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Euthanasia laws tell terminally ill and disabled people their suicide is OK

Laws send messages, intended and unintended.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia laws send the message that some people’s suicides, rather than being tragedies, are understandable and even to be supported and encouraged.

If you are terminally ill or disabled and you would tell a medical professional that you want to end your life, a process may be set in motion that can end with either a lethal prescription or a lethal injection. If a healthy or able-bodied person would say the same thing to a medical professional, a different process would be set in motion – one that doesn’t end with lethal drugs, but with counselling, care and support to live.

In their submission on the End of Life Choice Bill, disability advocacy group Not Dead Yet Aotearoa stated that they are worried that New Zealand’s efforts at preventing suicide would be contradicted and undermined by the legalisation of assisted suicide or euthanasia. The End of Life Choice Bill, they wrote, “creates a double standard whereby some New Zealanders are the focus of suicide prevention while others have access to active assistance to suicide.”

The Scottish Parliament has also reported concerns that an assisted suicide law would create a double standard in their country’s suicide prevention strategy. In 2015, when they were considering a Bill to legalise assisted suicide, they wrote:

[Legislation to permit assisted suicide] has the potential not only to undermine the general suicide prevention message by softening cultural perceptions of suicide at the perimeters, but also to communicate an offensive message to certain members of our community (many of whom may be particularly vulnerable) that society would regard it as ‘reasonable’, rather than tragic, if they wished to end their lives.

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Sources: Submission of Not Dead Yet Aotearoa to the Justice Committee of the New Zealand Parliament (5 March 2018); Health and Sport Committee, Scottish Parliament, 6th Report, 2015 (Session 4): Stage 1 Report on Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill (2015). Illustration by Amy Hasbrouck, Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet.

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