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.
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.