Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand and Hospice NZ have welcomed the country’s biggest ever inquiry into assisted dying not recommending legislative changes.

This week the Health Select Committee’s report was released – following a  two-year inquiry into assisted dying  – and opted not to make any formal recommendations but instead provided a summary of the arguments for and against presented by the more than 21,000 submitters. (see related story here)

Jane Rollings, chair of Palliative Care Nurses New Zealand (PCNNZ), said it acknowledged everyone was entitled to their personal opinion but PCNNZ believed that nurses and doctors should not be involved in euthanasia.

“Our strong message to law makers and the politicians is ‘Leave us right out of it”,” said Rollings. “Euthanasia and assisted suicide does not belong in our profession and opposes the fundamental ethical principles of palliative care nursing and our philosophy to neither hasten nor postpone death.”

She said that the debate around euthanasia and assisted suicide remained a “hugely complex and emotive issue and raises many ethical and moral challenges for NZ society”.

Rollings said its members had extensive experience and knowledge caring for people with life-limiting illness and were committed to supporting all individuals to achieve the best possible quality of life when curative treatment was no longer an option.  She added it feared for the vulnerable population should euthanasia be legalised.

The Committee report commended the service given by palliative care providers and hospices but also noted access to it was unequal across the country.  “We urge the Government to consider ways in which it can better communicate the excellent services that palliative carers provide, address the unequal access, consider how palliative care is funded, and address the workforce shortages.”

Mary Schumaker, chief executive of Hospice NZ said it supported the committee’s comments about raising awareness of palliative care and addressing equity of access and funding across hospital, residential aged care, community services and hospice.

“We are aware that not all people are aware of or access palliative care services and therefore may not get the support they need at the end of their lives which has been confirmed by the Committee’s report.”

The Committee report concluded that the issue was “clearly very complicated, very divisive, and extremely contentious” and encouraged people to read the report in full and draw their own conclusions based on the evidence presented in it.

The full Health Committee report into the inquiry triggered by Maryan Street’s petition can be read here

1 COMMENT

  1. This just makes me incredibly sad. I have no doubt that the palliative care workers do a fab job, and that their services may be under-utilised and be lacking in rural areas (aren’t all health services?), but there seems to be an assumption that, given the choice, everyone would choose palliation over assisted dying. This is nothing short of condescending. The fact is: more than 50% of New Zealanders would like the choice, according to polls taken in recent times, and it is not the health professionals place to decide what services are available to consenting adults. If the palliative care services are not willing to be involved (and fair enough – no one should be made to work in an area that they do not wish to), then an assisted dying service needs to be set up. Sadly though, it seems New Zealand doesn’t have the courage yet.

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