WelCom October 2020
Many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most prominent religious leaders signed an open letter to voters on September 21, urging caution at the harm the End of Life Choice Act will cause. Their letter was published as an advertisement in The Herald on Sunday.
The 37 signatories, including New Zealand Catholic Bishops, say New Zealanders need to be aware of the considerable harm the End of Life Choice Act could do and urge them to vote ‘No’ in the binding referendum at this month’s general election.
Their primary concern is about protecting the most vulnerable and the possible unintended consequences of the Act. They also discuss the lack of safeguards, including not needing to tell a family member, and concerns about the stand-down period.
‘We, the undersigned religious leaders, speak out of our extensive experience of caring for the dying. We know the effectiveness of compassionate end of life palliative care – care that is able to address not just the physical suffering of people who are dying, but also their emotional, spiritual and psychological suffering, as well as that of whānau and friends.
‘The referendum question is not about the desirability of some form of ‘assisted dying’. Rather, we are being asked to vote on a specific piece of legislation – the End of Life Choice Act. The key consideration for all of us is the robustness and safety of this Act. Our concerns are about the lack of safeguards in the Act and the dangers it would present.
‘Our opposition to this Act reflects our compassion for those who will experience a wrongful premature death because of the dangers of this Act; in particular those who will feel coerced into an early death, whether because of their own feelings of being a burden or because of overt pressure from others.’
The leaders note in their letter: ‘Even those who favour some form of assisted death have many reasons to Vote NO to this Act. We are simply adding our concerns about how the Act will operate in practice to the expressed concerns of many other New Zealanders.’
The religious leaders’ letter is on the Catholic Bishops’ website at: www.catholic.org.nz/assets/Uploads/0024-Open-Letter-Sept-20-PressPDF4.0.pdf