Milan Caird: Why Euthanasia matters to New Zealand

Imagine yourself bound to a bed.

Imagine having an IV line attached to your arm 24/7.

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 significant factor in the 2017 general election, especially with David Seymour’s proposed bill on assisted death drawn out of the ballot box earlier this year. It is a choice determined by personal morals and beliefs. But for many, it is impossible to divide euthanasia and suicide, therein leading to a pathway compounded by confusion and hate.

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

Euthanasia comes from the Greek word, essentially ‘easy death’. It was used in ancient 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, and condemned the practice as inhumane. So the real question should be about the ethical nature of euthanasia, right?

Fast 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 is strange that Jacinda appears 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 isolate directly the approach society holds between Euthanasia and Suicide, effectively making them the same thing. Many in the community have expressed outrage towards the belief held by O’Connor, and those so naive to think it. However, despite having similar elements, both are indeed very different.

The crucial 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 on without pain, 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 first without it.

Suicide is generally caused by strong feelings of depression and anxiety. While it cannot be fixed overnight, with the right help, mental health 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, unlike a person suffering from depression.

It is important to separate Suicide and Euthanasia in modern media coverage. While on face value, they might look to be similar acts, there are different reasons for both, and both have different pathways.

If, God forbid, somebody is diagnosed with a terminal illness, then shouldn’t we be aiming to let them leave with dignity and remember their life for what it was?

That’s where Euthanasia comes in.