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New Zealand Allows Euthanasia for COVID-19 Patients; Pays Doctors $1,000 Per Euthanasia Death


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An anti-euthanasia group in New Zealand called DefendNZ sent an Official Information Act request last month asking the government to clarify a new euthanasia bill called the End of Life Choice Act.

The group wanted the New Zealand government to clarify how the law relates to severely hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

DefendNZ asked:

“Could a patient who is severely hospitalized with Covid-19 potentially be eligible for assisted suicide or euthanasia under the Act if a health practitioner viewed their prognosis as less than 6 months?”

The Ministry of Health confirmed on December 7th that, “In some circumstances a person with COVID-19 may be eligible for assisted dying.”

Catholic Herald wrote:

The Ministry of Health confirmed that a right to a lethal injection under a new euthanasia law could extend to patients who were either dying from the coronavirus or suffering unbearably from its consequences.

In response to a request for clarity on a euthanasia law which came into force last month, the government declared that “in some circumstances a person with COVID-19 may be eligible for assisted dying”.

The admission that COVID patients were eligible for a lethal jab came after Henoch Kloosterboer, editor of the anti-euthanasia The Defender website, made a request under the Official Information Act – the New Zealand equivalent to the 2000 Freedom of Information Act.

He said the policy left “the door wide open for abuse” of elderly and vulnerable patients – especially if the country’s health service came under pressure from a COVID surge.

He said: “It would not be hard to envisage a situation in which a speedy and sizeable rise in COVID-19 hospitalisations could result in pressure to utilise euthanasia and assisted suicide as tools to resolve such a serious crisis.”

The euthanasia law, he added, “has now made the COVID-19 pandemic potentially even more dangerous for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand”.

The End of Life Choice Act 2019 is considered to be one of the world’s most extreme euthanasia laws with easily circumventable safeguards.

According to the End of Life Choice Act 2019:

The Act defines assisted dying as when a person with a terminal illness (and who meets the eligibility criteria) requests medication to relieve their suffering and end their life.

Under the Act ‘assisted dying’ involves:

  • a person’s medical practitioner1 (doctor) or nurse practitioner2 giving them medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death; or
  • the taking of medication by the person to relieve their suffering by bringing on death.

The law grants eligibility for euthanasia and assisted suicide to adult citizens and permanent residents suffering from a terminal illness that would potentially end their life within 6 months. It also grants eligibility for those in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability and experiencing unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable.

Participating doctors receive a government fee of $1,000 for every euthanasia death they perform. That gives medical practitioners a financial incentive to perform euthanasia on COVID-19 patients instead of giving them censored treatments that show effectiveness.

Thus far, 96 of New Zealand’s 16,000 doctors have agreed to participate with the practice.

Stuff noted:

The Ministry of Health must be informed of anyone who undergoes assisted dying, with a special review committee keeping track.

An official notice has been gazetted setting out a price schedule for the practice, including what medical practitioners will be paid by the Government for performing the procedure – $1087.20.

Other fees can be paid to those involved in assisted dying services, including psychiatrists who can be called upon to declare that the person requesting assisted dying is of sound mind and is not being pressured to do so.

Travelling costs are also included and are likely to be needed – a February survey suggested only about a third of medical practitioners were planning on offering assisted dying services.

Health Minister Andrew Little announced the membership of the committee who will review reports of those undergoing assisted dying: Dr Dana Wensley, a medical ethicist, Brenda Close, a health practitioner, and Dr Jane Greville, a medical practitioner practising end-of-life-care.

With the milder omicron variant becoming the dominant strain, it’s preposterous to consider COVID-19 a disease that causes terminal illness within 6 months, as long as patients have access to the proper treatments.

COVID-19 has a survival rate of 99.9% for most age demographics, with the exception of elderly and those suffering from severe co-morbidities.

It’s extremely suspicious that the New Zealand government would financially incentivize doctors to perform assisted suicide for COVID-19 patients.

In 2017, the American College of Physicians condemned the practice by stating:

On the basis of substantive ethics, clinical practice, policy, and other concerns, the ACP does not support legalization of physician-assisted suicide. This practice is problematic given the nature of the patient–physician relationship, affects trust in that relationship as well as in the profession, and fundamentally alters the medical profession’s role in society.

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Furthermore, the principles at stake in this debate also underlie medicine’s responsibilities on other issues and the physician’s duty to provide care based on clinical judgment, evidence, and ethics. Control over the manner and timing of a person’s death has not been and should not be a goal of medicine. However, through high-quality care, effective communication, compassionate support, and the right resources, physicians can help patients control many aspects of how they live out life’s last chapter.

Similarly, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a UK professor of palliative medicine, said the New Zealand euthanasia law contradicted the fundamental purpose of medicine and health services to heal the sick.

She told the Catholic Herald:

“It is bizarre that a country which has been trying to protect it citizens by closing down completely from a virus from which people can fully recover … is now suggesting that these patients should be killed by their doctors.

“It turns the ethos of medicine on its head,” she said.

“You really cannot predict death 100 per cent,” she added. “So why not support them while they are dying and leave the door open in case they are in the group that defies all odds and recovers completely?”



 

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