Through the October 2020 General Election referendum the majority of people who voted have indicated their support for the End of Life Choice Act coming into force, making assisted dying legal in New Zealand. This will be a significant change for the whole healthcare sector, not just those providing palliative care.
A core philosophy of hospice is to neither hasten nor postpone death, and this will not change.
The pre-referendum High Court Declaratory Judgement received by Hospice New Zealand, the national organisation representing 33 independently operating hospice services in NZ, ruled that hospices and other healthcare providers such as GP practices, Maori Health Providers and Aged Residential Care facilities are able to take an organisation-wide conscientious objection to involvement with euthanasia. Many, including North Haven Hospice, have decided to take this position.
Hospice NZ says the concerns around a lack of safeguards and pressure on vulnerable people are even more apparent now the Act will come into force.
It is up to Government to ensure people have real choice in the care they choose to receive as they approach the end of life, particularly thinking about those who may be vulnerable to the presence of euthanasia through a lack of other options.
North Haven Hospice Medical Director Warrick Jones says it is important for people to know that North Haven Hospice will continue to provide specialist palliative and end-of-life care to anyone needing support, regardless of a desire for assisted dying.
“We acknowledge and respect a person’s right to make choices that are best for them, particularly around end of life. However, no North Haven Hospice staff will be involved in the administration or be present during the administration of euthanasia medications and these cannot be administered on any North Haven Hospice premises,” he said.
“With good support, people can live well until they die naturally, and their family and whānau can be an important part of this time and need support also.”
Dr Jones said people living with a terminal illness should be supported to live in whatever way is important to them and their loved ones.
“There is always something that can be done. Palliative care is provided up until the very moment a person dies and beyond, with bereavement support for family/whānau,” he said.
“Palliative care does help people with pain and other distressing symptoms. A lot can be done for a person’s physical wellbeing, and also their emotional and spiritual wellbeing.”
Hospice services will continue to focus on showing death as a part of life, and dying as a natural process, breaking down barriers and misunderstandings around palliative care and death and dying to addressing the fears people may have when approaching the end of life.
Whilst we appreciate a person has every right to make choices in their care, euthanasia does not fit with hospice’s philosophy of neither hastening nor postponing death.
Hospice palliative care is holistic care that works to address the physical, spiritual, cultural and social issues that might be motivating a person living with a terminal illness to seek euthanasia.
We believe that with good support for both the person who is dying and their family and whānau, people can manage well until they die naturally.
No, when a patient is given a syringe driver that delivers morphine/pain relief or other medications, the purpose is to relieve pain and control symptoms to take away their distress. The syringe driver is simply another way of giving medicines when a person can no longer take them by mouth.
With euthanasia, certain medications are given with the sole intention of ending the person’s life.
No. It is important to realise that all euthanasia is active; it is a deliberate act to end a person’s life.
There is always something that can be done. Palliative care is provided up until the very moment a person dies and beyond when it comes to bereavement support for family and whānau.
Palliative care does help people with pain and other distressing symptoms – a lot can be done for a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
No, it is okay and normal for a person to stop eating and drinking as the body slows down and prepares for death. The body only needs a small amount of fluid at the end of life.
End of life care does not mean doing nothing and just letting someone die. It is not about “giving up” – it is about being with the person. Stopping a treatment does not mean no treatment.
Palliative care is very active total care. Excellent pain and symptom control will continue to the end of life, and emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing are ever present.
For more information, visit www.hospice.org.nz/resources/end-of-life-choice-act-our-concerns
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