End of Life Choice Bill passes second reading 70-50

End of Life Choice Bill passed its second reading last night in Parliament last night, by 70 votes to 50.

That is a comfortable margin, but it doesn’t mean that the euthanasia bill is a done deal. It will now proceed to the third reading, and a lot of Supplementary Order Papers will be debated on and voted on before we know what the final form of the Bill will look like. Then Parliament will make it’s final vote for or against.

NZ First are pushing for the final choice to go to a referendum to be run at the same time as next year’s general election. Whether that will happen is yet to be decided.

There are some strong views and emotional feelings on this issue on both sides of the debate. Unfortunately there are also some outlandish claims being made.

I think the key thing in this is Choice.

I personally would like that choice, if I was ever in a situation of terminal illness.

I understand that others feel strongly against euthanasia. I hope the End of Life Choice Bill will allow them to opt out, while giving choice to chose who want it, with sufficient safeguards.

Parliament has to decide whether to give a legal end of life choice to people.

NZ Herald has a list of How your MP voted on the End of Life Choice Bill

* Denotes MPs who have changed their vote since the first reading


SUPPORT – 70

  • Amy Adams – National – Selwyn
  • Ginny Andersen – Labour – List
  • Jacinda Ardern – Labour – Mt Albert
  • Darroch Ball – NZ First – List
  • Paula Bennett – National – Upper Harbour
  • Chris Bishop – National – Hutt South
  • Tamati Coffey – Labour – Waiariki
  • Judith Collins* – National – Papakura
  • Liz Craig – Labour – List
  • Clare Curran – Labour – Dunedin South
  • Marama Davidson – Green – List
  • Kelvin Davis – Labour – Te Tai Tokerau
  • Matt Doocey – National – Waimakariri
  • Ruth Dyson – Labour – Port Hills
  • Paul Eagle – Labour – Rongotai
  • Kris Faafoi – Labour – Mana
  • Andrew Falloon – National – Rangitata
  • Julie Anne Genter – Green – List
  • Golriz Ghahraman – Green –List
  • Peeni Henare – Labour – Tamaki Makaurau
  • Chris Hipkins – Labour – Rimutaka
  • Brett Hudson – National – List
  • Gareth Hughes – Green – List
  • Raymod Huo – Labour – List
  • Willie Jackson – Labour – List
  • Shane Jones – NZ First – List
  • Nikki Kaye – National – Auckland Central
  • Matt King – National – Northland
  • Barbara Kuriger – National – Taranaki-King Country
  • Iain Lees-Galloway – Labour – Palmerston North
  • Andrew Little – Labour – List
  • Jan Logie – Green – List
  • Marja Lubeck – Labour – List
  • Jo Luxton – Labour – List
  • Nanaia Mahuta – Labour – Hauraki-Waikato
  • Trevor Mallard – Labour – List
  • Jenny Marcroft – NZ First – List
  • Ron Mark – NZ First – List
  • Tracey Martin – NZ First – List
  • Kieran McAnulty – Labour – List
  • Clayton Mitchell – NZ First – List
  • Mark Mitchell – National – Rodney
  • Stuart Nash – Labour – Napier
  • Greg O’Connor – Labour – Ohariu
  • David Parker – Labour – List
  • Mark Patterson – NZ First – List
  • Winston Peters – NZ First – List
  • Willow-Jean Prime – Labour – List
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan – Labour – List
  • Grant Robertson – Labour – Wellington Central
  • Jami-Lee Ross – Independent – Botany
  • Eugenie Sage – Green – List
  • Carmel Sepuloni – Labour – Kelston
  • David Seymour – Act – Epsom
  • James Shaw – Green – List
  • Scott Simpson – National – Coromandel
  • Stuart Smith – National – Kaikoura
  • Erica Stanford – National – East Coast Bays
  • Chloe Swarbrick – Green – List
  • Fletcher Tabuteau – NZ First – List
  • Jan Tinetti – Labour – List
  • Tim van de Molen – National – Waikato
  • Louisa Wall – Labour – Manurewa
  • Angie Warren-Clark – Labour – List
  • Duncan Webb – Labour – Christchurch Central
  • Poto Williams* – Labour – Christchurch East
  • Nicola Willis – National – List
  • Megan Woods – Labour – Wigram
  • Jian Yang – National – List
  • Lawrence Yule* – National- Tukituki

OPPOSE 50

  • Kiritapu Allan*- Labour – List
  • Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi – National – List
  • Maggie Barry – National – North Shore
  • Andrew Bayly – National – Hunua
  • David Bennett – National – Hamilton East
  • Dan Bidois – National – Northcote
  • Simon Bridges – National – Tauranga
  • Simeon Brown – National – Pakuranga
  • Gerry Brownlee – National – Ilam
  • David Carter – National – List
  • David Clark – Labour – Dunedin North
  • Jacquie Dean – National – Waitaki
  • Sarah Dowie – National – Invercargill
  • Paulo Garcia – National – List
  • Paul Goldsmith – National – List
  • Nathan Guy* – National – Otaki
  • Joanne Hayes – National – List
  • Harete Hipango* – National – Whanganui
  • Anahila Kanongata’aSuisuiki – Labour – List
  • Denise Lee – National – List
  • Melissa Lee – National – List
  • Agnes Loheni – National – List
  • Tim Macindoe – National – Hamilton West
  • Todd McClay – National – Rotorua
  • Ian McKelvie – National – Rangitikei
  • Todd Muller – National – Bay of Plenty
  • Alfred Ngaro – National – List
  • Damien O’Connor – Labour – West Coast
  • Simon O’Connor – National – Tamaki
  • Parmjeet Parmar – National – List
  • Chris Penk – National – Helensville
  • Maureen Pugh – National – List
  • Shane Reti – National – Whangarei
  • Adrian Rurawhe* – Labour – Te Tai Hauauru
  • Deborah Russell* – Labour – New Lynn
  • Jenny Salesa – Labour – Manukau East
  • Alastair Scott – National – Wairarapa
  • Aupito William Sio – Labour – Mangere
  • Nick Smith – National – Nelson
  • Jamie Strange – Labour – List
  • Rino Tirakatene – Labour – List
  • Anne Tolley* – National – East Coast
  • Phil Twyford – Labour – Te Atatu
  • Louise Upston – National – Taupo
  • Nicky Wagner – National – List
  • Hamish Walker* – National – Clutha-Southland
  • Meka Whaitiri* – Labour – Ikaroa Rawhiti
  • Michael Wood* – Labour – Mt Roskill
  • Michael Woodhouse – National – List
  • Jonathan Young – National – New Plymouth

Misinformation on euthanasia polls and support

For years polls have indicated significant majority support for legalising some sort of assisted dying/assisted suicide/euthanasia.

Opponents of the End of Life Choice Bill currently working it’s way through Parliament have been trying to discredit the polls and have falsely claimed a majority of submissions on the Bill represents some sort of majority opposition. Groups who oppose euthanasia, in particular the Catholic Church, organised submissions to boost the opposing numbers – see Record number of submissions on euthanasia Bill.

In a debate on Newshub Nation yesterday Peter Thirkell from anti-euthanasia group Care Alliance promoted the submission numbers while dismissing poll history.

What I would say to that figure of 40,000 and your analysis saying 90 per cent was against the bill is that outside of the select committee process, there’s been a lot of polls which seem to indicate that the public is in favour of some form of assisted dying.

Thirkell: Well, polls are fairly whimsical things. They tend to be single-question things. They’re usually framed in a way— They use soft language like ‘assisted dying’, ‘with the approval and assistance of the doctor’, and, you know, ‘given certain safeguards’.

That seems to describe the aims of the bill.

That really doesn’t carry the weight of expert evidence. There were 54,000 pages of evidence that went to the select committee. Over 600 doctors wrote in, and 93 per cent of them were opposed; 800 nurses, 93% opposed. So almost 2000 medical professionals, and 94 per cent of them were opposed, so these are the experts that are speaking out on the bill.

There was not 38,000 experts submitting on the bill – ‘experts’ were only a very small proportion of the overall number of submitters.

The Care Alliance have been disingenuous claiming that a majority of submissions represents public opinion, it doesn’t do anything like that. It  mostly indicts an organised campaign to  boost the number of submissions opposing the bill.

Seymour: Well, first of all, the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders don’t make submissions to the select committee. That’s their choice. It doesn’t mean that their views are less valid. The same with nurses, the same with doctors. And I think Dr Thirkell needs to ask himself, as do most people that oppose this bill, why it is that over 20 years New Zealanders have consistently said…70 per cent, 75 per cent of New Zealanders consistently say that they want choice in this area…

A website called ‘a NEW ZEALAND RESOURCE for LIFE related issues’ on Public Opinion Polls:

Polls have been asking the following (or similar) question regularly since the 1960s and ’70s: “If a hopelessly ill patient, in great pain, with absolutely no chance of recovering, asks for a lethal dose, so as not to wake again, should the doctor be allowed to give the lethal dose?”, and the number in favour has steadily increased from about 50 to nearly 80 percent.

As one commentator said, it would be hard for an uninformed person to say “no” to that question without feeling negligent, dogmatic or insensitive.

But when the current ability of good palliative care to relieve the severe pain of terminal illness is known, though it it also known tragically not to be sufficiently available, the same question could be more accurately put: “If a doctor is so negligent as to leave a terminally-ill patient in pain, severe enough to drive him / her to ask to be killed, should the doctor be able to compound that negligence by killing the patient, instead of seeking help?” 

The question is really about medical standards, not euthanasia.

That suggested question is hopelessly slanted and would be terrible for a poll.

And “the following (or similar) question” is nothing like questions asked in euthanasia polls.

Ironically that website claims in About Us:

ESTABLISHING THE TRUTH

We believe that it is enormously beneficial for the public of New Zealand to be able to establish truth for themselves (with the assistance of a website like this one) rather than to rely on information that may be biased, or that is deliberately kept incomplete.

It has been our firm belief, throughout the development of this website, that people will recognise the truth when it is spoken, and that access to more information will empower them to make wiser decisions than if they have partial information, and therefore have a lesser, or shallower understanding of the issues.

Their lack of truthfulness would condemn them to hell based on Israel Folau’s recent proclamation.

The actual truth

A survey done by Massey University in 2003 showed that 73% wanted assisted suicide legalised if it was performed by a doctor, but if done by others support dropped to 49%. The wording of the questions were:

“Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the patient requests it?”

“Still thinking of that person with a painful incurable disease. Do you think that someone else, like a close relative, should be allowed by law to help end the patient’s life, if the patient requests it?”

A survey carried out on behalf of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society in 2008 showed that 71% of New Zealanders want to have it legalised. The question read:

“In some countries, though not all, if you have an illness that results in your being unable to have an acceptable quality of life, you are legally allowed to get help from a doctor to help you to die. If you had an illness or condition which resulted in your having a quality of life that was totally unacceptable to you, would you like to have the legal right to choose a medically assisted death?”

Another survey by Massey University in 2008 gave similar results.

Horizon poll in 2017: Q.1  Do you support a law change to allow medical practitioners to assist people to die, where a request has come from a mentally competent patient, 18 years or over, who has end stage terminal disease and irreversible unbearable suffering, e.g. cancer?

  • Strongly support 46%
  • Support 29%
  • Neither support nor oppose 8%
  • Oppose 3%
  • Strongly oppose 8%
  • Not sure 6%

Q.2  Do you support a law change to allow medical practitioners to assist people to die, where such a request has come from a mentally competent patient, 18 years and over, who has irreversible unbearable suffering which may not cause death in the immediate future, e.g.: motor neurone disease?

  • Strongly support 33%
  • Support 33%
  • Neither support nor oppose 15%
  • Oppose 6%
  • Strongly oppose 9%
  • Not sure 5%

The current Bill is unlikely to allow euthanasia in that situation. It is likely to require that an illness is terminal with death likely within 6 months. But there is still only 15% oppose or strongly oppose.

Colmar Brunton in 2017 asked “Parliament is to consider a new bill on euthanasia. Do you think a person who is terminally or incurably ill should be able to request the assistance of a doctor to end their life?”

  • Yes 74%
  • No 18%
  • Don’t know 9%

Newshub in 2018 – 71% support, 19.5% oppose:

So very similar results from Colmar Brunton and Reid Research in recent polls, and similar from Horizon, and their questions were nothing like what was suggested above.

See commentary and poll details at NZ Parliament Assisted dying: New Zealand

 

 

Seymour v Thirkell debate euthanasia and End of Life Choice bill

Act Party Leader David Seymour and Care Alliance Secretary Peter Thirkell were on Newshub Nation yesterday morning (repeated this morning) to debate New Zealander’s right to choose the way they die.

 


Simon Shepherd: The euthanasia debate is gaining momentum as the End of Life Choice Bill approaches its second reading in Parliament next month.The author of the controversial bill – Act MP David Seymour – is planning three changes including limiting it to those with a terminal illness – but will they be enough to sway its opponents? David joins me now, along with Peter Thirkell from anti-euthanasia group Care Alliance. Thanks for your time this morning. To you first, David Seymour. The justice select committee process had nearly 40,000 submissions. Do you accept there are flaws in your bill?

David Seymour: No, I don’t. You know, the bill was examined by the select committee. They’ve come back with a number of minor and technical changes to make sure that the way that it’s written aligns with its intention, and that’s what should happen. That’s why we send bills to select committees, and I’m very pleased.

Yeah, but surely, there are flaws, because you’re proposing changes to them.

Seymour: No. Just because you want to make something better doesn’t mean that it’s flawed. I think the major change that’s occurred and the major change that I’m now proposing is that it’s become clear from listening to people, including the public and also my fellow members of parliament, that there is not support for a bill that is for people who don’t have the terminal prognosis within six months. So that’s an easy fix. That was already one of the criteria — was people who are terminal within six months would be able to access the bill if they so choose. We simply narrow it and make it only that, and that’s the law-making process. That’s listening, that’s changing, that’s improving, and that’s getting a bill passed that everybody’s happy with.

So, Peter, how do you feel about those changes that are being proposed?

Peter Thirkell: Well, the bill that’s going to the parliament for the second reading is in fact in its present form. So David has indicated some changes he has in mind, but that’s all they are. The present bill is the present bill. And as you alluded to, 40,000 New Zealanders wrote in expressing concerns. A lot of expert evidence. Ninety per cent of the submissions were opposed. But importantly, within that, there were sub-groups like doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals — groups, peak medical organisations and such. So a lot of expert evidence, and there isn’t one sub-group constituency within the submissions that supports this bill.

What I would say to that figure of 40,000 and your analysis saying 90 per cent was against the bill is that outside of the select committee process, there’s been a lot of polls which seem to indicate that the public is in favour of some form of assisted dying.

Thirkell: Well, polls are fairly whimsical things. They tend to be single-question things. They’re usually framed in a way— They use soft language like ‘assisted dying’, ‘with the approval and assistance of the doctor’, and, you know, ‘given certain safeguards’. That really doesn’t carry the weight of expert evidence. There were 54,000 pages of evidence that went to the select committee. Over 600 doctors wrote in, and 93 per cent of them were opposed; 800 nurses, 93% opposed. So almost 2000 medical professionals, and 94 per cent of them were opposed, so these are the experts that are speaking out on the bill.

OK. So, David Seymour, what do you say to that?

Seymour: Well, first of all, the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders don’t make submissions to the select committee. That’s their choice. It doesn’t mean that their views are less valid. The same with nurses, the same with doctors. And I think Dr Thirkell needs to ask himself, as do most people that oppose this bill, why it is that over 20 years New Zealanders have consistently said — and this is according to polling companies, such as Reid Research, that Newshub relies on; polling companies that predicted the last election to within one per cent — not that I was happy about that, but they’re good, and they’re accurate — 70 per cent, 75 per cent of New Zealanders consistently say that they want choice in this area, and I would give two-word answer to why that is. Life experience. Because New Zealanders have seen bad death, and they’ve said, ‘If my time comes, I’m in a position where palliative care can’t help me,’ – and for some people, that is a reality, as it’s widely accepted – ‘then I want to be able to choose. It’s my life. It’s my right. It’s my choice to be able to choose how I go and when I go, not to suffer, writhing in agony, to satisfy somebody else’s idea of what a good death is.’

I just want to pick up on something that Peter Thirkell has said about medical professions submitting to the select committee process. One of the issues is that even the medical associations express concern about the reliability of predicting how long someone will live. So they may fall into the eligibility and have a timeframe of six months, and it gets turned on its head. So, I mean, what’s an acceptable level of error there?

Seymour: Well, they’re—

Thirkell: Well—

David first.

Seymour: Can we actually just go back to the fact that this is a choice? It’s your life; it’s your choice; it’s your right. So, yes, it is true that new treatments come along. It is true that people will bad prognoses make miraculous recoveries, and everybody who wants to choose this bill has to weigh that up. But what is not right is that people who don’t have that kind of fortune have to suffer just in case. This is about a personal choice. It’s not about imposing one person’s morality on everybody else.

So is that what you’re saying, that Peter’s imposing his morality on everybody else?

Seymour: Well, if you accept that this bill is safe, and that is the position of the Supreme Court of Canada, it’s—

Thirkell: That is highly contested.

Seymour: Well, no.

Thirkell: That is unsafe, based on overseas evidence. People who are vulnerable are at risk.

OK, gentlemen. Let’s just pause there.

Seymour: Which one of us would you like to answer the question?

I’d like to ask Peter a question. What about choice, as David is saying?

Thirkell: Well, choices have consequences, and the harsh consequence of this bill is that a medical practitioner, a doctor, has to take a lethal injection and put it into a patient and end their life. Although, it is not a choice for the person alone. By definition, it implicates someone else. If you create a moral opportunity for someone to elect to die, then you create a moral duty for someone to actually carry that out. You can’t act alone, and—

Serymour: Well, with the greatest of respect—

Thirkell: …therein lies the rub.

Seymour: The bill is incredibly clear. Nobody has to do anything they don’t want to do. If you’re a doctor, and you want nothing to do with this, then you can conscientiously object. Now, I’d just like to come back to the evidence about doctors — the New Zealand Medical Association’s done a survey, almost 40 per cent of doctors are in favour. Two thirds of nurses are in favour.

Thirkell: Well, I contest that.

Seymour: Well, OK. People can look it up for themselves.

All right. We’ll let people—

Seymour: That’s what the data is.

Thirkell: The NZMA says this is an unethical practice, and it will remain unethical even if the law passes. So what the Parliament is at risk of doing is imposing on the medical profession an unethical practice.

Seymour: Well, the Canadian Medical Association has just elected a doctor who is in favour of their legislation.

Thirkell: We’re talking about New Zealand. There are lots of problems in Canada.

Can I ask something about Canada? You’ve brought Canada up. Now, Canada — one of the major concerns about enacting this kind of legislation is whether it’s going to be a gateway or a slippery slope to people like minors or people with disabilities or who have a mental illness being able to access this. Now, that’s not allowed under the bill at the moment, but is that a possibility? That’s one of the concerns, isn’t it, David?

Seymour: Well, no, it’s not. Frankly, it’s one of the weakest arguments that people make.

But Canada’s looking at that right now.

Thirkell: There are over 2000 submissions.

Seymour: When the Canadians passed their law, they passed a law that said, ‘In a couple of years, Parliament must review the law.’ My bill does the same thing. That’s right, and that’s democratic. You’ve now got people submitting and saying, ‘Well, maybe it should change this way, maybe it should change that.’

So that’s a possibility.

Seymour: But to say because somebody in Canada has raised the possibility is a bit like a Canadian saying, ‘Well, I’ve read the ACT Party website, and New Zealand’s about to get a flat tax.’ The fact that some Canadian says it doesn’t mean that Canada’s going to do it.

It sounds like, Peter, you say that more than just ‘somebody says it’. You say it’s overwhelming. Is it?

Thirkell: Yeah, well, just on this issue alone, there were over 2000 submissions from those who were opposed, and we had Dr Leonie Hertz out last week — a palliative care physician from Canada on the ground. She says we paint a rosy picture. It was the same in Canada two and a half years ago, but actually the ground has shifted. It’s become normalised. They are already talking about broadening the criteria. It is simply unstoppable, and she says it’s not actually a slippery slope — it is a logical progression. You open the door, you let the genie out of the bottle, you can’t complain.

Seymour: I’m not sure that one avowedly spiritually-motivated Canadian doctor speaks for the country, but there you go.

Okay, and one last quick question, Peter, even if this bill’s not successful, the fact that it’s got this far, does it indicate a public shift on this issue?

Thirkell: No, I think, again, I come back to the submissions. It’s all very well to talk about polls, they’re whimsical, they’re not informed.

Seymour: Well…

Thirkell: There’s a huge amount of expert evidence and evidence from the public saying please don’t do this. It puts vulnerable people at risk, it disrupts the doctor/patient relationship and requires them to participate in a system that would be unethical. The overseas experience certainly is not reassuring.

Seymour: Well, Simon, if I can come in on that. Simon—

Thirkell: And palliative care is another alternative, we’d be much better to put our energies into that life-affirming—

Seymour: Simon, it’s widely accepted that palliative care is great, but it does not work for everyone. There are many countries that have considered these laws, and they have not voted them in…

Thirkell: It’s not widely accepted.

Seymour: …because the lawmakers were spooked and fear mongered by the kind of arguments we’ve heard this morning.

Thirkell: It’s not fear mongering, it’s evidence.

Seymour: But of those countries that have put an assisted dying law in place, none of them have gone back. And that tells you the reality is far better than the rhetoric you hear.

Well, we’re going to continue this debate as the bill goes towards its second reading. David Seymour, thank you for your time, Peter Thirkell, thank you.

Seymour: Thank you.

Thirkell: Thank you, Simon, appreciate it.


Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

Full video here: David Seymour clashes with anti-euthanasia advocate

Parliamentary committee report on euthanasia to be tabled this week

After a lengthy period for public submissions and a record number of submissions (38,000) David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill is due to have it’s select committee report tabled in Parliament tomorrow.

Most submissions opposed the bill, but many were organised by churches opposed to the bill.

NZ Herald:  Report due back on Act leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill

With a parliamentary committee due to table its report on David Seymour’s euthanasia bill on Tuesday, the Act leader is “quietly confident” about its future.

“This is something that is becoming increasingly normal around the world and something that New Zealanders overwhelmingly want,” Seymour told the Herald.

“However, as we can see from the select committee process, we face a very well-orchestrated campaign from a motivated minority who are extremely committed to defeating the bill,” he said.

The bill as it stands would give people with a terminal illness or a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” the option of requesting assisted dying.

“It allows people who so choose, and are eligible under this bill, to end their lives in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.”

But speaking ahead of the report’s public release on Tuesday, ahead of the bill’s second reading, Seymour said he was “quietly confident” of its future.

I hope that MPs do the right thing and progress this Bill, and put the final decision to all of us via a binding referendum that would support or reject the Bill.

Possible double referendum – cannabis and euthanasia

The prospect of a referendum to accept or reject legislation decided in parliament for the personal use of cannabis has already been raised – with the referendum possible by late next year. See Cannabis legislation and referendum in 2019?

Now it has been suggested that a similar democratic process be used for euthanasia.

Newshub: Kiwis could vote on euthanasia and cannabis at the same time

New Zealand First said it would support the voluntary euthanasia Bill currently before Parliament if a conscience vote allowing a binding referendum on the law could be held.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the referendum goes ahead, it could make sense to combine the two referenda.

“If you’re gonna do one, you might as well do a job lot,” he explained. “It would make sense to not have to spend a lot of money on a succession of referenda.”

It does make sense to have a combined referendum.

And for conscience issues like these it makes a lot of sense to have Parliament decide on possible legislation – with the usual public input via submissions and lobbying – and then to put that to referendum to let the public vote to accept or reject the legislation.

This is a very good way to improve public participation in politics.

It should also help focus MPs in Parliament on coming up with the best possible legislation for any given issue.

There’s no decision yet on when the referendum on cannabis will be held.

“Cabinet just hasn’t got around to considering the details of it,” Mr Little told Newshub.

“Obviously, when we consider a date for it, we need to weigh up [whether] we run it at the same time as the general election – there would be some cost saving with that – or the other question is, do we want the general election dominated by the referendum?”

Important public issues like cannabis and euthanasia would be better addressed in a referendum separate from an election, so that the influence of party politics, by design or by association, was minimised.

The Greens have different preferences on when the cannabis referendum should be held.

Green Party leader James Shaw would prefer to hold the referendum at the same time as the election.

“People are going to be going to the polling booths anyway,” Mr Shaw said.

Shaw should rethink this – he should consider what is best for public participation in democracy rather than what he thinks might work best for the Green Party.

As to whether the referendum could end up dominating the election period, Mr Shaw said “there are ways you can stay out of the politics of it.”

Get real. There is no way of avoiding politics dominating general elections, and it is unlikely any party – including the Greens – would not put their own interests ahead of referendum choices.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has shown some support for a separate referendum.

Greens spokesperson of drug law reform Chloe Swarbrick said if it’s held in 2019, that could avoid politicising the issue.

“If we hold it in 2019, it may not be deeply politicised, polarised or pigeon-holed – and we are hopefully able to have more of an evidentiary discussion.

“If we hold it in 2020 we might end up with something where it dominates the issues and we don’t end up talking about things like housing, criminal justice or healthcare.”

She also liked a Tweet of mine yesterday that applauded the legislation-referendum approach separate to the general election.

I think that it would provide a very good template for improving public democratic participation, and and excellent way to decide on what to do about cannabis and euthanasia law.

And I think that having two issues to vote on at the same time would enhance the process, as long as it was separate from a general election.

Guilty of importing drugs, not guilty of assisting suicide

In a topical trial in Wellington Susan Austen  has been found not guilty of assisting suicide, but guilty of illegally importing drugs that can be used for suicide – but can also be used for alleviating suffering.

ODT (NZH): Euthanasia campaigner acquitted of aiding suicide

Wellington woman Susan Austen has been found not guilty of assisting suicide.

A jury delivered the verdict at the High Court in Wellington on Friday afternoon where she had been standing trial over the past two weeks.

The 67-year-old has also been found not guilty on a representative charge of importing the Class C drug pentobarbitone. However, she has been found guilty on two other charges of importing the drug.

Austen, a Lower Hutt teacher, was accused of assisting Annemarie Treadwell to take her own life in 2016, along with two other counts of importing Class C controlled drug pentobarbital, on two occasions between 2012 and 2016.

Police launched an investigation into the case after Treadwell (77) was found dead in her bedroom at a retirement village in Kilbirnie in June 2016.

The euthanasia advocate died from an overdose of pentobarbitone.

Susan Austen’s lawyer Dr Donald Stevens, QC, argued during the trial that Austen did not intend that Treadwell should commit suicide, but assisted her to obtain the pentobarbital.

“She intended that Mrs Treadwell should have control over her end of life issue – having that [drug] could have had a profound palliative effect to reduce suffering.”

Clinical psychologist Professor Glynn Owens said merely possessing “end of life” drugs, such as pentobarbital, could actually ease suffering.

“Just having the drugs reduced anxiety and can focus someone on quality of life,” the court heard.

This case highlights issues around euthanasia as David Seymour’s ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ progresses through Parliament – it passed it’s First Reading on 13 December 2017 and is now at the public consultation select Committee stage.

Poll: most support euthanasia

Parliament is considering passing a euthanasia law that would allow terminally ill patients to choose to die, with the help and approval of their doctors. Do you support it?

  • Yes 71%
  • No 19.5%
  • Don’t know 9.5%

So three and a half times as many people support euthanasia as oppose it.

Newshub: Most New Zealanders support euthanasia

The vast majority of New Zealanders support euthanasia, according to the latest Newshub Reid Research poll.

A Bill to legalise assisted dying is currently before Parliament and it has 71 percent of the country’s support, with 19.5 percent against it and 9.5 percent unsure.

Written by ACT MP David Seymour, the End of Life Choices Bill seeks to give adults suffering a terminal illness or a grievous or incurable medical condition the option of medically assisted death.

The Bill passed its first reading in December through a conscience vote – 76 MPs voted in favour and 44 voted against.

The Bill argues some people are suffering unbearably at the end of their lives, and allows adults suffering from a terminal or irremediable illness to ask for a medically assisted death.

It’s currently being examined by Parliament’s Justice Select Committee, which is due to report back to the House in September.

Under the End of Life Choice Bill, a person wishing to end their own life must meet all of the following criteria:

  • be 18 or older
  • suffer from a terminal or grievous and irremediable illness
  • or be in an advanced state of irreversible decline
  • be in unbearable pain that can’t be helped by medication
  • be of sound mind to give consent

If those criteria are met, the applicant must be assessed by two doctors.

A dying person has no responsibility to extend their life in order to allow visitors to see them suffering and losing their dignity.

In the whole scheme of things, someone dying a few days or a few weeks earlier than they otherwise might is not a big deal.

People’s lives are commonly and frequently extended beyond when they would naturally end due to the intervention of drugs, technology and doctors. It is likely that most people who chose to end their lives slightly earlier would, in an earlier age (not that much earlier) have not lived as long as they did anyway.

It is common for people’s lives to end sooner than modern medicine would force them to live. ‘Do not resuscitate’ is one choice already available.

My father’s life was extended a number of times. He had two operations, and he had six or seven blood transfusions in the last few years of his life that kept him alive. And then his end was hastened with morphine.

My mother was allowed by doctors to starve herself to death. She could have been force fed or put on a drip, but fortunately she wasn’t. It was still awful to see her suffering in her last week.

A legal choice to end ones own life a bit sooner than might otherwise occur, with adequate checks and balances, seems like a no brainer to me, and it seems that most other people agree. We should have the right to choose a slightly sooner death if that’s what we want.

Euthanasia and the value and meaning of life

Philip Matthews: Euthanasia debate reveals deep divisions about the value and meaning of life

In December, the End of Life Choice Bill passed its first reading in Parliament with 76 out of 120 MPs voting to send it up to the Justice Select Committee on the slow process to becoming law.

Despite the deep nature of questions it raises about the meaning and quality of life, the Parliamentary debate was unusually polite and respectful. There was, as former MP and pro-euthanasia campaigner Maryan​ Street notes, a pleasant absence of grandstanding, time wasting or personal abuse.

The details may change but the bill presently would allow for a New Zealand citizen or resident over 18, who is suffering from a terminal illness that is expected to end their life within 6 months or has a grievous and untreatable medical condition, to opt for an assisted death. There are safeguards of informed consent and assessment by two doctors.

The pro-euthanasia camps argue that civilised countries like ours at this point in history should allow for death without suffering, a painless option. You hear a lot about the dignity of the dying.

“In a modern and compassionate society, the law should allow for a decent death,” said Chris Bishop, one of the 21 National MPs to vote for the bill.

The strongest opposition in Parliament came from Simon O’Connor​ who said that “fundamentally, I do not believe doctors should be killing their patients”. O’Connor was one of the 35 National MPs who voted against.

Nine Labour MPs voted against, including Pasifika MPs Jenny Salesa​ and Poto Williams, Māori MP Rino Tirikatene and Pākehā MPs Phil Twyford and Damien O’Connor.

All NZ First MPs voted for it at this stage, but want to see a referendum on euthanasia. All of the Green MPs backed it.

David Seymour’s bill was drawn from the members’ Bill ballot.

“It is not pleasant to talk about painful death,” said Act MP David Seymour, whose bill continued the unfinished business of Street’s earlier attempt to make assisted dying legal.

In this corner there is compassion and dignity, while opposition to euthanasia is often imagined as medieval and unenlightened, a product of redundant religious faith. But actually, Street says, arguments are more complex and nuanced.

It is a complex issue. I am generally in favour of legalising assisted dying/euthanasia and certainly want to be able to make choices for myself about the way I die if I get the chance, but have some concerns about how legislation will both give personal choice but also protect against abuse or misuse.

There is no monolithic block for or against. Her years as the unofficial godmother of the euthanasia movement in New Zealand – she is now president of the End of Life Choice Society – have shown her that there are some Catholics for, as well as many against. There are Māori for and against, Pasifika for and against, Asians for and against.

The polling Street cites was conducted by Horizon in May 2017 and found that 75 per cent of New Zealanders support or strongly support the right to die, with support at its highest among Pākehā and other Europeans and lowest among Asians and Indians.

It is, Street knows, a deeply individual matter. Faith or politics may play a part, or politics or, more likely, life experience.

I have experienced the end of life and deaths of both my parents over years (father, emphysema) and months (mother, cancer). I believe my father was effectively assisted to die but I was shut out of the process (by the hospital he was in, possibly to protect themselves), this was a very difficult time. My mother died in a hospice, under the best possible care but still fraught – they reacted to her pain with just enough pain killers, until the next time she suffered.

This is where Raymond Mok comes in. What does it mean to say that those with serious medical conditions can legally opt out of life with the help of the able-bodied? Does it imply that their lives are less precious, less valuable?

It smacks of discrimination to him. We want to be progressive in our thinking but legalising assisted suicide for only the ill or disabled is not moving forward.

“I think it’s not the Government’s role to say who is eligible to live or die,” Mok says. “If it is the choice of the individual, then it shouldn’t be limited to people with severe illness or disability.”

This does present a genuine dilemma that gets to the heart of our ethics. In our rush to offer a compassionate death to those who are suffering, we might also be suggesting that they are somehow worth less than others. As Mok says, the important thing is that a consenting adult is making an informed and conscious decision to die, regardless of illness or disability.

Street steps carefully into this ethical minefield and says that “when it comes to people with disabilities, this needs to be treated with the utmost respect, because their lives are typically a struggle, society views them differently already, and they feel that because they are already vulnerable, they will be more vulnerable”.

She believes that two things underpin both the assisted dying bill and disability charters, and they are maximum autonomy and dignity. Just as disability rights activists want to enshrine those qualities, so too does the pro-euthanasia camp.

But yes, it is a highly tricky area that must be approached with as much sensitivity and empathy as we can muster. As for the palliative care backers, Street says that she too is a great supporter of it but “I only wish that in New Zealand it were universally accessible and it were universally of a high standard. Neither of those things is true.”

Hospices are as good as we could have under current law, but only a small number of people die in hospices.

The slippery slope argument is harder to combat, though. What happens if we keep normalising the right to die or keep expanding the parameters? How far does liberalism take us? Australian ethicist Xavier Symons made this point recently when euthanasia was debated and made legal in the state of Victoria. In the Netherlands, Symons noted, euthanasia deaths have trebled since 2002, and are now more than 4 per cent of all deaths, with increasing requests from people who are not terminally ill but simply “tired of life”.

Is it a slippery slope, or generally an increasing number of people choosing what they want?

There is something very sad about this trend: boredom, illness and loneliness in the most prosperous societies in history, where some would rather be dead and no longer a burden.

Whatever the reasoning and reason, it should be an individual’s choice, providing there are adequate safeguards.

Would we accept this in New Zealand? Street agrees it is not palatable and she has been adamant about safeguards that would restrict assisted dying to those old enough to vote and the need for citizenship or residency to stop New Zealand from becoming a site of death tourism, as has been seen in Switzerland.

The Swiss situation has only arisen because of a lack of legal choices in people’s own country.

Most of us already can make choices about committing suicide, but options are far from ideal.

One of the biggest fears is becoming incapable of taking our own lives but wanting to opt out of life.

One contradiction is the use of modern medicine to prolong life far beyond natural processes, but legally forbidding using medicine to easy one to their death a bit sooner than may otherwise occur.

It will be an interesting debate, with passion on both sides of the argument. I hope this debate can be conducted with dignity.

Matthews wraps one person’s illness, experience and views around his article, seeming to use that as a proxy for his own views, but there are many circumstances in which people live and die.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

* Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

* Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

* Gambling Helpline – 0800 654 655

* Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

* Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

* Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO).

Extreme arguments against euthanasia

There must be quite a few people who prefer new Zealand didn’t legalise euthanasia on reasonable and logical grounds – I have some concerns, but think that giving people a choice over better ways of ending their lives outweighs the risks.

But some of the opposition has been fairly extreme.

SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki):

Members of the House, this bill is about killing in two ways. The first is called euthanasia. It’s where the doctor takes an injection, usually something like phenobarbital, and injects it into you—only after they’ve sedated you, of course; couldn’t have the inconvenience of twitching. The other is physician-assisted suicide, where, again, they give you a massive dose of drugs. You take that yourself at your own choosing—and hope that the kids don’t find it in the medical cabinet at the time.

This bill combines both of them. That’s almost unheard of in any other jurisdiction around the world. This bill before us tonight is the worst example of euthanasia in the world.

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore):

This bill will enable more people to predate on the vulnerable, with far too few—negligible, even—protections and safeguards.

We’ve consulted widely with medical and legal experts and believe that the Seymour bill and version is so fatally flawed that it couldn’t even be fully rewritten to prevent vulnerable people from being predated on.

The answer is not to coerce and to kill, as this bill dictates; it is to continue to invest in world-class palliative care, and that’s what we have in this country.

We have very good palliative care, but it doesn’t prevent suffering. I have seen that up close when my mother died in a hospice.

But the aim of the bill is not “to coerce and to kill”.

Those are two National MPs.

From the other side of the political spectrum some similar but more extreme views from Martyn Bradbury: Why I do not welcome euthanasia in New Zealand

When I look at the horror our mental health system, prison system & welfare systems have become for the most vulnerable via chronic underfunding & indifferent staff – I fear how euthanasia will mutate in that cruel environment.

The way we treat the mentally ill, suicide victims, prisoners, the elderly and the poor with such contempt makes me believe that state sanctioned euthanasia will quickly become a means for pushing the poor to end their lives sooner.

It should surprise no one that it is ACT who is driving this movement. Euthanasia fits perfectly well within the far rights belief of individualism above all and the efficiency of the market to eradicate cost.

Simon O’Connor is more conservative and right wing than David Seymour and ACT.

The loop holes available in this legislation means it is only a matter of time before someone is pushing to expand their definition for cost cutting measures.

Vague fear-mongering long before we know what protections will be in the legislation..

It has happened before, in the 1990s the National Government were caught putting together health boards whose target was to deny health services to anyone who was deemed too costly to continue medical care for.

The National Party were actively and secretly looking for ways to disqualify the sick and vulnerable from state health care. If they were prepared to do it when euthanasia was illegal in the 1990s, imagine how quickly they will begin to pressure hospitals to start euthanasia as a cost cutting measure if it becomes legal?

National Party MPs, including leader Bill English, are amongst the strongest opponents of the bill now before Parliament, so this is a ridiculous and poorly informed political attack.

We know how poorly Corrections look after the welfare of prisoners. We know how badly CYFs looks after children in their care. We know how damaging Housing NZ, WINZ and the Ministry of Development treat beneficiaries.

So what would stop Government agencies applying the same disregard for the poor and sick if euthanasia is passed?

Decency. Common sense. Law.

Apart from Seymour it’s the left of Parliament that strongly supports the End of Life Choice Bill, plus the younger more centrist National MPs.

This is typical confused nonsense from Bradbury.

End of Life Choice Bill – First Reading

David Seymour introduced his End of Life Choice Bill to be read a first time in Parliament last night.

It passed the first vote by a comfortable 76 votes to 44.

This is a big achievement for Seymour, and a good victory for Matt Vickers, who was in Parliament for the first reading.

It doesn’t mean the Bill will get an easy passage through Parliament. It is likely to be strongly debated in the committee stage and there is certain to be many strong submissions for and against the Bill.

The Aye vote (with Noes also indicated):

Interesting to see Dr Jonathan Coleman and Dr Liz Craig voted for the bill, and Dr Shane Reti voted against.

It would have been a travesty if the Bill had not passed the first reading, which would have denied full debate and public submissions.

The Bill may be amended, and it has two more votes to go before it succeeds or fails.

Links to all the First Reading speeches, videos and transcripts: