I’d like to explain how and why assisted dying is very different from suicide - especially youth suicide.
The End of Life Choice Bill, if it’s passed, will be for terminally ill people who have less than 6 months to live, or who have a very serious incurable illness (for example, motor neuron disease) and who are already in an advanced state of decline and who are experiencing unbearable suffering that can’t be relieved. So these are people at or near the end of their lives. Nevertheless, they have to be examined by two, sometimes three, doctors, and they must be mentally competent throughout. In addition, they’re encouraged to discuss their request with their family before they make their final decision.
By contrast, young people take their own lives because they get overwhelmed by feelings they don’t know how to handle, and by life’s problems: bullying, friendship and relationship problems, gender and sexuality issues, pressures of study and finding work, alcohol and drug problems, money stresses, family issues, low self-esteem, mental health problems, and so on. Teenagers sometimes find it impossibleto imagine a future beyond the black hole they’re in right now, and males especially find it hard to talk about their feelings. And because young people live in the present, they tend to be impulsive, so suicide can seem like a solution to their problems. But they have their lives ahead of them, and that’s way too precious to be thrown away.
So let’s not get confused. As a community, we owe it to our teens to give them all the help and support we possibly can, but it need not be at the expense of those who make a rational decision to avoid a horrible death.
Dianne Cooper has long been a supporter of voluntary euthanasia, as was her mother, Celia Cooper, of Auckland. Dianne lives at Waikanae, on the Kapiti Coast. Writing is her main contribution to the campaign to get the End of Life Choice Bill into law.