We don't die alone - our autonomy is constrained by those who care for us
Palliative care specialist Dr Amanda Landers says the desire for autonomy in death and dying comes with a responsibility to others. "It can only exist to the point where it starts to impinge on another person’s rights. This is where it begins to get murky, clouded and blurred. Where does your autonomy start and finish?"
Writing in Newsroom, Amanda references the Covid-19 crisis as an example of curtailed choices. Although many New Zealanders are fit and well, they "still gave up liberty, money, jobs, seeing family and travelling for each other mainly because we value our elderly. We put their lives before our own and our Government chose life over the economy. We gave up our autonomy in the blink of an eye for the good of our society."
She says that "legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia may sound like a good idea. People will just choose for themselves won’t they? There will be no pressure, they will feel well enough to make life and death decisions. The law will protect them because that is what laws do for our society? The problem is a law change applies to everyone, and may have unintended consequences for some. These consequences are risky, unable to be fully appreciated until too late and murky."
Amanda says that a far better alternative to assisted suicide is palliative care. "Palliative care is not a death sentence, it is a lifeline to professionals and services who work with those facing life-limiting illness. ... It is not complex, it is not judgmental, and it is care that meets your needs as best it can in whatever circumstance. No law can achieve that, especially one that is black and white with no room for error."