Should euthanasia law be decided by parliament or referendum?

Maryan Street’s  End of Life Choice bill (euthanasia) has been added to the Member’s Bill ballot and will need to be drawn to proceed. There’s been some interesting blog discussion about it.

One question that came up was whether any final decision should be made by MPs and parliament, or by people via a referendum.

Graeme Edgeler has confirmed that the final referendum option is feasible:

July 24th, 2012 at 11:21 am

Basically, you go through a whole Parliamentary process, debate the full implications of everything and come up with a fully fleshed out proposal, which is drafted as legislation. It passes all its readings, but only comes into force if a majority of people voting at a referendum answer the question: do you support the proposed system of legalised euthanasia contained in the End of Life Choice Act 2014? in the affirmative.

However I have emailed Maryan Street about this and she has responded:

No, I would never consider this issue as one to be decided by referendum. It is too complex an issue for that. It is exactly the sort of issue which requires thoughtful legislation, not the kind of reductive approach required by referenda.

This doesn’t rule it out – for example, if enough MPs are in favour then Street’s bill could be amended to make a referendum a final decision.

Graeme Edgeler responds…

MPs will be faced with the same simplistic, reductive question at the third reading. They get one vote on one question: those who think this bill should become law, say “Aye”, those opposed say “No”. Those who wanted it, but in a different form, covering more or less, or having some different scheme of safeguards will be faced with the same question:

given what the select committee and the committee of the whole house have adopted, do I support the bill in its present form becoming law?

That is no more reductive than a referendum.

…and also explains the ‘reductive approach’:

What’s a “reductive approach” when it’s at home?

A reductive approach to a matter like this is one that is reduced to a simple yes/no question:

e.g. do you support a law change to provide for voluntary euthanasia for adults with terminal illnesses?

Getting public opinion on such a question is largely meaningless in drafting a law which people may actually agree with.

So, should parliament decide on this (should the bill get drawn from the ballot) or should people make the final decision via referendum?

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1 Comment

  1. Chuck Bird

     /  24th July 2012

    As I started this debate on Kiwiblog about a Voters Veto clause being inserted the bill that would require the bill after the final reading did not become law until accepted by a binding referendum.

    I quote from Red Alert. “Maryan, thank you for a Bill that is very carefully crafted and precise in its detail. I feel that all the checks and balances have been thought through and nothing has been left to misinterpretation or to chance; it is extremely specific.”

    I would hope Maryan would not agree with this nonsense. If MPs could draft perfect legislation there would be no need for Select Committees. Even after the Select Committee process the legislation will not be perfect. If my proposed clause or amendment is included the legislation will not be perfect but it will be better.

    My question to Maryan is why should MPs have the final say on this or other moral legislation and not the voters? I am talking about this bill in its final form.

    If this bill went to a referendum I do not know how I would vote. I am not a doctor but I have heard about the suffering people go through with Motor Neurone Disease. If these people could be helped and the problems that the opponents of this legislation highlighted minimised I would probably vote for it. One thing I an sure of is that these concerns cannot be eliminated.

    I hope you are prepared to debate and defend your proposed bill Maryan.


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