Euthanasia has long been a hotly emotive topic, and that was exactly the case yesterday in Wellington.
Last night, The New Zealand Initiative held the first semi-final of the Next Generation Debate series, where university teams from Victoria and Otago debated legalising euthanasia.
Both teams put forward very solid arguments on what many often regard as a black and white issue, but proved that it’s not such a simple argument. There’s a grey area where both arguments overlap, and getting the right balance will never be an easy feat.
We also heard from former Labour MP, Hon Maryan Street, who introduced an End-of-Life Bill in 2012 during her time in Parliament. Street argued emphatically that it’s not about making euthanasia compulsory or allowing it to become a “slippery slope”; it’s about showing compassion and providing an end-of-life choice to those who are suffering from unbearable terminal or degenerative illness.
Dr Stephen Child of the NZ Medical Association then presented an equally thought-provoking stance, and stressed that doctors can and do get diagnoses wrong, and that there’s a risk that people will opt for euthanasia if they feel they are becoming a burden on their loved ones. Dr Child also noted that administering high doses of pain medication towards the end of life is ethical and is not considered euthanasia.
Ultimately, the negating team (Victoria) won out over the affirmative team (Otago), but both teams must be congratulated on their excellent performance and a great debate.
Our Next Generation Debates are kindly sponsored by the Friedlander Foundation. Don’t forget to join us over drinks and nibbles for next week’s grand final in Wellington, where Victoria University and the winner of tonight’s Auckland semi-final will debate whether high house prices make us poorer as a nation. Register here.