Milan Caird: Why Euthanasia matters to New Zealand

Imagine yourself bound to your bed. Imagine having an IV line attached to your arm constantly. Imagine pushing the ball over and over and over again, hoping for just one more drip of morphine. Imagine having 6 months to live. Imagine being in uncontrollable, unrestricted, unbelievable pain every second of those 6 months.

Imagine wanting for it all to end. Imagine being told that you couldn’t because euthanasia is a criminal offence in this country. In essence, you are told to deal with the pain being dealt to you through something you didn’t ask for.

Euthanasia is going to be a huge factor in this years election, especially with David Seymour’s proposed bill on assisted death being drawn out of the ballot box this year. It is a choice dependant on personal morals and beliefs. But for many people, they cannot split euthanasia and suicide apart within their minds, and this is where the confusion lies.

As a catholic school student, I have been exposed to many opinions on the situation, in fact these opinions have created multiple rhetoric battles with my religious studies teacher. In this argument there are two sides, those for it, and those who call euthanasia and suicide one in the same.

Euthanasia comes from the Greek word… which essentially means ‘easy death’. It was used in Greek times and praised by famous philosophers like Socrates.

Many of his methods are in use today, so why not Euthanasia?

That comes down to the medical figure Hippocrates, who wrote the ethical oath those in the medicine profession abide by, who condemned the practice as inhumane. So really the question should be about the ethical nature of euthanasia, right?

Skip forward a century or 25, back to modern day New Zealand. Recently, National MP Simon O’Connor voiced his opinion on Facebook in reaction to Jacinda Ardern’s showing at the World Suicide Prevention Day Rally outside Parliament.

He said “It’s strange that Jacinda is so concerned about youth suicide but is happy to encourage the suicide of the elderly, disabled, and sick. Perhaps she just values one group more than the others? Just saying”,

O’Connor’s comments show that there is a link that society holds between Euthanasia and Suicide, in effect making them the same thing. Many in the community have expressed outrage to this belief held by O’Connor and those so naive to think it. However, despite having similar elements, both are very different.

The difference is the reason for, and if we can stop, what happens to them.

Euthanasia is a practice used to give a person dying of a terminal illness a ‘death with dignity’. They can pass peacefully, and leave their family in the peace of mind that their death did not hurt them. It is a way of letting people who are going to die soon with pain, die without it.

Suicide is generally caused by depression within the person committing the act. While it cannot be fixed overnight, with the right help, depression can be cured. All it takes is a person willing to facilitate the process and help the hurt along. On the other hand, there is no saving from terminal illness, so the person cannot be helped to health again, like a person suffering from depression.

It is important to separate suicide and euthanasia. While on face value they might look to be similar acts, there are different reasons for both, and both have different pathways. We must help all in our society, and that is giving them the support to lead a good, healthy life.

If, God forbid, somebody is diagnosed with a terminal illness, then shouldn’t we be aiming to let them leave with dignity so we remember their life, and not their painful death?