Kia ora tātou,
Ngā mihi o te tau hōu ki a koutou.
Welcome to Year 13.
I’m writing to you about the so-called End of Life Choice Bill. It is about legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia in New Zealand.
We all know that youth suicide in Aotearoa is a terrible tragedy for families. Those affected always have our deep sympathy, support and care. There are lots of wonderful things about growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand, but clearly for some young people there is a dark and troubling side to our life. Blame is never our response.
As a nation, our youth suicide statistics are a cause of shame or whakamā for our country. We rightly feel some sense of responsibility; what else might I/we do to prevent suicide?
That sense of responsibility, I invite you also to think about with regard to our elderly, mentally ill, debilitated, and vulnerable. These are the people that the Bill before parliament will most affect. I believe strongly, and the Church teaches, that euthanasia should never be the answer to vulnerability, sickness or even pain. We can do better. In fact, euthanasia is not a medical treatment; it is a political possibility which the large majority of care givers, nurses and doctors say has nothing to do with their work or profession.
One of the challenges we are facing in the korero or debate around euthanasia is the use of the word “choice”. Choice is often good, but not always good. The idea of choice sounds positive, but in fact we don’t give people a choice to drink and drive, to beat their spouse or partner, to sell drugs, to turn up to work or not, to follow the rules of a sport or not. What is always good, is the choice of what is right or dignified or best.
Choosing what is wrong never makes sense. That’s what each one of you “gets” about youth suicide. It’s never a good option. How cynical and shallow it is therefore that one MP, from one tiny political party, is leading a campaign to make assisted suicide of the sick and vulnerable and debilitated seem normal and good. It isn’t. It’s wrong.
Last year my Dad died aged 98. He was in the hospital care wing of a rest home. For some outsiders looking in, the last year couple of years of his life may have seemed “worthless”. He was totally dependent upon caregivers, was not able to support himself standing, and slept or dozed most of the time. Yet right to the very end, thanks to rest-home care and whānau, he retained his dignity and continued to impart goodness. Even when uttering a few words had become hard work for him, he always whispered: “thank you for visiting.”
Together with this letter, your teachers will give you some information fact sheets to help you, if you so choose, to make a submission on this Bill. I encourage you to do so and hope that you will be given class time for this action. Apathy places power in the hands of others. Pope Francis, recently speaking to young people, simply said: “Don’t let others decide our future”.
Together we can seek to make a lasting difference for Aotearoa New Zealand. Do something which is right, good, and truly progressive. Write against this Bill and in favour of whānau, the dignity of every person, and the duty of society to look after not delete its most vulnerable.
Let no one disregard you because you are young.
Be an example in the way you speak and behave.
Be conscientious, encourage others and persevere
(St Paul’s first Letter to the young Timothy cf. 1Tim 4:12-16)
Check out: youthagainsteuthanasia.wordpress.com
Ngā mihi me ngā whakapainga rangimārie ki ā koutou.