The College does not endorse euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide: response to call for submissions on End of Life Choice Bill

College news
6 March 2018

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has today submitted its response to the Justice Committee of Parliament.

The submission is clear that the College does not endorse euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, which it considers a matter for individual members’ consciences, within the law.

The submission makes 17 recommendations to the Justice Committee, in light of the state of palliative care in New Zealand, the effect legislation may have on vulnerable people, and the effect euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide has on the doctor-patient relationship. The submission also goes into detail to recommend changes to specific challenges the Bill, as drafted, poses. That includes criteria for assisted dying, conscientious objection, and the role of the medical practitioner.

Dr Tim Malloy, President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, said: “Whether for or against euthanasia, the College’s members are motivated by compassion – this is a key tenet of the profession. We believe that each general practitioner in New Zealand will have their own ethical view on whether euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is right."

“However, whether or not this Bill goes ahead, there are significant challenges that must be addressed. Fundamentally, New Zealanders need accessible, good quality palliative care. The Government should strengthen these services, so we can all experience a dignified, comfortable death."

“The College has made several recommendations to the Justice Committee for its consideration on the Bill itself. The Bill, currently, has poorly defined criteria for assisted dying. Diagnosis is difficult, we sometimes get a diagnosis wrong. And knowing if a patient is able to make a rational decision, during their end of life care, can be incredibly difficult."

“Parliament should consider our 17 recommendations carefully, given the strong apprehension from general practitioners about legalising euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.”

Read our submission here.

Dr Tim Malloy, College President