Euthanasia compounds isolation, academic says

A proposed euthanasia law could compound New Zealand's major problems with social isolation, including among older people, a Dunedin psychiatrist warns.

"We have a massive problem with isolation in our country," Dr Chris Gale, of the University of Otago psychological medicine department, said.

"We have a massive problem with people being disconnected in general."

"We need to be caring for each other," he said.

The impact of legalising euthanasia would be "devastating on older people, the poor and disabled", Associate Prof Yoram Barak, a consultant psychogeriatrician, also of the department, and Dr Gale say.

They are calling on their colleagues, both in New Zealand and internationally, to oppose the move.

They have reviewed the laws and practices in every country with legal euthanasia and how they have been modified.

They found the most vulnerable- the elderly, the poor and the disabled - were disproportionate in their use of euthanasia.

Prof Barak said the practice of euthanasia became discriminatory, and in many cases the criteria allowing euthanasia had been expanded from an initially restricted scope.

The paper was recently published in international scientific journal, Australian Psychiatry.

Dr Gale would like to see more co-ordination, including of volunteer effort, to provide more friendly support for isolated people.

The End of Life Choice Bill in New Zealand has passed its second reading and is now in the final committee stages.

 

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