An ‘obligation to die’?
In this election year, it is well that we keep our eyes open as to the ramifications of law changes being mooted, supposedly in our interests but maybe not.
Over time, laws passed with the best of intentions can be seriously eroded, leading to results the legislators did not anticipate.
Take the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act of 1977, for instance.
This was introduced and sold to the public as being a means of stopping backstreet abortions and offering women who wished to terminate their pregnancies a legal and safe means of doing so.
It was never intended to provide abortion on demand, although that appears to be the situation 34 years on.
Move into 21st century New Zealand and see what has happened. In June this year, the Court of Appeal stated that the unborn child has no legal right to live.
This is not making a law, of course, but simply affirming that, after studying all appropriate legislation, it was found that there is no law in our country protecting the unborn. In other words, until they emerge from the womb, babies simply do not exist in the eyes of the law. Other countries with much looser legislation than ours go further. In one country a GP can be prosecuted for allowing a disabled child to be born. This is scary stuff.
Take another law which is likely to impinge more directly on the elderly of New Zealand. At the moment, euthanasia is, by law, murder. There are many in the country who, for their own good reasons, are urging politicians to have assisted suicide legalised.
There are other countries in the world where such practices are legal. While there appear to be watertight regulations around the legislation, it is known that many people get around the law and encourage those with long-term, seriously disabling conditions to allow themselves to be ‘‘assisted’’ to die.
And what about families wanting to cash in on their inheritance actually pressuring elderly people to choose assisted suicide? They do exist. Could ‘‘choice to die’’ become ‘‘obligation to die’’ in our country? It’s possible.
The point is that the intention of the legislation often turns out to be vastly different in practice. It is in the letter of the law that the loopholes can be found.
I know the huge bulk of words in any piece of legislation is daunting and liable to put off any interested persons who might like to question it.
It is much easier for us ordinary New Zealanders to leave it all to the politicians to argue and sort out.
But if we don’t want legislation with long-term effects like those cited above, we need to take an interest in it, and an active, questioning interest at that.
Another point: does the comparatively small number of items of legislation offered to a conscience vote disturb you? More often than not, politicians are expected to follow the party line, and that is not always the most moral.
So think about it. Don’t be afraid to ask parliamentary candidates their personal views on moral issues and whether they have the stomach to defend those views in the face of the party machine.
We do have an election this year. It’s time to stand up for what we believe in.
This month we are to be addressed by Patelo Alosio from ACC.
Now, ACC is an institution which cops a lot of flak one way or another.
But it also has a lot of advice to offer us elderly people on ways to keep out of its own clutches. See you there, I hope.
Date: Tuesday, July 12. Time: 1.30pm. Venue: The Porirua Club, Lodge Place, Porirua. Contact: Helen Griffith, 236 0112.