Jacinda Ardern, leader of the Labour Party, has come out to publically state it was wrong of National MP Simon O’Connor to equate euthanasia with youth suicide. On Facebook O’Connor (who has publically stated his opposition to euthanasia) said that it was strange that Ms Ardern was concerned about youth suicide but encouraged the ‘suicide of the elderly, sick and disabled.’

While we don’t like to talk about death, as it makes us uncomfortable and the very thought of it is frightening, we know it is a reality for all of us. But the topics of teen suicide and euthanasia seem to be at the forefront of this election campaign, and that seems to be equally as uncomfortable and inappropriate. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on these topics, and both are certainly polarising, but using them as a tool to gain political points is not what we want to see in this election.

So what is the difference – if, in fact there is a difference – aren’t they both just terms for intentionally killing oneself? The disparity lies in the future of the person considering death as an option. Suicide is often (but not always) the action of a person who is usually depressed and has no motivation to live, often to do with mental health issues, depression, relationship issues, or sometimes even poverty. Suicide can sometimes take place without a lot of premeditation, when the victim is often totally over-whelmed by life’s problems.  These problems, although overwhelming at the time, can usually be resolved with professional help, but this is not often sought. These days we are no longer sweeping the issue of teen suicide under the carpet – parents, teachers and teen peers have access to information on risk factors, and warnings on the signs to look for.

Euthanasia, although often called ‘assisted suicide,’ has the main purpose of relieving a person from the suffering caused by a terminal illness – death is in the very near future for them. Often called ‘mercy killing,’ it is performed by another person, usually a doctor. It takes place after lengthy deliberations, and in several countries in the world is now legal.

This week the latest poll announced that an overwhelming majority of National Party supporters are in favour of euthanasia – in the past National has ruled this out, and Bill English (a practising Catholic) is on record being in absolute opposition to the idea.  It would seem that with David Seymour’s ‘End of Life Bill’ to be debated in parliament after the election, and the very obvious support from the public, that this topic is not going away any time soon.

On a positive note – at least we are having these conversations, which are truly important to so many people. With a teen suicide rate that is one of the highest in the world, and a very young candidate vying for the top job, these issues affecting our youth and our elderly should be at the very front of her decision making process. This is a debate that needs calm, logical and considered thought – what we are probably going to get is a lot of emotion and sentiment, as this is a topic that touches so many people from both sides.

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