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Making an Oral Submission

Register your interest by Sunday 5 pm

 
If you would like to make an oral submission (see below for background and details), please send a request to the Clerk at health@parliament.govt.nz by 5 pm on Sunday 8 January 2017.

State which day would suit you best: Monday 13 February or Monday 6 March 2017. 

Do include your name as well as your submitter ID if you have it (from the acknowledgement email you should have received in 2016).
 

Submitters can speak to the Committee either in person, at Parliament Buildings in Wellington, or via teleconference. (The Committee phones the submitter within the arranged time period and pays for the call.)

Each individual is allocated a maximum of 5 minutes.

Each organisation is allocated a maximum of 15 minutes. Submitters could speak for the entire time or allow some time for clarifying questions from the Committee.

Each submitter will be allocated a slot within a 30-minute period. You will need to be available for the entire period until your name is called, in case the Committee runs ahead of schedule.

 
 

Background

 

Parliament’s Health Select Committee is investigating public attitudes to “Ending one’s life in New Zealand” in response to a petition presented in June 2015. First they invited everyone to make written submissions (until 1 February 2016). After processing a record number of about 21,500 unique submissions, of which 78% are opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, they are currently hearing people’s oral submissions.

Oral submissions are sometimes referred to as “speaking to one’s submission”, “speaking to the Committee” or “appearing before the Committee”. It’s highly recommended to make an oral submission, because it may have a bigger impact on MPs than a written submission.

The Committee announced that they want to give everyone (who made a written submission earlier) the opportunity to speak who wish to do so. The administrative staff have attempted, often unsuccessfully, to contact submitters by email or by phone.It’s now up to individuals to contact them. If you would like to make an oral submission, please send an email to health@parliament.govt.nz to request a time. They need to receive your request by 5 pm on Sunday 8 January.

When making a submission in person, you are allowed to bring support people along. You are responsible for your own travel arrangements and costs.

 
 

What to include in your oral submission

 

When making an oral submission you can assume that the Committee has read your written submission. The purpose of an oral submission is NOT to read your written submission, but to summarise its main points, discuss it and/or present additional information.

It is highly recommended to give the Committee a transcript (written copy) of your oral submission. You can also send them additional written information. You could either bring 15 photocopies to the clerk on the day so they can be circulated, or you could email one copy to health@parliament.govt.nz before or after your submission. Please include your name, your submission ID (from the acknowledgement email you should have received in 2016), whether the information is a transcript of your oral submission, and if so, the date of your oral submission.

  • It is highly recommended to start with a story from your personal or professional life. Then raise just one or two points that are important to you. Then don’t let any questions sway you to deviate from these.

  • Do state your occupation if relevant in any way, and especially if you have a health care background.

  • Don’t make assumptions about Committee members’ views on euthanasia / assisted suicide or on any other issue. It would be safe to assume that a range of views will be represented by the Committee members.

  • It’s recommended to keep your submission single-issue and avoid bringing up other issues that you and some Committee members may disagree on, for example, party politics, religion, same-sex marriage, abortion or the TPPA. These issues may prompt some Committee members to disengage from what you’re saying.

  • Don’t make negative statements about the government or politicians in general. Don’t attack anyone personally. Being aggressive, antagonistic or defensive would be counter-productive.

  • Some Committee members may try to pigeon-hole and dismiss submitters based on their views on other issues, such as whether they adhere to a religion. If they ask your view on an issue other than your view on euthanasia and assisted suicide, you are not obliged to answer.

  • Stick to information that your own knowledge and experience can guide you on. Never make up information. If you would like to include research or statistics, do check the information at its original source and include the reference in your written copy.

 
 

On the day

 

  • Do dress well.
  • Do ensure that you arrive at the room, or are ready for your teleconference call, at least 10 minutes before your allocated time period.
  • There will be signs to direct people to the room where the oral hearings are held. As soon as the room is open to the public, you would be allowed to enter and sit in the public gallery section. When it’s your turn to speak , you will be asked to move to the seating area at the table.
  • Do ensure that you speak clearly and into the microphone.
  • Don’t speak in a monotonous voice.
  • Be friendly.
  • Don’t apologise for anything. It would detract from your content.
  • You will be told when your allocated time is up. Do finish your sentence and then respect this boundary.
  • The aim is to make the best honest, relaxed and friendly presentation that you can. Do remember that you are representing your side of the debate.
  • For most submitters it will be their first time speaking to a parliamentary committee. Do remember that the MPs are people, and that they are used to interacting with a range of members of the public. Be polite, but be yourself.

 
 

Some arguments that are key to the debate

 
(Please use your own words.)
 
1. The relevance of suicide

‘Assisted dying’ is one of many euphemisms for assisted suicide: ending one’s own life with someone else’s assistance. ‘Assisted dying’ is really a form of suicide.
 
Suicide is a person ending their own life, for any reason. Assisted suicide is a person ending their own life with someone else’s help, for any reason. Terminal illness does not change these definitions. When a terminally ill person ends their own life, it is still suicide. When a terminally ill person ends their own life with help, it is still assisted suicide.
 
If suicide is not OK, then suicide with assistance (assisted suicide / assisted dying) should not be OK either. The only difference between suicide and assisted suicide / assisted dying is the number of people involved in bringing the death about. It would not make sense to imply, “Don’t kill yourself by yourself. Instead, get help to kill yourself.” Such a message would contradict and undermine the suicide prevention message that suicide is never an appropriate solution.
 

2. The danger of wrongful deaths: How many wrongful deaths is our society willing to accept?

Some people could choose assisted suicide based on an incorrect diagnosis or prognosis. Do you know of someone who was incorrectly diagnosed or who lived longer than their doctor expected them to?
 
It would be easy to pressure someone into requesting assisted suicide. By the time a person makes a formal request, he or she may own it as their decision. However, the person may have arrived at that decision as a result of abuse, coercion and/or pressure that have occurred over time and behind closed doors.
 

3. Legal assisted suicide cannot be limited to terminal illness

First, legislation limited to terminal illness is not what advocates want and not what has been proposed in the 2012 End of Life Choice bill or the 2015 Seymour End of Life Choice Bill.
 
Second, there is no clear boundary between terminal illness and chronic illness. Any condition can be considered a terminal condition if it is potentially life-shortening or if medication is required to keep the person alive. Some chronic conditions, such as severe allergies, asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes, can become terminal within minutes. Severe depression, especially catatonic depression, can be considered a terminal illness. (Catatonic depression involves muscle tension, which causes muscle proteins to break down and strain the kidneys. It can lead to acute kidney failure.)
 
Third, a law that would allow assisted suicide for terminally ill people would discriminate against other people who also feel they are suffering unbearably. Suffering is subjective, and not dependent on a particular diagnosis or set of physical symptoms.
 
4. One person’s autonomous choice could have an adverse impact on others

Suicide is an example of an autonomous choice that has an adverse impact on others. Can you think of other examples also?
 

5. Risk to vulnerable people

Legal assisted suicide and euthanasia presents a risk to vulnerable people, especially those who are emotionally vulnerable. If there was no such risk, there would be no need for safeguards. Do you have a personal story to share about emotional vulnerability when dealing with a medical condition?
 
 

For more information

 
Here is a guide containing tips on how to prepare your submission: Oral Submission Guide

Maxim Institute has prepared this useful printable guide with additional information.

Some reasons against legalisation
 
To view or print a copy of your written submission, go to the submission page on Parliament’s website, and type your name into the ‘Search’ box in the top right corner. If you are unable to find your written submission on this website, please contact the Clerk, Charlotte Yeabsley, at 04 817 9520 or health@parliament.govt.nz to check whether it was received.

 
For help with your oral submission, contact admin@euthanasiafree.org.nz, phone 021 167 4042 or freecall 0800 42 76 42.
 
For more details about how oral submissions are generally conducted, see “Making a Submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee”, pages 12 to 15. It’s available at tiny.cc/submissions.