Hear from a Vet
I am writing this submission as I DO NOT want assisted suicide to be legalised.
I am a veterinarian and deal with death and euthanasia regularly. To me putting an animal down that is terminally ill, dangerous or in pain is totally different to assisted suicide. The difference, although quite obvious, is that humans and animals are not the same. Animals live by the law of the big and strong dominating and living off the poorer or weaker animals. This is demonstrated time and again in the animal kingdom with the predator animals eating prey animals or those that are smaller or weaker than themselves. The predators will often pick out the weak or sick animals or the young and vulnerable animals to kill and eat. Humans on the other hand are totally different to animals; we (or I would hope that we would) look after the young, sick, weak and old. We take care of those that cannot take care of themselves, we show compassion, selflessness and ultimately love for one another, even to people that we may have never met. This demonstrates that we are different to animals.
Therefore when we come to the subject of euthanasia I find it rather incredulous that people can equate putting an old or sick dog down with the euthanasia of say their grandmother. They are giving the life of their grandmother the same value as that of their dog. They are also equating standard veterinary care of an animal with that of [a] human being. Although veterinary care has many similarities to that of human health care, the fact that veterinary care is funded by the owners of the pets means that the standard of care affordable and or available for an animal is nowhere near what is available to a human. The palliative and hospital care available in [the] human health care system is able to, in almost all situations, relieve pain and suffering in patients. For the very small percentage (1-4%) of patients that pain and suffering cannot be relieved, then there is the option to sedate patients to prevent suffering.
New Zealand is a beautiful place to live both for its natural landscape and for the way of life that we enjoy. This way of life has been bought about by people abiding by a set of rules or laws. Some of these rules have been passed into law such as not stealing or not operating a motor vehicle on a public road while intoxicated, while others are not written into law such as you don’t tell lies, or you help old ladies cross the road. These rules and laws shape our society and create an expectation for how we are to live and relate to one another. Societies that lack such rules are places of anarchy and chaos, with people’s desires and feelings ruling their actions. This can be seen in the history of many different people groups including the Maori prior to European settlement where utu or revenge overruled the value of life.
One of the rules that governs New Zealand society, and a fairly important one at that, is that we do not take a human life. To take your own life is called suicide and to take someone else’s life is called murder. These are two actions that are not permitted as human life is seen as a gift or a mystery that once lost cannot be regained and therefore is the most valuable thing anyone can possesses.
If we are to allow assisted suicide (or murder depending on the method) then we remove the value of a human life from our society. This would be a mistake. How can we ask our teenagers who are depressed not to take their own life (teen suicide being a major problem in New Zealand) when on the other hand we are allowing others to commit suicide. This will send a very mixed message to our young, and older, people who are struggling with the issue. Those that advocate for assisted suicide must be either blind to this issue or are just too selfish to acknowledge it.
The third and probably most important point I have to make on the issue is that assisted suicide has tremendous opportunity for abuse by all sorts of people in and around the old, sick, physiologically and physiologically incapacitated. This has been demonstrated in countries which have adopted similar laws, such as Belgium, and therefore should stand as a warning against the passing of this bill.
Clearly there is a push from within the media and lobbying groups to paint assisted suicide as a viable method of relieving pain and suffering. However I would ask you to look past the perceived benefits of this bill and consider the negative change this legislation will bring to our society. I would ask you to recognise the difference between the euthanasia of sick and old animals and that of your parent, child or sibling. Consider how assisted suicide will affect those who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts and how this legislation will affect the most vulnerable in our society.