Title: Comment: Alive and kicking Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 3rd April 2007 - 12:00pm1175558400 Article: 1661 Rights
Over the last two months, the euthanasia debate has heated up in both Australia and New Zealand. Here, Philip Nitschke provoked criticism from more moderate pro-mercy activist Lesley Martin over the firebrand Australian doctor's offer to assist terminally ill New Zealanders to get their hands on imported Nembutal for the purpose of assisted suicide. Lesley Martin has also been struck off as a nurse in the High Court, and Otago University has denied her a venue on a forthcoming visit to Dunedin. Some view the latter's actions as tantamount to academic censorship of one side of a controversial issue in bioethics. Last month, the pro-mercy lobby group Dignity New Zealandmet in Palmerston North. Meanwhile, across the pond, Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification has similarly acted against free speech after the New South Wales Right to Life Association (a Christian Right anti-euthanasia/anti-abortion group) lobbied to have Nitschke's latest book, The Peaceful Pill (2007) banned in his country. Nitschke is also in trouble after Exit's elderly terminally ill New South Wales co-ordinator assisted a female friend to end her terminally ill partner's life. Bear in mind too that at the federal level, Australia has an abhorrent piece of censorship legislation entitled the Suicide Related Materials Offence Act within its federal Criminal Code. In Australia, pro-mercy activists are prevented from even holding workshops to discuss the issue, and Nitschke has questioned why it was neccessary to handcuff the two elderly women at the centre of the latest controversy. In retaliation, he has now made The Peaceful Pill available for download from his own (offshore) website. Sooner or later,our Christian Right will have to make a strategic decision whether or not to commit time and resources to the cause of fighting voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. If they continue to defer those preparations, they'll face the usual dog's breakfast the next time that Peter Brown gets to introduce the Death With Dignity Bill to Parliament. This may cause more tension within New Zealand First. As do Brian Donnelly and Doug Woolerton over Section 59 Repeal, Brown is firmly on the side of reform when it comes to death with dignity, having watched someone he loved die from a prolonged terminal illness. Unfortunately, current NZF Party President Dail Jones is a loudmouth militant fundamentalist, unless Winston Peters puts his foot down and sacks his troublesome organisational head. As well as this, there are divisions within the Christian Right to consider.The Catholic Rightists will growl at their fundamentalist counterparts, arguing thatthey went out on a limb over opposing Section 59 Repeal, particularly given mounting anger over that folly from Catholics in the child health and welfare services. I'm told reprisals may be brewing from that quarter. Along the other Christian Right faultline, the Maxim Institute will probably grit its teeth at its Old Guard counterparts and try to drag them into the early twenty first century. Let me make it easier for the little dears, and offer the above the following Faustian bargain: If they don't significantly oppose inclusive adoption reform when it comes, then they will have more resources and people to commit against the perceptible 'threat' mounted to their anti-euthanasia beliefs from Dignity, EXIT International and the VES. It's as simple as that. Of course, precisely because it's a pragmatic common-sense decision, the Old Guard will screech and whine at it, but they do need to recognise that once adoption reform is achieved, we'll exit the political stage except over HIV/AIDS related issues, and eventual passage of same-sex marriage laws. However, on the former, I suspect that we have no argument with some of them over the need for more stringent anti-meth laws and regulations at all, and as for the latter, we can wait until public opinion shifts accordingly to permit it. After all, with the Relationships Act and its progeny, we already have relationship law equivalence within our civil unions. It is debatable whether euthanasia or assisted suicide has any direct relevance to LGBT communities. Given the effectiveness of protease inhibitors, PLWAs have faced struggles for continued access to palliative care medication, much as lesbian and other breast cancer survivors do over Herceptin. At the moment, palliative care rights are more important to them (and us)than supporting the other side of the issue of palliative choice, the right to die with dignity. No PLWA or cancer survivors group has voiced that demand within New Zealand, although it is possible that this might occur at some stage in the future. And unlike Section 59 Repeal, decriminalisation of voluntary euthanasia/physician assisted suicide seems to have mass support... Craig Young - 3rd April 2007    
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