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  • 06 Aug 2018 5:26 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    by Graham Adams / 06 August, 2018

    Simon Bridges has made himself look more dynamic than Labour on the issues of assisted dying and recreational marijuana. 

    During a meeting in Wellington in May as part of his whistle-stop tour of the country, Simon Bridges said he intended to “modernise” the National Party. He reassured his audience that “We’re not going to suddenly not be the National Party” but added: “We do have to have the capacity every now and again to surprise.”

    And he certainly has. First, he backed an alternative medicinal cannabis bill put into the members’ ballot by Dr Shane Reti and followed that manoeuvre by announcing a National-led government under his leadership would legalise recreational marijuana and assisted dying if referendums showed that’s what the public wanted.

    Continue reading »

  • 06 Aug 2018 12:35 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    By Anna Kelsey-Sugg for Saturday Extra

    Intensive care specialist Ken Hillman believes it's become too hard to die.

    When his grandfather died in 1959, it was in his own room at home, with little medical intervention.

    "Most people's grandfathers died at home in those days, because the general practitioner was the last medical representative in that line. If he said 'there's nothing more to offer', then there was nothing more to offer," Professor Hillman says.

    Continue reading »


  • 23 Jul 2018 12:27 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    9 May, 2018 

    Source: NZ Herald


    Simon O'Connor is espousing the National Party's newfound concern for the elderly and sick.

    By: Jay Kuten

    I've not been a fan of the Act Party. As the farther right wing of National — remember the teapot alliance of John Banks and John Key, merging class bias and dog-whistle racism — they've represented throwbacks to a faux nostalgic past. That's where everyone knew their place, especially women and darker people. Oliver Twist territory.

    Then along came David Seymour. The Act leader's dance steps may not be sure-footed, but his End of Life Choice bill covers most of the floor of what's necessary to give the terminally ill the autonomy and dignity they deserve at the end of a life.

    There is a significant minority vigorously opposed to people having the choice to decide how their lives should end. National MP Simon O'Connor (Chronicle, May 7) is one of those voicing opposition. That is his right. What is not right is his wish to continue the present system, which permits a doctor but not a patient to make that decision. What is not right is the misrepresentation of Seymour's bill to create a fearmongering atmosphere that creates the false impression that the bill, if enacted, would result in involuntary or coerced euthanasia.

    Mr O'Connor, a former priest, is aligned with a group of right-wing Catholics, including Maggie Barry and Ken Orr of Right To Life, who seek to impose their religious views on others. For clarity, let me state my support for freedom of religion and freedom of speech. That does not give anyone the right to impose their religious views on others or to use their speech to silence others or bully and frighten them into submission.

    O'Connor, who accuses Seymour of hypocrisy, among other sins, needs to first take the mote out of his own eye. A major plank in the opposition platform is that the elderly are subject to "abuse, bullying and exploitation". He goes further to voice anguished concerns about rampant elder abuse, and the marginalised plight of the "seniors, sick, and disabled". These trenchant sympathies are meant to lead to the conclusion that people in these groups, elderly sick, disabled, could easily be coerced into asking for assisted suicide.

    Maggie Barry, when I interviewed her, used almost the same groupings — elderly, sick and disabled — whose cause she purported to represent.

    What puts the lie to these fine expressions of concern for the elderly, the sick and the disabled, is that these same National Party parliamentarians did little or nothing in their nine years of power to alleviate the burdens of the elderly, the sick, and the disabled.


    Jay Kuten

    When it comes to marginalised communities, especially those of the poor and of people of colour, the last National government can justifiably be called the do-nothing parliament in which essential services for the sick, the mentally unwell, the elderly were sacrificed in favour of a bottom line — Middlemore Hospital, for one example. It was a good time for the well-off. Those nine years saw 60 per cent of our national wealth go to the top 10 per cent of us. The poor, the elderly, the sick and the mentally ill, not so much.

    The platform of the anti-choice, largely right-wing Catholic group, is hollow with claims of elderly coercion. Research, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the laws in Canada and Oregon, on which ours is modelled, has found such claims are overblown.

    I'm going to pull rank here. The task of a forensic psychiatrist in legal forums is to determine competency. The End of Life Choice Bill specifies the terms for what is needed to establish competency. The terms are stringent. They include a determination by the doctors of such matters of social and family circumstance to ensure free, voluntary choice. The terms of competency in the bill are more particular than requirements to be able to marry. Judging from the actions and the writings of those opposed to terminally ill people having choice in their own death, it's a more stringent requirement of competency than that required to serve in Parliament.

    Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.

  • 21 Jul 2018 11:35 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Article by Ann David - 18 July 2018

    The Justice select committee has its work cut out to sift through some 30,000 submissions on the End of Life Choice bill prior to the late September deadline. And Chair Raymond Huo will need all his leadership skills to arm wrestle the wily Hon Maggie Barry into a semblance of objectivity, since she managed to get herself appointed as his Deputy. 

    From an outsider’s perspective, the composition appears balanced: he voted Yes at the first reading and she voted No.  But he is a rank amateur at the game of emotive vocabulary and scaremongering whereas she is a seasoned campaigner, fluent in all the coercion/abuse/slippery slope arguments, the darling of palliative care whose smiling mascot she is in Parliament.   

    She will make much of the fact that 80% of submissions oppose assisted dying. She should know – she would have provoked hundreds of them herself when she “consulted with” her constituents in various church porches, straight after Mass.  

    She will quote the palliative care submission warning that subtle coercion will lurk ever-present at the bedside, prompting marginalised patients to do the decent thing and sign up for “killing”.  To her relief, the select committee will not be visiting overseas jurisdictions where assisted dying is practiced, so will not be able to personally question and scrutinise statistics for themselves that deny this.  Consequently, it will remain a fear that will prey on the consciences of some MPs.

    To show her sincerity and now that she is no longer a Minister, Barry will remind the committee that she has lodged her own member’s bill in the ballot: the Access to Palliative Care bill. If drawn and successful, it will require massive amounts of additional funding for palliative care, so it’s a good thing she didn’t think of it while she and National were in government.

    Having her own bill in the ballot will also enable Barry to counter any submissions describing appalling deaths inside the walls of palliative care itself as simply the result of insufficient resourcing to date.  All to be fixed by her bill so that it never, ever happens again.

    Meantime, Act Leader David Seymour is travelling around the country holding townhall meetings to promote his End of Life Choice bill. His next stop is Whanganui where he will present in the august company of Barry herself. She will counter his presentation with her own on palliative care as the only way to go (pun intended).

    Trumpeting her forthcoming Whanganui visit is MP for Tamaki, Simon O’Connor, the seminarian-turned-politician who chaired the Health select committee hearing submissions on New Zealanders’ attitudes to the need for assisted dying. Unsurprisingly, that committee’s report was just a taxpayer-bleeding summary of all the facts we already knew –arguments in favour, arguments against, no recommendations.   

    O’Connor popped an opinion piece into the Wanganui Chronicle demanding that “Seymour must be convinced that no one will ever be coerced into dying for the convenience or financial gain of another.”   

    We must hope then that O’Connor will never have to make any law that is less than 100% fool-proof.  The fact that the End of Life Choice bill includes several safeguards that are over and above what is required for a patient to request terminal sedation or to have life support switched off is just not good enough, in his view.   He prefers a different kind of coercion: the coercion of patients into prolonged suffering against their will by withholding the means of a peaceful death from them.   

    Columnist Jay Kuten hit back at O’Connor the following day with his own opinion piece: Sham concern for the elderly. Witty and provocative, the retired forensic psychologist pulled professional rank and quipped that the End of Life Choice bill defines what it takes to determine mental competency more stringently than the definition of mental competency required to serve in Parliament!

    This is taking place against a backdrop of recent citizens’ initiatives to assert autonomy over their own death. West Australian Prof David Goodall ended his life peacefully at an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland aged 104.  Also across the Tasman, 36-year old Scott Riddle describes his anger that the NSW Parliament failed to pass assisted dying laws by just one vote last year.  He has recently been diagnosed with stage four cancer and wants the option to die on his own terms.  He is educated, business-savvy, vocal and has recently begun to campaign alongside Dying with Dignity. 

    We can expect the arguments for and against assisted dying to scorch the pages of newspapers and fry the airwaves over the coming months, increasing in shrillness right up to the second reading. The media will be the battleground for public opinion and public opinion might just shame the politicians into the democratic choice: Yes.

    If you enjoy writing, please write to your local newspaper. The pen is mightier than the sword (Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839).

    Ann David is a retired human resources professional living in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast. She has been a campaigner for the right to die with dignity for the past 15 years, initially in Australia and since 2009, in New Zealand. She is a member of the End of Life Choice Society and of the NZARH. 


  • 09 Jul 2018 10:04 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    Source: The Times

    Assisted dying is not euthanasia. It is about people making their own free choice that it’s time for their life to end, argues the neurosurgeon and bestselling author Henry Marsh.

    Read more »


  • 26 Jun 2018 7:05 PM | Anonymous
    Oral submission timetable and statements from the committee can be read HERE
  • 16 Jun 2018 12:13 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    by Sian Chapman via Stuff Nation
    June 15, 2018

    Sian Chapman and her father, pictured in 2001.

    Sian Chapman and her father, pictured in 2001.

    Have you ever watched someone die?

    Not in the movies, not on Grey’s Anatomy or Criminal Minds, I mean really watched someone die.

    Have you seen the pure and honest fear in someone's eyes when they tell you they have been diagnosed with a disease that’s so turbulent and devastating that their life hangs in the balance of some chemicals and the accuracy of a surgeon?

    READ MORE: 

    Have you watched as that person goes through the motions, the prepping and the scenarios for the coming war? For the surgeries, the medication, the treatments. They get poked and prodded and hurt, all to prepare for something that is supposed to make them better, even though nobody really believes it will work?

    Have you held that person, cried as they sat there, staunch, reassuring you, telling you it’s going to be okay, but when you look into their eyes you know they are scared beyond their wits?

    Sian Chapman says her father deserved to die with grace, dignity and without pain.

    Tyler Olson/ 123RF

    Sian Chapman says her father deserved to die with grace, dignity and without pain.

    Have you watched them get wheeled away from you, into the unknown, into God only knows what?

    Have you sat there, watching the clock? One hour turns to five, then it’s eight and the surgery should be done, then it’s nine, ten, still nothing. Sitting outside Intensive Care Unit crying, you find yourself praying for the first time in your life. Suddenly that 8 am surgery is twelve hours ago. Before you know it it’s 11 pm, nobody is telling you anything, you’re out of tears, out of vomit, out of fear.

    Has your heart leapt into your mouth as the door to ICU opens, the nurse comes out and says they're back, they have had trouble stabilising them, but they're out, you can see them soon?

    Have you ever walked into an ICU, and looked around the U shaped bend, not able to see the person you’re looking for? Only for your eyes to lock on the broken face of the person that means the most to you in this world.

    Have you seen the machines, draining the wounds? The machines hooked up to their lungs, making them do their job. The ones that are keeping their heart going, monitoring the new blood flow to the new parts of their face that had to be rebuilt because of the devastating effect the disease had on the helpless tissue.

    Have you seen the swelling, the antiseptic making them look green, not human, like a monster? Have you seen the pain etched on their face, underneath the swelling, the stitches, the blood, have you seen their eyes, flitting about under the eyelids.

    If you close your eyes and there’s too much silence, can you still hear the beeping of the machines? Does the microwave sometimes bring memories from this time back? When you hear a smoker's cough, or someone with a really bad cold, does it sound like them trying to breathe through the hole in their throat? Through that tracheotomy they don’t realise is helping them?

    Have you sat with someone who’s in so much pain, is so confused, that they hurt themselves without meaning too, confused, have you seen someone terrified by the machines that are the only reason they are alive?

    Have you watched someone heal, slowly but surely, wounds washed, dressings changed, pain, but hopefulness as the wounds begin to fade?

    Have you felt the relief, the giddy happiness when you find out they are coming home? Have you felt the false security that maybe, just maybe this nightmare might finally be over? They are home, they aren’t the same, but they are home. Things will start to get better.

    Have you heard the phone ring, only for your heart to drop to your feet? They walk into the room, and say treatment starts soon. Then they are gone again, away for six weeks, having this treatment that’s supposed to make them better. You’re alone, you’re scared, and you’re angry.

    Have you watched someone fade from the treatment for something? Have you watched it burn them, scare them, when they have to be alone strapped to a table from the neck up, they come out and they aren’t the same. Every day they don’t want to do it, they are terrified, but they do it anyway, and they do their damn hardest not to let their fear show.

    Have you sat with them as they finally break down, they cry, and tell you they don’t know if they can do it anymore? And suddenly now it’s you reassuring them, telling them they are strong, that they can do it. That you believe in them.

    Are you still with me?

    Have you reached a year after the big surgery with someone? Things are okay, they aren’t the same, but they are okay. Then the phone rings again, and again you know something’s not right. They sit you down, and they say it’s back.

    Have you felt that soul crushing desperation for it to not be real? Before you know it you’re praying again, wishing you’d wake up and that none of this was real, but it is real, it’s happening all over again.

    Have you experienced round two of everything you’ve just read?

    Do you know that it’s so much worse after round two? The healing, the meds, the hospitals, the beeping.

    Have you been unable to accept that they are coming home? That once again, this ‘is all over’? They come home, slowly but surely things start to sort themselves out. But they aren’t the same. They look so different, they can’t eat normal food, they have no energy, they aren’t the person you once knew.

    How about that? Do you know what that’s like? To see the strongest, most resilient person you have looked up to your whole life, become a shadow of their former self. Barely able to walk out to the letterbox, unable to come to any of the important events that you’re only participating in to make them proud.

    Since round two ended, have you watched them slowly fade? You didn’t notice it at first, when you were living with them and saw them every day. But when you only see them once a week, you start to see it. The hearing loss, the confusion, the memory issues, the unexplained anger, the denial, the frustration. You notice them ever so slowly going downhill. So the next few years pass without much fuss, the same routine the same sick person.

    Have you been there though, when that all changes for the third time?

    When there are more tests, more scans, more poking, prodding, needles, bloods. Trying to figure out where this awful, tearing pain has come from. All the things that started this horrible journey. When the answer comes back, when the specialist says that it is indeed back, that there’s nothing we can do, and that they are referring their patient to palliative care.

    Have you been there when the palliative care nurses come to talk? To say that yes, they are going to die, but that we are here to make things as easy and less scary as possible. As they discuss their options, they do not resuscitate conditions, the plans for medication, where they want to die. Have you sat there numb, tears silently sliding down your face as you listen to these people talk about it so openly and honestly, have you wanted to scream at these people who are only trying their very best to help?

    Have you seen those final few months, as your person slips faster and faster away from you? They fade from a wholesome, funny and loving human, into a shell that's wracked by vicious, searing pain.

    Have you seen those final weeks, where they try to manage the pain at a facility, only to be sent home to die, because their time is up? All that’s there is pain. No light, no laughter, no happiness, no love, no romance. It’s brutal, it’s horrible, and it’s vile. The maximum amount of pain meds are given, but they soon stop being effective. Meds are given to counteract the side effects of the pain relief, and more are given to stop those side effects, and so on and so forth. It’s a never-ending cycle of pain and suffering.

    Have you sat there, watching the tremors rock their frail body? Have you watched what’s left of their wasted away muscles tense up? Have you heard their moans, their desperate cries, wishing you knew what they were trying to tell you? Have you seen their eyes the last time they flung open, terrified of what’s to come, of what death will be, but terrified to hold on, because of the pain? The dreadful, unimaginable pain of slowly dying.

    My name is Sian Chapman, and this is my story. It was November 2012 when my dad was first diagnosed with cancer, I was 16. He fought a long and hard battle until his final fight on January 29, 2017, and he deserved to die with grace, dignity and most importantly he deserved to die pain-free. The end my father experienced was not one we would put upon our worst criminals or even our most sick animals.

    Whether or not you have experienced any of what you have just read, you have no right to tell my dad, to tell me, or to tell anyone how or when we can choose to die. If it’s not a choice you want to have for your own life, fine, but you have absolutely no right on this earth to withhold that choice from any other human being.

    I believe we as humans have the right to choose to die with dignity. When a long, slow and painful death is inevitable, we should have the right to be able to end our lives on our own terms, surrounded by our loved ones, content and safe within our minds that we will fade into whatever is next, without a soul-destroying battle against a body that has failed us.

  • 18 May 2018 3:06 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    by Graham Adams / 18 May, 2018

    Source: Noted

    Not wanting to be a burden is a valid reason for accessing assisted dying, writes Graham Adams, who is a cancer patient.

    It was 8pm on a cold Friday night in a packed hospital emergency department. The triage nurse glared at me through the glass panels that shielded her from the throng of patients in the waiting room. “There are NO beds available!” she said. Her face was stony.

    I was taken aback. It wasn’t my idea of fun to be standing shivering with a fever in front of a seriously overworked woman at North Shore Hospital, but my oncologist had told me to go there if my temperature spiked.

    The nurse noticed my bewildered expression and her voice softened. “This is not the place for a cancer patient,” she said, as people behind me coughed and wheezed. “I’ll get you a mask to wear while you wait, and I’ll find you a room away from people just as soon as I can.”

    Feverish, neutropenic chemotherapy patients are not the most welcome visitors at a busy emergency department. We’re not accident victims and we may or may not be an emergency. But until someone takes a blood sample, no one knows for sure. The level of neutrophils, which protect against infection, shift around in cancer patients and you can be neutropenic (ie deficient) and extremely vulnerable to life-threatening sepsis one week but not the next. Consequently, if a cancer patient’s temperature goes above 38°C, indicating the possibility of infection, they are instructed to present themselves at an emergency department as soon as possible.

    The nurse was as good as her word. She commandeered a consulting room where I could lie down, blood was taken and a line put into my arm in case I needed IV antibiotics. Lying there for hours on my own waiting for a doctor to appear, I listened to a man somewhere along the corridor, groaning in pain, and an elderly woman, possibly a dementia patient, shouting, “Help me, doctor! Help me!”

    It made me think about medical resources, dying, and the whole damn thing.

    I figured it was okay for me to be on an interminable cycle of emergency department visits every time my temperature spiked while there was still hope my treatment would work – but would I want to be doing this repeatedly if I had only months, or less, to live?

    Cancer patients eat up a huge amount of time and money being treated in their final months and weeks. At that point, wouldn’t allowing someone like me access to assisted dying be a win-win for me, the hospital and the health system? I wouldn’t have to suffer whatever pain and distress may be my fate in my final days – which is my ardent wish – and the money and resources saved could go towards treating patients who might regain a healthy life, rather than trying to preserve mine when I was doomed.

    Saving precious health funding is not one of my primary concerns in wanting assisted dying to be available, but I would consider it a valuable side effect. It would give me the satisfaction of knowing that in sacrificing the last little bit of my life, for my own reasons, I would also be easing the burden on the health system just a little.

    Hours later, a doctor appeared and apologised for the delay in getting to me. “Four ambulances arrived just after you were admitted,” she said. “We’ve been run off our feet.”

    The idea of not wanting to be a burden to others – whether it’s those you love or even the unseen taxpayer – is rarely mentioned by supporters of assisted dying but often by opponents, and always as a bad thing.

    Dr Stephen Child, a former chair of the New Zealand Medical Association and an opponent of assisted dying, told the New Zealand Herald in January that 48% of people requesting euthanasia in Oregon, where assisted dying is legal, list “burden to others” as their primary reason for doing so. He asked, “Does that mean they’re making an independent decision for a rational suicide or is there a degree of coercion in their decision-making?”

    Well, it’s possible to find out easily enough – by investigating their motives, just as we do for live organ donors. Although it’s not common, donors can develop complications from the surgery to remove a kidney or a lobe of their liver that could cost them their lives. It’s a serious business.

    Doctors recognise some would-be donors may have motives other than altruism – such as feeling obliged to help a family member or hoping to improve a damaged friendship. Consequently, counselling is offered to check what their true motives are. Similar checks can be done to assess that someone’s wish for an assisted death is free from coercion. David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill, currently being debated in the Justice select committee, details comprehensive provisions to make sure it is a free choice.

    Investigations by the Canadian Supreme Court, the Royal Society of Canada, and the Victorian Inquiry into End of Life Choices concluded that such screening is effective in avoiding abuse in jurisdictions where assisted dying is legal.

    It’s quite reasonable to not want to burden others with your suffering – not because loved ones are putting pressure on you but simply because you want to spare them the trauma and distress of watching you suffer when things have become hopeless.

    In my own case, not wanting to be a burden has absolutely nothing to do with direct or indirect coercion, or even a fear of it. It’s simply motivated by concern for the psychological wellbeing of those who love and care for me. I know very well from my own sister’s death – tied to a hospital bed and screaming for hours as cancer overwhelmed her – just how traumatic a painful, distressing death can be, not only for the person in pain but everyone else involved.

    It’s strange that opponents are often happy to accept that an essentially selfish motive – wanting to avoid pain – might be a valid reason for assisted dying, but are quick to dismiss an altruistic motive – not wanting to burden others – as unworthy.

    Society recognises altruism as the most noble of human impulses, and the very essence of heroism, whether it’s a soldier or lifeguard or bystander putting their own life at risk to save someone. Nevertheless, it is unusual to hear anyone state publicly that not wanting to be a burden to others is a legitimate reason to access assisted dying.

    Dr Lance O’Sullivan is one exception. RNZ reported in October last year that while “many people who chose euthanasia in overseas jurisdictions included in their motives that they felt they were a burden on their family, the hospital or even the taxpayer”, O’Sullivan “was not concerned” about this. RNZ reported him saying, “I don't think it should be dismissed as an inappropriate component to a decision.”

    Dr Jack Havill, a former intensive care specialist and former president of the End-of-life Choice Society, agrees. He told North & South, “Feelings of being a burden to others are legitimate and common among many people who are dying” – and these feelings are “simply a part of their unbearable suffering”.

    In short, if we accept that unbearable suffering is a good reason for assisted dying, we have to admit that fearing being a burden on others is an integral part of that suffering.

    “Of course,” Havill adds, “just because a person feels they are a burden to others does not make them eligible for assisted dying under the End of Life Choice Bill. The patient has to be terminal or have irreversible, untreatable suffering and be in an advanced state of decline. But no one can say that the feeling of being a burden to others is not part of their suffering.”

    Auckland Anglican Bishop Jim White also supports the notion that not wanting to be a burden is a valid reason. In his 2016 submission to the Health select committee, he wrote, “It is also noteworthy in the assisted dying debate that people may choose to die for the good of others (as adjudged by themselves). While we want to be certain that there has been no coercion in this decision, it can be a legitimate reason…”

    It is entirely pertinent that a bishop should make that point; Christianity centres on the sacrifice of one man dying on a cross in order to save the rest of humanity from the burden of sin. Self-sacrifice lies at the very heart of our Christian heritage. As St John wrote in his gospel: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

    This was published in the May 2018 issue of North & South.


  • 27 Apr 2018 9:20 AM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

    by Graham Adams

    Published: April 26, 2018 1:33PM 
    Source: Gisborne Herald

    COLUMN

    On April 18, The Gisborne Herald reported that East Coast MP Anne Tolley was seeking feedback from the public on assisted dying because, she said, she has always represented her voters’ opinions in conscience votes, even if it meant going against her own beliefs.

    This seems a laudable and democratic approach, although the fact that she reckons the electorate remains evenly split over the End of Life Choice Bill is disturbing.

    It has raised eyebrows because polls over 20 years have shown a clear majority in favour of assisted dying. Why, you might wonder, would the East Coast electorate be so markedly different from poll results produced over decades?

    Among the more recent, a Newshub poll in February showed 71 percent supported the End of Life Choice Bill, with 19.5 percent against and 9.5 percent unsure.

    A Horizon poll conducted last June put support for assisted dying for those suffering from end-stage terminal illness at 75 percent, with only 11 percent opposed.

    Support was also very strong for medical assistance to die for people with irreversible conditions, such as motor neurone disease, which may not cause death in the immediate future, with 66 percent in favour and 15 percent opposed or strongly opposed.

    It would seem very odd if East Coast voters’ preferences differed substantially from consistent, long-term polling.

    It certainly can’t be ascribed to the fact her electorate is represented by a National Party MP elected with a healthy majority. The Horizon poll showed that National voters, at 83 percent in favour, were a higher proportion than any other party.

    It seems most likely that Tolley’s assessment of an even split is based on the feedback she is receiving. Unfortunately, this is often highly inaccurate, not least because those opposed tend to be noisier than supporters (for various reasons, including religious motivation).

    Certainly that is what former North Shore MP Wayne Mapp found when he tried to gauge his electorate’s opinion before the 2003 vote on Peter Brown’s Death with Dignity Bill, which was narrowly defeated at its first reading.

    In comments on a Kiwiblog post in June 2017, after the End of Life Choice Bill had been drawn from the ballot, Mapp recounted: “When this issue last came up (in 2003), I voted in accordance with the views of the electorate as expressed by the hundreds of letters and emails with a North Shore source that came into the office. They were 70 percent opposed.

    “A few months later (after the parliamentary vote), I did a proper scientific opinion poll of the electorate. The result was the reverse, with 70 percent in favour.”

    Mapp said he conducted the survey because he twigged that the initial wave of letters and emails represented a campaign by a minority of opponents (including from religious organisations) and suspected they didn’t represent the majority’s wishes, as he discovered was the case.

    He never had the chance to vote for another bill to reform the assisted dying law because none was presented before he left Parliament in 2011.

    Hopefully, Anne Tolley will become aware of the folly of basing her vote on the number of emails and letters she receives and take notice of the fact that polls show those opposed are reliably less than 20 percent.

    If she wants to know what her electorate thinks on assisted dying, she really needs to conduct a scientific poll of her own, or to uncover the reasons her electorate is not split along the same lines as the rest of the country.


  • 26 Apr 2018 9:02 PM | Anonymous
    by Graham Adams
    Published: April 26, 2018 1:33PM
    in The Gisborne Herald

    COLUMN

    On April 18, The Gisborne Herald reported that East Coast MP Anne Tolley was seeking feedback from the public on assisted dying because, she said, she has always represented her voters’ opinions in conscience votes, even if it meant going against her own beliefs.

    This seems a laudable and democratic approach, although the fact that she reckons the electorate remains evenly split over the End of Life Choice Bill is disturbing.

    It has raised eyebrows because polls over 20 years have shown a clear majority in favour of assisted dying. Why, you might wonder, would the East Coast electorate be so markedly different from poll results produced over decades?

    Among the more recent, a Newshub poll in February showed 71 percent supported the End of Life Choice Bill, with 19.5 percent against and 9.5 percent unsure.

    A Horizon poll conducted last June put support for assisted dying for those suffering from end-stage terminal illness at 75 percent, with only 11 percent opposed.

    Support was also very strong for medical assistance to die for people with irreversible conditions, such as motor neurone disease, which may not cause death in the immediate future, with 66 percent in favour and 15 percent opposed or strongly opposed.

    It would seem very odd if East Coast voters’ preferences differed substantially from consistent, long-term polling.

    It certainly can’t be ascribed to the fact her electorate is represented by a National Party MP elected with a healthy majority. The Horizon poll showed that National voters, at 83 percent in favour, were a higher proportion than any other party.

    It seems most likely that Tolley’s assessment of an even split is based on the feedback she is receiving. Unfortunately, this is often highly inaccurate, not least because those opposed tend to be noisier than supporters (for various reasons, including religious motivation).

    Certainly that is what former North Shore MP Wayne Mapp found when he tried to gauge his electorate’s opinion before the 2003 vote on Peter Brown’s Death with Dignity Bill, which was narrowly defeated at its first reading.

    In comments on a Kiwiblog post in June 2017, after the End of Life Choice Bill had been drawn from the ballot, Mapp recounted: “When this issue last came up (in 2003), I voted in accordance with the views of the electorate as expressed by the hundreds of letters and emails with a North Shore source that came into the office. They were 70 percent opposed.

    “A few months later (after the parliamentary vote), I did a proper scientific opinion poll of the electorate. The result was the reverse, with 70 percent in favour.”

    Mapp said he conducted the survey because he twigged that the initial wave of letters and emails represented a campaign by a minority of opponents (including from religious organisations) and suspected they didn’t represent the majority’s wishes, as he discovered was the case.

    He never had the chance to vote for another bill to reform the assisted dying law because none was presented before he left Parliament in 2011.

    Hopefully, Anne Tolley will become aware of the folly of basing her vote on the number of emails and letters she receives and take notice of the fact that polls show those opposed are reliably less than 20 percent.

    If she wants to know what her electorate thinks on assisted dying, she really needs to conduct a scientific poll of her own, or to uncover the reasons her electorate is not split along the same lines as the rest of the country.

© End-Of-Life Choice • PO Box 321, Gisborne 4040 • Email: office@eolc.org.nz




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