Euthanasia bill does not infringe human rights

David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill has been passed by the Attorney General, who is required to check bills against the Bill of Rights Act.

RNZ:  Euthanasia bill gets legal tick from Attorney-General

A bill proposing to legalise euthanasia has been given a legal tick by the Attorney-General, who said it would not infringe basic human rights if enacted.

Proposed laws are tested using routine assessments by the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, who weighs legal validity under overarching legislation such as the Bill of Rights Act.

In a report, Mr Finlayson said the bill was consistent with rights regarding freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

His report related to the legal framework, not any moral or philosophical questions.

Mr Seymour’s bill provides for a legal landscape in which people with a terminal illness or a ”grievous or irremediable” medical condition [have] 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.”

Seymour is pleased his bill passed this test.

“Critics of my bill, short of substantive arguments, have called it ‘poorly drafted’.

“[The] report from the Attorney-General debunks those claims.

“Opponents will now need to explain why they would not allow dying people, in extreme suffering, to have a choice about how and when they die – rather than hiding behind those straw men.

“The report says that the eligibility criteria are narrow enough, and the safeguards strict enough, that the bill will not cause wrongful deaths, and that assisted dying will be available only to the group the bill intends – incurably or terminally ill, and in unbearable suffering.”

Parliament will rise next week and ity looks unlikely the Members’ Bill will get it’s first reading before the election.

Prisoners’ right to vote

The High Court has ruled that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010, that prevented prisoners from voting, was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Stuff: Prisoners should be allowed to vote: High Court

Justice Paul Heath formally declared the ban to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, which all laws should be in line with.

The declaration from the High Court was the first of its kind. It sends a formal message to Parliament that the law it passed was indefensible as it limited individual rights without reasonable justification.

Heath said the inconsistency arose in the “most fundamental aspect of a democracy…the right of all citizens to elect those who will govern on their behalf.”

The attorney-general had also found the law was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights before it was introduced.

It only just passed with Act’s support of National. Graeme Edgeler blogged Oops: how some prisoners serving life sentences get to vote

Back in late 2010, at the height of National’s attempts at bipartisan consensus for electoral law changes, the National Party, with support from the ACT Party (which spoke against, but voted in favour of the law) passed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Act over opposition from every other party in Parliament.

There’s some other interesting claims in that post about sloppy legislation. Stuff:

As it stood, the law had “arbitrary consequences” in that a low-level offender given a short prison sentence could not vote if incarcerated on election day, while a serious offender imprisoned for 2-1/2 years between elections could still vote, Heath said.

The Government may or mat not address this ruling:

A spokesman for Justice Minister Amy Adams said Parliament had considered Bill of Rights implications when it passed the amendment in 2010.

“At this stage we’re still considering the judgment but it’s worth noting that, as the judge has stated, the finding that a piece of legislation breached the Bill of Rights Act does not invalidate the legislation.”

But it should prompt the Government to seriously consider changing the law.

University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said the Government and Parliament should decide “whether or not they think the law is worth it.”

“In the end, Parliament is sovereign and can do what it wants, so if Parliament wants to take a different view on this issue it can, but I think it really ought to re-examine this issue given the strength of the notice that has been given.”

In practice, it would boil down to how embarrassed the Government would be about the issue, Geddis said.

“They’ve essentially been told they’ve made law that good nations like New Zealand shouldn’t make – but do they care?”

At a deeper level, it was the first time the High Court had issued a formal declaration of inconsistency with the Bill of Rights Act, which was an “official notice” to Parliament that the law they had passed was “bad law,” Geddis said.

It’s hard to know why the Government would try and retain legislation that probably wouldn’t pass in the current Parliament and that seems to be fundamentally flawed.