The following is a list outlining 27 out of the 114 amendments that were rejected from the End Of Life Choice Bill.
Not all SOPs are necessarily desirable. This is s selected list.
(‘SOP’ = Supplementary Order Paper, a.k.a. ‘amendment’, aiming to improve or fix aspects of a proposed piece of legislation, usually connected to specific clauses).
The suggestion of amendments is part of the legislative process for creating new laws. Some will be turned down for good reasons, others might be good in theory but unworkable in practise at least part of the time, or problematic in other ways. The following list are not suggested as fool-proof, but these are the kind of things advocates for a ‘No’ vote suggest would make the ‘End of Life Choice’ Bill a safer euthanasia law and should have been included in the law.
Government Legislation on this Act is available at www.legislation.govt.nz
A fuller list of rejected amendments available as a PDF file here, or downloaded from www.euthanasiadebate.org.nz/ under the ‘useful links’ tab at the bottom of the page, titled ‘All 114 Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) in one document’. These are shown as coloured inserts within the legislation at the relevant locations.
SOP 211 – Creates a requirement for an independent legal witness to be present at the administering of medication, who must make their own record of proceedings and send this record to the registrar.
SOP 217 – Prohibits assisted dying advertisements. People who are terminally ill will be informed of the option of assisted dying. Advertising this option could create pressure for people to do so who do not want it.
SOP 286 – Amends legislation to replace “relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable” with “alleviated by palliative care, after being treated by palliative care”. This is to ensure that those who request assisted dying are those who have no other option, as they have already sought support from palliative care experts and been in a palliative care facility.
SOP 302 – Establishes an independent specialist body, the Independent Panel of Practitioners, that will ensure that requests for assisted dying are not made as a result of coercion or other forms of pressure. This amendment seeks to strike a better balance between choice and coercion in the Bill, ensuring that those who are truly exercising a voluntary choice to request assisted dying are not impeded in that endeavour, while vulnerable New Zealanders, whose choice may have been impacted by pressure, are given the protection they need. There are several paragraphs added to this amendment outlining some of the issue pertaining to elder abuse and forms of coercion that need to be addressed in order to make the EOLC Act safer. SOPs 297, 298 address similar concerns.
SOP 305 – Requires that the person seeking the option of assisted dying must be physically present at the time of the prescribed form being signed (so that they have an opportunity to understand what is happening) and not incompetent (so that they have an opportunity to express that their wish has been revoked).
SOP 308 – Requires a person requesting assisted dying to re-request it no less than one week later. This ensures that a decision is not made recklessly and allows scope for a change of mind coming with possible changes in the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional state.
SOP 314 – Ensures that a person who is contemplating euthanasia is informed of other options available to them under the law, including palliative care, receiving pain relief that may have the incidental effect of shortening life, and the right to refuse medical treatment to sustain or prolong their life.
SOP 320 – Establishes a register for cases of assisted dying or requested assisted dying, where coercion or elder abuse has been found to be a factor. This would help prevent abuse of the ‘End of Life Choice’ Bill.
SOP 321 – Stipulates that vulnerable elderly persons (those eligible for assisted dying who are over 65) must be offered the assistance of an independent support person who has knowledge of the cultural community the individual resides in, particularly towards the role of older people in that community, and who can assist in translation when needed. This should not be too much to ask – this is only the ‘offer’ of a support person. If one is not wanted, it can be easily declined.
SOP 313 – Requires that every person who has expressed their wish to be euthanized be provided greater detail about their available care options, ensuring that they are well and truly fully informed about them. It further requires the medical practitioner to exert all efforts to fully understand the extent of the care needs of the person, and ensure the information provided to the person is not only appropriate but sensitive to the person’s total health needs.
SOP 214 –establishes a minimum annual reporting requirement to the Ministry of Health on the status of assisted dying in New Zealand. This report must. include, but is not limited to, the number of applications made, granted, and declined, demographic data on these applications, the number of medical practitioners participating, and the estimated annual cost of assisted dying.
SOP 333, 334, 335, 336 – regard the SCENZ Group (Support and Consultation for End of Life in NZ). This group will maintain a list of medical practitioners, specialists in mental health, and pharmacists willing to participate in voluntary assisted dying. These amendments relate to secure records, conflicts of interest, and publically accessible information on the group’s procedures regarding potentially/affected persons, and the members’ qualifications and experience.
SOP 340, 314, 342, 343 – Aim to ensure that the Review Committee that oversees the performance of an euthanization has at least one member who is knowledgeable in each of the following: medical ethics, law, palliative care, aged persons, disability issues.
SOP 367 – Amends legislation to make it clear that if a medical practitioner ends or conspires to end a patient’s life without their consent, it is a criminal offense liable to serious punishment. If there are concerns for the medical staff being wrongly accused of such an act, the presence of independent witnesses would protect them. However, the requirement for independent witnesses has not been included in the End of Life Choice Bill.
SOP 378 – Makes all people bound to comply with the regulations of the Bill, rather than medical practitioners only. In the interests of safety and compliance and the avoidance of loopholes, why wouldn’t this be accepted?
SOP 379 – Removes “without lawful excuse” from the legislation concerning the completing, changing or destroying of an approved medical form without the patient’s consent. The effect of this amendment would be to prevent someone from taking liberties on someone’s medical choices for euthanasia, without their consent, and protecting themselves from this by means of a “lawful excuse”.
SOP 381 – Allows for disabled or other vulnerable New Zealanders to receive health services from doctors and nurses who do not engage in assisted dying.
For these things, the ability to make this choice (an important term in this issue) that will make them feel safe while receiving medical treatment. Given some of the stories that have been circulated (such as ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders mysteriously appearing on medical notes), this is not an unreasonable thing to ask.
SOP 384 – Adds a new clause to require that organisations involved in the provision of assisted dying services do so in a manner consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi. The aim of this amendment is to adopt and delver policies and practises to improve the adverse healthcare outcomes disproportionately suffered by Maori and reduce disparities between Maori and other ethnicities.
SOP 396 – Re-names the Act ‘Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Act 2019’ by amending clause 1.
This was probably rejected because of the negative connotations of ‘euthanasia’ and ‘assisted suicide’. ‘End of Life Choice’ is a nice euphemism that is less immediately clear. While the merits of either option likely depend on one’s point of view on the issue, this does show the importance placed on how something is named.