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NZ ethicist says euthanasia calls ignore real needs of terminally ill

Calls to legalise euthanasia fail to recognise the real needs of the terminally ill and their caregivers, according to Fr Michael McCabe, director of the Nathaniel Centre, the New Zealand Catholic Church's bioethics centre.

NZ Catholic reports that Fr McCabe was commenting on the Wanganui court case in which euthanasia advocate Lesley Martin was found guilty of attempting to murder her dying mother, Joy Martin.

After Martin was found guilty on 31 March, New Zealand First deputy leader Peter Brown said he would revive his Death with Dignity private member's bill which was narrowly defeated in Parliament last year.

"The real lesson from the Martin case," Fr McCabe said, "is that when patients and their caregivers find themselves isolated, inadequately supported and exhausted, the consequences can be tragic.

"The Government's palliative care strategy aims to provide holistic and co-ordinated palliative care for all New Zealanders. This case has made it clear that such care is not always available."

Fr McCabe said the needs of the dying are multi-dimensional: Physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.

"Effective palliative and hospice care begins with a thorough and detailed assessment of all the dying patient's needs, particularly their need for pain and symptom control. It also addresses the family or caregiver's need for emotional, spiritual and physical support.

"This is the kind of care which should have been available to Joy and Lesley Martin.

"Legalising euthanasia is not the answer," Fr McCabe said. "It is clear that there is still a long way to go before the needs of the dying and their caregivers are adequately met.

"The implementation of the palliative care strategy is a matter of urgency."

Calls for euthanasia ignore real needs of dying and caregivers (NZ Catholic 18/4/04)

Nathaniel Centre | Euthanasia is Not the Answer (The Nathaniel Centre Press Release 2/4/04)
Excerpts from Catholic Teaching on Euthanasia (The Nathaniel Centre)
Church fights reemergence of euthanasia legislation (CathNews 9/3/04)

21 Apr 2004