Record number of submissions on euthanasia Bill

The  Justice Select Committee has received a record number of public submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill. Most of those oppose the Bill, but despite claims that represents strong public opposition it is more indicative of strong organisation in trying to oppose the Bill.

Family First have made a common but ridiculous claim:  Overwhelming Majority Tell MPs To Kill The Euthanasia Bill

Family First NZ, a member of the Care Alliance which has analysed the almost-39,000 submissions made regarding David Seymour’s assisted suicide bill, says that there is overwhelming opposition to the bill being considered by Parliament and that MPs should vote against the bill at 2nd Reading.

The analysis reveals the following:
• Overall, 91.8% were opposed to the Bill
• 93.5% of submissions received from doctors, nurses and other health care staff were opposed
• 90.6% of organisations which submitted were opposed
• 90.5% of submissions made no reference at all to religious arguments
• all submissions made by churches were opposed, including a Buddhist group and a Muslim charitable organisation supported by 13 other Muslim welfare groups and organisations within NZ

This means there is a lot of opposition to the bill, but it makes no measure of overall public opposition or support of the bill. The 35,000 who submitted in opposition is a small minority of New Zealand voters.

RNZ picked up on this line of opposition:  Majority of submissions against bill to legalise euthanasia

The Care Alliance, which represents some groups opposed to euthanasia, analysed the nearly 38,000 submissions made to the Justice Select Committee on the End of Life Choice Bill.

Care Alliance Secretary Peter Thirkell said it was a record number of submissions for any bill, and more than 90 percent were opposed.

“These are heartfelt. This is a cross-section of all New Zealanders, and they are very well-informed submissions – these aren’t just a few people with funny ideas,” Dr Thirkell said.

It is disingenuous to claim “This is a cross-section of all New Zealanders” – it is a section of New Zealanders who were organised by the care Alliance and Family First to submit in opposition.

David Seymour has reacted: Care Alliance vs polling science on End of Life Choice

Analysing Select Committee submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill is no match for 20 years of research on New Zealanders’ support for the choice of assisted dying, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Reputable polling companies have time and time again found the vast majority of New Zealanders support assisted dying and welcome a change to our laws. A review of 20 years’ research into New Zealander’s attitudes to assisted dying by the University of Otago found that 68 per cent support change.”

This chart from the Young study shows the vast difference between support running consistently at around 70 per cent, opposition at around 20 per cent, and undecideds at around 10 per cent in 17 polls taken since 2002. These polls were taken by reputable firms such as Colmar Brunton and Reid Research, which most recently found 75 and 71 per cent support, respectively.

The Care Alliance are at pains to stress that the opposition to the bill was not, in the main, religiously motivated. However the church asked people not to use religious language in their submissions and its Bishops have defended the practice.

“90.5% of submissions made no reference at all to religious arguments” was one of the things analysed.

These mismatches between select committee submissions on an issue and public opinion are not new. The Committee considering the issue of civil unions found over 83 per cent of submissions were opposed to a law change at a time when the majority of New Zealanders were in favour of liberalisation. MPs understood this and voted civil unions into law.

“It is a shame that the Select Committee process has been misused in this way, emphasising the quantity of submissions over their quality.”

The Select Committee process hasn’t been misused – any member of the public has a right to submit. And it has been common for a long time for groups to organise submissions to inflate numbers in support of or in opposition to Bills. The only difference here is the number of submitters.

And it has also long been common for groups to misrepresent what number of submissions means. I have even seem elected councillors and MPs either misunderstand or misrepresent  what numbers of submissions.

It is up to the Select Committee to evaluate the submissions – MPs on committees should al be well aware of attempts to make numbers of submissions mean more than they do. The Select Committee will make recommendations to Parliament, and then all MPs will vote on whether to allow the bill to proceed or not.

If the Bill passes the Second and Third Reading votes in Parliament it is likely to then go to a referendum. That is likely to be what the ‘Care Alliance’ is trying to stop from happening.

But it could take a while –  Euthanasia bill timetable extended as record 35,000 submissions received

The timetable for the Justice Select Committee’s report on the End of Life Choice Bill has been extended after a record 35,000 submissions were received.

The select committee MPs will visit the regions in order to hear oral submissions on the bill, finally reporting back to Parliament at the end of March next year.

Will there be time from there to progress the bill through the second and third readings, then include it in a referendum held alongside the general election late next year as has been intimated might happen if the Bill passes through Parliament?

The member’s bill, sponsored by ACT’s David Seymour, would make it legal for those with a terminal illness or irremediable medical condition the choice of assisted death, otherwise known as euthanasia. It passed first reading last December 76 to 44.

That vote might get closer as it progresses through the readings.

“The Justice Committee intends to hear from all submitters who have asked to be heard,” chairperson Raymond Huo said.

“Hearing evidence in the regions will help ensure that as many individuals and community organisations as possible can present their views and that the Committee take account of all of the submissions in an open minded and balanced way.”

Deputy chairperson Maggie Barry said the huge number of submissions showed how strongly Kiwis felt about the issue.

“The Committee could not have done the submitters justice if we had refused to travel or hear everyone who asked to be heard. It was therefore essential we had the six month extension to allow us to give due consideration to the enormous task ahead of us,” Barry said.

Oral submissions begin in Parliament today.

It will be a year for it to be reported back to the full Parliament.

See also The Spinoff – Submissions show tough euthanasia fight ahead

The analysis of the submissions as a whole paints a fascinating picture of who was making them, and how they argued their case. The vast majority didn’t reference religious arguments, though some churches are understood to have strongly encouraged parishioners to write in. The vast majority were also uniquely written – that is, they weren’t just a form letter or postcard which groups sometimes use to pile submissions up. More than one in ten were longer than a page in length. All of that indicates a significant amount of vehemence behind the views.

Of course, tens of thousands of submissions still doesn’t add up to a majority of the electorate, or even remotely close to it.

Leave a comment


  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  1st April 2019

    %s are useless without numbers. 90% of doctors could be 9.

  2. Griff.

     /  1st April 2019

    35,000 slippery slope fallacy and projection of the desire to kill granny for her money from mostly the [deleted, generalised, derogatory and probably wrong – PG]?
    Bin the lot .
    Bring on a referendum.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  1st April 2019

      There is untold misinformation about it. I have been to meetings and read the bill, and would be quite happy with it as law. Only those who are capable of making the decision themselves can make use of it.

      The slippery slope fear that I had was allayed when I read it; nobody could misuse it.

      • Griff.

         /  1st April 2019

        If you read what has happened in other places you will find few granny’s actually use euthanasia.
        Most of those who opt in have progressive terminal illnesses like cancer in their forty’s and fifty’s .

        You have to be very careful about critically analyzing any on line information as a lot of it from the anti crowd is totally fabricated bullshite. You need to check sources and make sure it is both rebuttable and independently collaborated.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  1st April 2019

          I don’t get my info online; I’m not that silly. If I did that, I’d believe that vaccination caused autism ! Any info that I believe online must be from a reliable source. I got it from David himself and the actual document. It’s very carefully worded so that ONLY the person who wants it can request it. It’s about voluntary euthanasia, not German style ‘euthanasia.

          It was natural. I think, to fear the slippery slope, but anyone who thinks that of this proposal will be either disappointed or reassured. There are no loopholes. People have to be in their right mind. No old person going into hospital need have any fear.

          I did actually say something along these lines.

          The misinformation is appalling. It is often just lies.

          Much online info is all right, of course; like historical dates.

  3. Gezza

     /  1st April 2019

    The link in red at “understood” in rhe Spinoff excerpt in PG’s post is to this article & is well worth a read, in my opinion.

  1. Misinformation on euthanasia polls and support | Your NZ

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