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End of Life Choice Bill
it is not pleasant to talk about painful death, but when our country's laws do not work, it is incumbent upon us to have that discussion. Our laws surrounding end of life choice currently do not work and we must improve them. Let me explain why that is, using the people in this room. There are 120 of us here, and we can reasonably hope that the vast majority of us will live long lives and die easy, painless deaths. Sadly, some of us will get ill. Our illnesses may well turn out to be terminal, but we will be helped by palliative care to die comfortably, none the less. That leaves maybe half a dozen of us here who will die badly. Those half a dozen represent the 3 percent or the 4 percent who might seek an assisted death under this bill based on experience in countries where such legislation is in place, and based on the choices that New Zealanders currently make. Any one of us in this Parliament could find ourselves facing that situation. I'm afraid to say that the options we would face in that situation are cruel. A person at the end of their life, suffering badly and unable to be helped by palliative care, can commit amateur violent suicide. We know from extensive studies of the coronial records of this country that 5 percent to 8 percent of New Zealand's suicides were by people who were dying and wanted to take control of the end of their life. They didn't want to die. They weren't depressed. They weren't suicidal, but they knew what was coming and they wanted control. One such person was Martin Hames. He was a staff member here in Parliament. He had Huntington's disease and he killed himself. The only mercy was that he botched it and lived on for several days because that way he got to say goodbye to loved ones that he was not allowed even to tell what he was going to do under our current laws. The tragedy is that he did it many years before he would've liked to because he knew his capability was declining, and our current laws require him not to be assisted.
The Opioid Fix That Wasn't
President Trump signed an omnibus opioid crisis bill that the bill’s author called “the most significant congressional effort against a single drug crisis in history.” But given that the bill bolsters many prior and dangerous interventions, we should only expect the crisis to get worse because of it. But this government intervention had one major flaw — the crisis was not caused by prescribing. After a 28 percent decrease in opioid prescribing since 2012, opioid overdose death rates have now doubled. The government’s own data show non-marijuana illicit drug use has actually remained stable since 2002. The only difference now is that users are exposed to less pharmaceutical-grade options. When drugs aren’t supplied by the legal market and clean, they’ll inevitably be supplied by the illegal market and dirtier. You may be able to find the same oxycodone pills from less expensive sources, but if they are counterfeit and adulterated with fentanyl, you risk the same tragic death as Prince.
Examining the Lawsuit Massachusetts Filed Against Purdue Pharma Over the Opioids Problem
On January 15, 2019, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a 274-page pre-hearing memorandum alleging the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma “created the [opioid] epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit” by enticing doctors to prescribe their medication and peddling “falsehoods to keep patients away from safer alternatives.” This is no small accusation from Massachusetts. If the state is going take this action against Purdue Pharma, one would hope that their case rests on solid evidence. But, unfortunately, the facts do not seem to support the commonwealth’s claims. Contrary to the commonwealth’s narrative, prescription opioid addiction rates have not been on the rise. While prescribing rates have fluctuated over the past 15 years, nonmedical prescription opioid use has remained constant since 2002. Furthermore, the most recent spike in opioid overdose deaths reflects not prescription opioid deaths, but those of illicit opioids such as heroin and fentanyl—street narcotics that are not manufactured or sold by Purdue.
Safety Net Investments in Children
We find that virtually all gains in spending on the social safety net - including Medicaid, EITC, CTC, SNAP, and AFDC/TANF - for children since 1990 have gone to families with earnings, and to families with income above the poverty line. This is the result of welfare reform and the expansion of in work tax credits. This evidence suggests that the changes to the social safety net may have lasting negative impacts on the poorest children.
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