The Human Rights Commission has made a submission to the Health Select Committee in Relation to its Investigation into End of Life Matters.
The Commission’s position is an orange light: proceed with caution. From the Commission’s perspective, a change could be acceptable if certain conditions are met in relation to legal safeguards, compliance with human rights obligations and availability of appropriate and accessible palliative care services.
Ultimately it is for Parliament to decide if there is to be a change.
This submission represents the agreed collective views of the Commission on matters where consensus has been reached. You can read the submission here.
The Commission’s submission in summary
The Commission’s position is:
a. The Commission acknowledges the complexity of the issues being considered by the Committee and the need to balance competing principles such as the right to life, respect for human dignity, personal autonomy and the protection of vulnerable members of society.
b. The Commission is strongly of the view that any legal change that might be contemplated by Parliament in this area must incorporate sufficient safeguards in order to eliminate risk to vulnerable citizens. Minimum safeguards that should be included are set out later in this submission.
c. The Commission considers that a legal framework permitting assistance to be given to a competent terminally ill adult to end his or her life (if he or she freely and autonomously choses to do so), would likely be acceptable if accompanied by adequate legal and procedural safeguards and in the context of appropriate palliative care services being available and accessible.
d. The Commission notes that the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA) does not specifically include the core human rights principles of dignity, personal autonomy or the liberty and security of the person as free-standing rights. This stands in contrast with some overseas jurisdictions. This position is particularly relevant to consideration of end of life matters but also has broader application. The Commission recommends that the Committee consider whether the current form of the NZBORA adequately engages the human rights issues that arise from end of life matters.