Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill

Act MP David Seymour unsuccessfully tried to introduce his End of Life Choice Bill “to be debated as members’ order of the day No. 1 on the first members’ day after the Health Committee reports back to the House on its inquiry into the petition of Maryan Street and 8,974 others”.

An objection denied leave for this to proceed.

Draft transcript:

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): Martin Hames was sick and knew he would get sicker. He took his own life alone not wanting to implicate anybody else in his death. He did it much earlier than he would have liked because he knew that the advancing condition of Huntington’s disease would prevent him from later taking such action.

People like Martin Hames find themselves ill and beyond the help of palliative care, and the Supreme Court of Canada describes them as having two options: they can take their own life prematurely, as he did, often by violent or dangerous means or they can suffer until they die from natural causes.

As the Supreme Court said, that choice is cruel. This cruel choice is not just a legal construct from a foreign court; it is all too real for New Zealanders.

Palliative care has advanced well in the past 20 years but, as the High Court admitted just last year, unfortunately it does not work for everybody, and, sadly, 10 percent of suicides by older New Zealanders are by those with terminal illnesses.

There needs to be a more compassionate option in New Zealand, and it is time for Parliament to debate and vote on assisted dying legislation. The democratic mandate for Parliament to do this is very, very large.

In a Colmar Brunton poll last year, 75 percent supported assisted dying legislation. There are few issues in any political time that three-quarters of New Zealanders support, yet that is the case with assisted dying legislation.

Last year close to 9,000 people signed a petition leading to a parliamentary inquiry on this issue. I hope that inquiry, currently before the Health Committee, will produce a high-quality report clarifying many facets of the issue for New Zealanders, but it cannot produce a bill that Parliament must debate and vote on.

There is, however, currently a member’s bill in the ballot. My End of Life Choice Bill is targeted towards cases of highest need and includes strong safeguards. It gives people with terminal illnesses a compassionate option.

To be clear, a law change will not result in more people dying but in fewer people suffering. Evidence from Europe finds that, on average, assisted deaths shorten a person’s life by only 10 days.

Crucially, this practice is already happening in New Zealand but in a far less safeguarded way. Auckland medical school research has found 4.5 percent of GPs surveyed on their most recent dying patient found that it was from a drug administered explicitly to hasten death.

The End of Life Choice Bill would, instead, put the patient in charge, allowing them to make a safer choice under the protection of the law.

For many, the strength of potential safeguards will be the deciding factor in supporting change, and although the issues are complex, I refuse to believe that it is impossible for a Parliament as mature and functional as ours to agree on a set of safeguards for this legislation.

I understand there are parliamentarians who oppose assisted dying no matter what, and I do not demand their support for the End of Life Choice Bill.

All I ask is for the rest of Parliament to have the chance to debate and vote upon the issue. In the Lecretia Seales case, the High Court said that leaving the choice to the courts would be “trespassing on the role of Parliament and departing on the constitutional role of judges in New Zealand.”

It is not that the judge said that he disagreed with Ms Seales’ application to die on her terms and at her timing; he simply said it was up to us to make that decision about what the law should be.

The time has come for us colleagues to do our job. To continue avoiding this debate would be a disservice to the people we purport to represent. New Zealanders deserve a Parliament unafraid to confront an issue that is on legal, moral, and democratic grounds critically important to them.

I seek leave to introduce my End of Life Choice Bill to be debated as members’ order of the day No. 1 on the first members’ day after the Health Committee reports back to the House on its inquiry into the petition of Maryan Street and 8,974 others.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.

While there were not many MPs in the House when leave was sought to introduce the Bill there only seemed to be one who object.

Leave a comment

37 Comments

  1. good one.. I actually support ACT on this !

    “go Dave” 🙂

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  4th May 2016

      Yours went in ahead of mine-I meant, who objected ?

      DS is a really remarkable young man-I knew him before he was an MP, he’s been to our house-he even LOOKS brilliant. He scintillates with it.

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  4th May 2016

        I think he is remarkable too. Anyone who can be so steadfastly principled and so prepared to rationalise those principles yet so easily and glibly discard them for political pragmatism is remarkable. Well, remarkably hypocritical.

        Reply
        • Can you elaborate duperez? Are you refering to him glibly discarding principles regarding this issue, ‘Death with Dignity’, or something else?

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  4th May 2016

            Not this issue, school zoning. Well done to Seymour for being involved in this issue but every MP should be involved because it is of vital community interest.

            He says, “To continue avoiding this debate would be a disservice to the people we purport to represent.” John Key doesn’t want to deal with it, it’s in his too hard basket. In that sense Key is representing his own electoral interests rather than the interests of the community.

            Reply
  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  4th May 2016

    Who ? I couldn’t see. I couldn’t make out who was grinning when he inadvertently didn’t do something at the end, but I can guess.

    Huntingdon’s is so dreadful that many of us would top ourselves if we had it. I don’t think that it’s painful, but it strips a person’s dignity from them.

    Reply
  3. patupaiarehe

     /  4th May 2016

    So who objected?

    The time has come for us colleagues to do our job. To continue avoiding this debate would be a disservice to the people we purport to represent. New Zealanders deserve a Parliament unafraid to confront an issue that is on legal, moral, and democratic grounds critically important to them.

    Well said David.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  4th May 2016

      I wish that they’d said, all I could see was that it was a man. Winston P ? It didn’t sound like him, though.

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  4th May 2016

        LOL, just because you don’t like Winston Kitty, that doesn’t mean it is he who says everything you don’t like in the house. Can’t see NZFirst trying to block this myself. I imagine the objector will be a loyal Labour backbencher, objecting solely because it is ACT putting this forth.

        Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  4th May 2016

          Similar to your ‘phantom downticker’ 😉

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  4th May 2016

            No, it’s just that he seems to be very much against David Seymour personally-he even heckled DS’s first speech-the first time that anyone has ever done this to one, I think. He makes feeble jokes about the name Seymour. the sort of thing that primary schoolchildren make. I wonder if it’s jealousy because DS is young enough to be his grandson 😀

            Actually, now I come to think of it, given that WP’s supporters seem to be mainly old people, he and NZF may well think that it would be tactless to support this !

            I played it again, but still couldn’t make it out ! It looked like a younger man than WP anyway-which doesn’t really narrow it down that much 😀

            Reply
            • patupaiarehe

               /  4th May 2016

              As he was resuming his seat, Mr Seymour looked to his left, so I could be wrong. This may be helpful Kitty….
              http://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-nz/00OPPIOMPPHouse1/cb8f4b7e99a7a42ffa8f1c713173363f365f2c4e

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  4th May 2016

              The phantom objector was on his right, though. I played it again, and it was definitely on the right. My left, his right. Who the hell was it ?:-/

              Why didn’t they say ‘Objection from Richard Seddon.’ or whoever it was ? I expected that the Speaker would.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  4th May 2016

              If you view it on youtube Kitty,you can slow it down. I’d do it myself, but am in the middle of something

            • Eliza M

               /  4th May 2016

              Winston Peters isn’t even there. It’s definitely on the the left- his and our left as the camera changes in the last second. Both him and the speaker are looking in the same place. From the map of sets linked above it’s either Ross, McIndoe or Guy

  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  4th May 2016

    If that person objected-and I can respect that-they could have voted against it. I didn’t know that this COULD happen, I was really shocked and the others here seem to have been as well. I would never want to vote on this-I am against it on principle but have every sympathy for those who want it. It was a surprise that many cancers aren’t painful as I had imagined them to be, they just wear the body out until it can’t handle any more and the heart stops.

    Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th May 2016

    It looked to me as though it was the National Junior Whip, Jamie-Lee Ross. If so, I presume it was a Government-mandated objection since it doesn’t seem to be likely to be his personal choice as a supporter of gay marriage.

    See the seating plan: http://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-nz/00OPPIOMPPHouse1/cb8f4b7e99a7a42ffa8f1c713173363f365f2c4e

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  4th May 2016

      Bill English is against it, I think.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th May 2016

        DS wasn’t in his usual place, just to add to the confusion, and it looks as if Sue Moroney is in front of him.

        Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  4th May 2016

          Yes, neither of the two in the front row look like Gerry Brownlee either….

          Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  4th May 2016

          Yes he was according to the seating plan I linked. I miscounted to Ross though. It looks like Nathan Guy who objected from the seating plan.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  4th May 2016

            And it should be Bennett and Coleman in the front seats. Tolley next to Seymour.

            Reply
          • Could the objector be Simon O’Connor, National MP for Tamaki, Chairman of the Select Committee investigating Maryann Street’s ‘Lucretia Seales’ petition? He trained as a Catholic Priest but never sought ordination, voted against same sex marriage, chaired a group called ‘Monarchy New Zealand’ (2010 – 2012) and made no bones about wanting to retain the existing NZ flag.

            “The time has come … ” Good for you David Seymour !!! Respect!

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  4th May 2016

              Not according to the seating plan. O’Connor sits in the third row behind Seymour and all those seats were empty.

            • Eliza M

               /  4th May 2016

              It can only be Ross, McIndoe or Guy. O’connor sits behind Seymour, out of shot, but no one looks there when the objection is raised.

            • Eliza M

               /  4th May 2016

              And as Alan says, he’s not even there, in fact it’s a ghost town.

            • For me it points to the probability that National see this as ‘thin ice’ with many of their voters? It’s “not on our agenda” this term according to Key and Seymour/ACT no longer wield enough power to warrant the electoral risk?

              “But I’ll tell you something for nothing – there’ll be a hell of a lot of New Zealanders who will be deeply opposed, for religous reasons and a variety of other reasons.” [said John Key]

              Mr Key said the Government has no intention of introducing legislation, so any law change would have to be through a member’s bill. If a bill were to come before Parliament, it would be a conscience vote for MPs, and not one conducted along party lines.”

              Apparently not? Apparently National will object to it? Huh! And people wonder why I think reform of ‘democracy’ itself is the most important thing.

              http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/275656/euthanasia-not-on-govt-agenda-key

    • Jami-Lee Ross

       /  6th May 2016

      It wasn’t me that specifically objected, but leave being granted within the House for a bill to be introduced is typically only granted if an agreement is made amongst parties to bypass the normal process under standing orders which, in this case, is for a members bill to go into the ballot and wait to be drawn. I can assure you that the decision to grant or deny leave would not have been made on the basis of support or opposition to the bill itself.

      To avoid doubt, I personally support voluntary euthanasia and would vote for the bill to have a first reading.

      Reply
  6. Brown

     /  5th May 2016

    There will be lots of people who will object to this so why the early fixation on objectors? Are we democratic or not? I don’t like the idea of state encouraged suicide (and its nothing to do with religion) but when this passes, and it will, we can stop bleating on about teen and every other form of suicide to avoid allegations of hypocrisy around caring. Assisted suicide will save millions in care and compassion costs. We either care or we don’t care about life – there is no fuzzy middle ground.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  5th May 2016

      Life is fuzzy and so is death despite religions that pretend otherwise.

      Reply
      • Brown

         /  5th May 2016

        I disagree. You are dead or not – the issues around what is ”quality” of life is a different argument. In NZ there will be no religious debate outside religious circles because we are secular to such a degree that a religious perspective won’t get off the ground. English’s problem is the he is a RC so has a hurdle to jump over in that a pope said it was an unforgivable sin. The Bible outlines only one unforgivable sin and its not this.

        The arguments against assisted suicide I see are consistently related to purely medical concerns.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  5th May 2016

          Should there be a life after this one, and we be judged when we discover that, it is highly unlikely the unforgiveable sin you speak of will be unforgiveable. If there is any unforgiveable sin it is most likely to be the most serious sin against one’s fellow human being.

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  5th May 2016

          Assisted suicide in the case of people who are terminally ill & going to die in pain, or to have to live with a condition that is incurable, not susceptible to relief or cure, and gives them no quality of life, are both desirable things. “Life” in those circumstances, for those who cannot bear it, is not something they should have to live for the sake of those who believe it is necessary to die only in the natural course of events.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  5th May 2016

            I might add, to those who say, ah but we have palliative care, you go on through with “palliative care” when the time comes if you want to, but I’ve seen it and the eventual death was still a painful & horrible one.

            Reply
            • Tau toko you on all those points Gezza. I have also seen the trauma, outcome and aftermath of lonely suicide as opposed to Death with Dignity. For me the choice is obvious, it is ‘to have the choice’. Those who don’t want to can still opt for “the natural course of events”. I’m almost inclined to ask, “What’s the problem”? Misuse by doctors?

              I’ve many times before posted various articles, the Act and FAQs on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Law. It barely rates as “assisted suicide” IMHO. “Self administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician” is much more accurate. Here it is again –

              https://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/index.aspx

              People who think there’s a risk of familial abuse and the like need to read this and other legislation. Such abuse is simply not possible.

    • @ Brown – I’ve never been against ‘responsible choice’ and the issue for me is “We either care or we don’t care about Choice”. In this case End of Life Choice, well named because Seymour has a degree in philosophy. I still prefer ‘Death with Dignity’.

      There’s an enormous ‘fuzzy’ difference between a ‘hopelessly’ terminally-ill person hastening their own end with legal, medical agreement, sanction and provision – Death with DIgnity – and a ‘hope-less’ teen committing suicide. Presently we leave many terminally-ill people to take the suicide route. It’s horrible.

      Personally, I’d argue we are more ‘Party Political’ than democratic, but if you support a system that dismisses this issue on Party political grounds, so be it. (I realise its inescapable to some extent but Seymour seems to me to be acting in a very impartial ‘common good’ fashion). I’m with Seymour on this, “The time has come” to at very least debate it thoroughly and have a conscience vote on law change.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s