This article appeared yesterday in the New Zealand Timaru Herald.
Roger Gilbride is working with euthanasiadebate.org.nz and is currently touring New Zealand speaking to individuals and groups about the dangers of euthanasia & assisted suicide.
NZ MP, Maryan Street's euthanasia bill is in the parliamentary ballot and awaits the possibility of being drawn out for debate.
Warning of suicide, elder abuse
Legalising euthanasia would make a mockery of existing suicide prevention programmes, according to an anti-euthanasia activist.
Euthanasia Debate New Zealand executive officer Roger Gilbride said that once assisted suicide was normalised those struggling with suicidal tendencies were more likely to follow that path.
Mr Gilbride is touring the country for two weeks to share the latest research and information on the controversial issue.
He held a meeting in Timaru at the Sacred Heart Community Centre yesterday. Figures from the United States for 1999 to 2010 showed that since assisted suicide had been legalised in the state of Oregon, general suicides nationally had increased 28 per cent and in Oregon 49 per cent, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr Gilbride said.
In New Zealand, the 2003 Death With Dignity Bill was defeated on its first vote but the resurrected End of Life Choice Bill could be drawn from the ballot at any time, and Mr Gilbride wants Kiwis to be informed before that occurs.
The bill covers those over 18 who have unbearable physical or psychological suffering or are likely to die naturally within 12 months. "But that is problematic," Mr Gilbride said, "as it is difficult to predict if someone will die within that time period."
He said many people did not realise euthanasia was the direct intentional ending of someone's life through a lethal injection or drug overdose. Medication to ease pain could shorten life and this was already practised but the ending of that life was a secondary effect, not the main intention, Mr Gilbride said.
Safeguards surrounding euthanasia in countries where it was legal, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, were often circumvented, he said.
Research published in the Canadian Medical Association journal in 2010 showed 32 per cent of euthanasia deaths in Flanders, Belgium, were performed without a patient's request, he said.
"Safeguards are extremely difficult to police." Sometimes the family would be swayed by a medical professional to go ahead with the death because they trusted their authority, Mr Gilbride said.
The fear was that if New Zealand legalised euthanasia, elder abuse would increase as the vulnerable and sick who felt they were a burden or unwanted would be pressured to end their lives early, Mr Gilbride said.