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Is the End of Life Choice Bill a colonial imposition?

The End of Life Choice Bill proposes that death and dying are private, individual affairs.

But how does that work when the individual exists not for himself or herself, but as an essential part of a whānau or wider family?

Māori health protocols dictate that patients be seen not as individuals but as whānau members. When one member gets sick, health professionals should work with the whole whānau – not only that individual.

For many Māori, dying is a communal and spiritual affair. Whānau are intricately involved in the care of the dying member, and it is a stage of life that the whānau goes through together, involving a range of tikanga Māori, including rongoā, mirimiri, and karakia. Hospice and palliative care specialists are becoming increasingly aware of and incorporating whānau and tikanga Māori into their care provisions for the dying.

The End of Life Choice Bill is largely deaf to Māori conceptions of people and death as well as tikanga Māori. In enabling patients to make a request for euthanasia without consulting with family, it neglects to acknowledge the importance of Māori as whānau members.

There is also a concern amongst some Māori that marae may refuse to host tangi or funerals for people who die by euthanasia or assisted suicide because they will have effectively committed suicide.

Sources: T Moeke-Maxwell, L W Nikora, N Te Awekotuku, “End-of-life care and Māori whanau resilience,” in Mai Journal (2014) 3(2): 140-152; E J Taylor & S Simmonds, “Māori perspectives on hospice care,” in Diversity and Equality in Health and Care (February 2014) 11(1): 61-70; J Boyle, Interview with Ria Earp, “Māori death practices positively influencing wider society,” in The Death Series, by HealthCentral.nz: Exploring death and dying in New Zealand (14 June 2018); C Fraser, “Marae protocol may change if euthanasia legalised,” in Newshub (16 January 2018).

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