practices that are part of good end-of-life care – ceasing treatment, Do Not Resuscitate Orders, Advanced Care Directives and turning off life support – are already legal and part of our health care choices and are not part of this proposed law.

The referendum question is not about the desirability of some form of ‘assisted dying’. Rather, we are being asked to vote on a specific piece of legislation – the End of Life Choice Act. The key consideration for all of us is the robustness and safety of this Act. Our concerns are about the lack of safeguards in the Act and the dangers it would present.
We note that the Act differs in the quality of its processes and safeguards from other laws overseas:
The Act is not just designed for a small number of hard cases. It is broader than laws in Victoria and the United States because it allows both assisted suicide and euthanasia.
This is not an Act of ‘last resort’ – there is no requirement to try effective treatments or palliative care. There is also no corresponding right in the proposed law for people to access palliative care.
People will be able to access an assisted death without being in any physical pain. Overseas research shows people choose assisted death primarily out of a fear of being a burden and/or being disabled.

The Act does not require a patient to discuss their decision with a family member or other significant person. All eligible persons, 18 years and over, could choose an assisted death without family knowing.

There is no mandatory psychological assessment or effective screening for depression. Research shows that requests for an assisted death are commonly influenced by depression, something that is extremely difficult to detect and often mistaken for ‘appropriate sadness’.
The NZ Medical Association and Hospice NZ, who oppose the Act, share concerns that it lacks processes enabling clinicians to be confident a person is making their request free of pressure from others.

The two doctor ‘safeguard’ is weak; neither of the doctors need to have met the person previously.
There is no mandatory stand-down period as there is in other countries - under the Act, a person could be dead less than 4 days after diagnosis.

Unlike laws overseas, there is no requirement for independent observers or witnesses at any stage.

The Act does not require a person to be assessed for competency at the time when the lethal dose is being administered, as is the case with laws overseas.

The referendum is binding, meaning the Act cannot be changed - it will be enacted in its current form.

We are also concerned that the practice of assisted suicide and euthanasia will become normalised over time, leading to a broadening of the criteria for eligibility as seen overseas. There is also evidence showing that people choose assisted death because of a lack of palliative care options. There is a risk this will also happen in New Zealand because effective palliative care is not yet universally available to all.

We acknowledge the importance of exercising freedom of choice. At the same time there is a need to balance individual choice with the common good of society. On balance, we believe that the significant weaknesses and dangers of the Act strongly outweigh the benefits that supporters of euthanasia seek.

Even those who favour some form of assisted death have many reasons to Vote NO to the End of Life Choice Act.
 
Archbishop Philip Richardson               
Primate, Senior Bishop of the New Zealand Pakeha Dioceses and Bishop of Diocese of Waikato & Taranaki
Bishop Jay Behan                                  
Church of Confessing Anglicans, Aotearoa New Zealand
Pastor Steve Burgess                            
Regional Director, C3 Churches Pacific
Commissioner Mark Campbell              
Territorial Commander, Salvation Army, New Zealand Territory
Bishop Patrick Dunn                             
President of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference; Catholic Diocese of Auckland
Dr Mustafa Farouk QSM                       
President, The Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (FIANZ)
Rev Tavita Joseph Filemoni                 
General Secretary, Wesleyan Samoan Methodist Church of New Zealand & Australia
Charles Hewlett                                    
National Leader of the Baptist Churches of NZ
Rev. Brett Jones                                   
National Superintendent (Acting), Wesleyan Methodist Church of NZ
Right Reverend Fakaofo Kaio              
Moderator, The Presbyterian Church in New Zealand                
Metropolitan Myron                             
New Zealand Greek Orthodox Church
Rev Dr Stuart Lange                            
National Director, New Zealand Christian Network
Pastor David MacGregor                      
National Director, Vineyard Churches Aotearoa NZ; Senior Pastor, Grace Vineyard Church Christchurch
Rev Andrew Marshall                           
National Director, Alliance Churches of New Zealand
Pastor Peter Mortlock                         
Senior Pastor, City Impact Churches of NZ
Archbishop Don Tamihere                    
Anglican Primate, Pihopa o Aotearoa and Pihopa o Te Tairawhiti
Rev Setaita Taumoepeau K. Veikune   
President, Methodist Church of New Zealand
Pastor Adam White                               
Leader, New Life Churches of New Zealand
Bishop Mark Whitfield                          
Lutheran Church of New Zealand
Bishop Ross Bay                                   
Anglican Diocese of Auckland   
Bishop Steven Benford                        
Anglican Diocese of Dunedin
Bishop Peter Carrell                             
Anglican Diocese of Christchurch
Cardinal John Dew                               
Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington
Bishop Michael Dooley                         
Catholic Diocese of Dunedin
Bishop Justin Duckworth                     
Anglican Diocese of Wellington
Pastor Max Faletutulu                          
Senior Pastor, Titahi Bay Community Church, Wellington
Bishop Michael Gielen
Catholic Diocese of Auckland - Auxiliary
Bishop Andrew Hedge                          
Anglican Diocese of Waiapu
Bishop Stephen Lowe                           
Catholic Diocese of Hamilton
Bishop Steve Maina                              
Anglican Diocese of Nelson
Pastor Kaio Mamea                              
The Light of All Nations Church, Wellington
Bishop Paul Martin SM                         
Catholic Diocese of Christchurch
Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu                      
Pihopatanga o Te Taitokerau
Bishop Waitohiariki Quayle                  
Pihopatanga o Te Upoko o Te Ika
Rt Revd Dr Eleanor Sanderson             
Assistant Anglican Bishop of Wellington
Bishop Richard Wallace                        
Pihopatanga o Te Waipounamu
Rev Brian Walsh                                   
Local Administrator, Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North