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parish news Workshop against plans for euthanasia law Adam Kirkeby Parishioner, Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church, Taupo athaniel Centre director John Kleinsman visited Rotorua on 8 August 2015 to present a case against the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide in New Zealand. Representatives from various parishes from throughout the Hamilton Diocese attended the gathering. Kleinsman (pictured) spoke with clarity and precision and demonstrated a sound knowledge and understanding of the issue. Kleinsman argued that the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide would very seriously impact the safety of the most vulnerable members of our society and place the welfare of the elderly, disabled and sick in grave danger. He made the point that how New Zealand is facing the prospect of an ageing population and constant reminders regarding the scarcity of health care resources. He mentioned a recent Radio New Zealand discussion on euthanasia and assisted suicide where one panellist disturbingly linked our ageing population with taxpayer burden and received little or no protest for doing so.

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Elder Abuse Kleinsman also discussed the growing issue of elder abuse in New Zealand. A 2007 document from the Ministry of Health estimated that between 2 and 5 per cent of older New Zealanders suffer from elder abuse. The document stated “there could be between 9008 (2 per cent) and 22,520 (5per cent) older New Zealanders suffering some form of abuse and neglect”. Kleinsman said that recent figures suggest that some 9375 cases of elder abuse occured each year in New Zealand and he argued that “legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide will create new pathways for abuse”. Elderly an already weakened and vulnerable state, worried about the pressure their illness is placing on family and constantly aware of constraints to medical funding could be forced into a situation where they feel like a burden. As a result, Kleinsman said, the elderly could easily be exploited with the availability of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Kleinsman discussed how some people promote the legalisation of euthanasia as an opportunity to provide people with choice at the end of their lives. However, he argued, euthanasia would in reality undermine any perceived choice. Firstly, it would force people to make a decision of life and death at a time when they and perhaps their families are most vulnerable. Secondly, as Kleinsman said, “in a society in which families are increasingly fragmented, the elderly are becoming more socially isolated and we are being constantly reminded about the scarcity of health resources, the burden of proof will inevitably shift onto those who are elderly and disabled to justify their continued existence”. Using a quote from long-time American nurse Nancy Valko, Kleinsman explained that wanting

to live could become simply a whim. He quoted Valko as asking “do assisted suicide supporters really expect us doctors and nurses to be able to assist the suicide of one patient, then go on to care for a similar patient who wants to live, without this having an effect on our ethics or our empathy? “Do they realise that this reduces the second patient’s will-to-live request to a mere personal whim - perhaps, ultimately, one that society will see as selfish and too costly? “How does this serve optimal health care, let alone the integrity of doctors and nurses who have to face the fact that we helped other human beings kill themselves?” Youth Suicide Kleinsman also argued that the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide would send a hypocritical and contradictory message to our young people. New Zealand already had a well-documented and appallingly high youth suicide rate. A law which sanctioned assisted suicide would send a very disturbing message that suicide was an acceptable way of dealing with existential suffering. As had been demonstrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, among the few places where euthanasia had been legalised, so-called safeguards surrounding a euthanasia law did not work. Kleinsman pointed out a quote from Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director and International Chair of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, who stated “Once you open the door to assisted suicide and euthanasia it always becomes wider and wider and wider, and before you know it what starts as an option for a few becomes what’s expected for the many”. In addition, it was noted that: “In the Netherlands euthanasia was initially only available to dying adults who were able to give informed consent. These restrictions have now fallen away and euthanasia is available for new-borns, teenagers, and persons with dementia or depression without their consent.” A similar line of policy development is underway in Belgium where the law now allows for euthanasia of persons of any age, including children The presentation was a call to all New Zealanders to stand up and defend the safety and care of the elderly, sick and disabled. The most vulnerable members of our society need our help to stop the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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Lost souls set for formal farewell A ceremony in February 2016 is set to give a group of “lost souls” buried in South Waikato farmland the rest they are due. Among the 500 people buried in unmarked graves at the former Tokanui Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery are about 70 Catholics. Mark Reinsfield, of Hamilton undertakers James R. Hill Funeral Directors, is one of a small group who set out earlier this year to commemorate those buried in what is now a farm adjacent to the now-closed Tokanui Psychiatric Hospital. The project started when Hamilton man Maurie Zinsli found his great-aunt had been buried in the paddock where the only visible headstone stated: “Tokanui Hospital Cemetery, 1914-1964. May the 500-plus people buried here - Rest in Peace”. James R. Hill has sponsored a wall at the site, which will have a plaque with the names of the 500 dead engraved into it. The nature of the burials – their haphazard and unrecorded manner – was to some extent reflective of attitudes towards the mentally ill during those years, he says. It is hoped the wall and the unveiling ceremony will help go some way to providing not only better recognition for those involved but also access for relatives. The cemetery is in three blocks: Anglican, Non-conformist, and Catholic. For more details, contact: Mark Reinsfield at 07-855 5541. Social Justic Group results from workshop The formation of a combined Social Justice Group in the Parishes of the Holy Family has been the result of the recent Euthanasia workshop. The group will be important in the life of the parish community – discussing political, social and moral issues. Bishop Steve Ordination Video Now available from the Bishop’s Office at $10.00 each. Please contact Colleen Graham, Secretary to the Bishop, colleeng@cdh.org.nz or 07 856 6989. McKillop College Rotorua 50th Reunion Registration now open. For further information please contact Beryl Harris (Winterburn) at Beryl.Harris@ lakesdhb.govt.nz or Rosemary Northcott(Preston) at roanyne@slingshot.co.nz

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Kete Korero November 2015  

Publication of the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, New Zealand

Kete Korero November 2015  

Publication of the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, New Zealand

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