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Breakfast TVNZ: Euthanasia bill 'goes against the ethics of our profession' – Medical Association chair says

Hayley Holt interviews Dr Kate Babbock.

Newly proposed amendments to the End of Life Choice Bill, which is set to have its Second Reading in Parliament, have been strongly rejected by the New Zealand Medical Association, with its chair saying it "goes against the ethics of our profession".

Dr Kate Baddock told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning under the new Bill doctors would still be the ones administering the injection for those choosing to end their life through voluntary euthanasia.

"Doctors are still the ones that would be involved in assisting people to die. It goes against what a doctor’s role is," Dr Baddock says.

She says the reason the Medical Association is opposed to the Bill in its entirety is that it doesn't address the social issues it needs to.

"Particularly those of coercion, competence and vulnerability. It doesn't protect the vulnerable, the weak, the lonely, those in pain and those that are suffering. It doesn't protect them from a wrongful death."

She says elder abuse is happening and this Bill only encourages it.

"Apparently approximately 50 per cent of those who choose euthanasia in the Netherlands do so because they feel obligated to die. They feel their continued existence is a burden either financial or emotional to their families and to society at large. They choose euthanasia even though they don't want to die," Dr Baddock says.


Read Hayley Holt’s full interview with Dr Kate Baddock below.

Hayley Holt: There is concern from the medical industry over the prospect of euthanasia cases going through the family court. Newly proposed amendments to the End of Life Choice Bill, which is set to have its Second Reading in Parliament, have been flat-out rejected by the New Zealand Medical Association. Joining us from Wellington to discuss why, is the Association’s chair, Kate Baddock. Good morning Kate.

Dr Kate Baddock: Good morning.

Hayley Holt: First though I guess should ask you, “Why?”

Dr Kate Baddock: Why? Because it doesn’t…Why doesn’t the supplementary paper change the NZMA’s position?

Hayley Holt: Why are you opposed to it?

Dr Kate Baddock: There are several reasons. I think the first one probably would be that doctors would still be administering the injection. Doctors are still the ones who would be involved in assisting the person to die.

Hayley Holt: And that is a problem because that sort of goes against what a doctor’s purpose is. Is that right?

Dr Kate Baddock: Yes. I mean the Geneva Convention, the Declaration of Geneva which we all swear by – a couple of the statements are that we have the utmost respect for human life. The person’s health and wellbeing will be our first consideration. So, it does; it goes against the ethics of our profession.

Hayley Holt: So does that mean you oppose this Bill in its entirety?

Dr Kate Baddock: Correct.

Hayley Holt: So what are you going to do? Are you going to be making submissions?

Dr Kate Baddock: We have done. [After] the First Reading when the submissions were first asked for we presented then to the Select Committee. And there was a discussion in Parliament last night that we were present for. And depending upon what happens in the conscience vote tonight, if it gets to it – then, you know, yes, we’ll be involved again. The thing is that, the reason that we’re opposed to the Bill in its entirety is that it doesn’t address the social issues particularly those of coercion, competence and vulnerability. It doesn’t protect the vulnerable, the weak, the lonely, those in pain, those in suffering. It doesn’t protect them from a wrongful death. And we don’t believe that any legislation could be crafted that would provide that surety.

Hayley Holt: What happens in countries that do have a euthanasia law, that it’s legal? Do doctors do this work?

Dr Kate Baddock: So in some, yes, in some, no. So in Switzerland, no, the medical profession is not involved at all. In The Netherlands and Belgium they are. But there was an interesting article that came out of those countries a few years ago that suggested that doctors who were involved couldn’t keep doing it. That it caused such a conflict for them, psychologically, emotionally, that they either burned out, had to leave medicine, or leave the country. That they couldn’t continue to do it because it just so goes against the ethics of our profession.

Hayley Holt: Let’s think hypothetically. Would you support euthanasia legislation that left doctors out? So we have the family court deciding, and then maybe the family can administer the injection.

Dr Kate Baddock: If society were to have a law on euthanasia, that would be the preference. But such a law doesn’t still recognise or safeguard those who are vulnerable, those who are perhaps being subtly coerced, or those who are where the definition of competence is difficult to determine.

Hayley Holt: There are some people out there who would think that, how could you coerce a loved one? A loved one is never a burden. So they wouldn’t understand what you mean by this. But can you just highlight how sometimes family members are coerced and are esteemed a burden.

Dr Kate Baddock: Okay, so first of all there is an obvious group of those who are subject to elder abuse, which is happening. So all those who currently are subject to elder abuse, of course they are one of these groups we are talking about. But as well as that – apparently approximately 50% of those who choose euthanasia in The Netherlands do so because they feel obligated to die. They feel that their continued existence is a burden, either financial or emotional, to their family, to society at large. And so they choose euthanasia, even though they don’t want to die.

Hayley Holt: That is very, very sad. Thank you so much for your time this morning, Kate Baddock, the New Zealand Medical Association Chair.

Dr Kate Baddock: You’re welcome.

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