The group which represents the 35 hospices in New Zealand says a new bill could require it to host physician-assisted deaths even if it philosophically opposes them.

Hospice New Zealand says it strongly opposes David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill, which sets out a process by which people suffering a terminal illness or enduring “unbearable suffering” can apply to their doctor to die using a fatal medication.

It questions a clause in the Bill which allows a medical practitioner to have a conscientious objection to carrying out a death but then sets up a body which administers the law and which would provide a second medical practitioner.

Hospice NZ says that seems to prevent it from having a policy of not providing physician-assisted suicide. Even if its staff objected to assisted deaths then a patient could ask the administering body, the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand, for other practitioners.

“Could physician-assisted suicide take place in a hospice inpatient unit – provided by a SCENZ member if as an organisation we are unable to conscientiously object?”

The submission is one of a record 35,000 submissions made on the Bill, which are being slowly made public by Parliament’s Justice Select Committee.

“As euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are against the ethos of palliative care, we believe this will have a detrimental impact on the workforce.”

Hospice NZ said it believes that death is a natural part of life and that funds should be put into better palliative care at the end of people’s lives.

It said it is concerned about the psychological impact on staff of having to manage requests for assisted deaths and the requirement to refer a patient to the SCENZ body for another practitioner.

“As euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are against the ethos of palliative care, we believe this will have a detrimental impact on the workforce.

“There is also potential impact on all hospice staff, volunteers and other patients and family members if someone under hospice care has a request confirmed and the assisted suicide is carried out.”

It suggests that the same issue could arise in hospitals and residential care facilities.

The Selwyn Foundation which runs retirement villages like Selwyn Village in Pt Chevalier, Auckland has raised similar issues.

The Foundation asks whether the bill envisages “PAS (physician-assisted suicide) could take place in public hospitals, residential care organisations or hospices?”

“Residential care homes are ‘home’ for many older New Zealanders,” it says in a submission.

“The potential impact on staff and other residents must be thoroughly and fully considered and deliberated.”

Newsroom is analysing the submissions as they are released onto the Justice Select Committee website.  Earlier articles in this series:

End of Life Choice Bill: what does it say?

Euthanasia views splinter over dementia

Allow people a choice over their manner of dying

Euthanasia bill should not go ahead: law firm

Assisted dying’s risk of coercion

What to call ending your life?

Assisted dying divides Anglican bishops

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