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

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

Justice Committee undecided on End of Life Choice Bill – report

The Justice Committee report on the End of Life Choice Bill (the euthanasia bill) has been tabled in Parliament, with the committee undecided on whether the bill should be passed.

RNZ:  Euthanasia bill report tabled in Parliament

After 16 months’ worth of submissions, a report on euthanasia legislation has been tabled in the House and sponsor David Seymour says he’s quite confident he’ll have the numbers to pass it.

Parliament’s justice committee reported its findings this afternoon after nearly 39,000 submissions were heard by MPs on the bill that would allow assisted dying for those terminally ill, likely to die within six months and experiencing “unbearable suffering”.

The report said that 90 percent of the 36,700 written submissions opposed the bill.

“We note that the majority of written submissions discussed only whether assisted dying should be allowed in principle.”

The vote is one of conscience, so individual MPs can cast their vote according to their personal views.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be voting in favour.

“I understand those deeply held convictions that means they’ll be opposed to it, my view is the best way that I can allow people to make their own decisions is actually giving them access to that choice,” she said.

Probably more important than Ardern’s influence will be which way NZ First MPs decided to go, and more so how national MPs will decided. Simon Bridges, and Maggie Barry and Nick Smith who were on the committee, are all strongly opposed to the bill, but as it’s a conscience vote all MPs are free to support or oppose as they choose.

It is still not clear whether the bill will have enough support once it returns to Parliament.

National MP Maggie Barry sat on the committee and said she thought political opposition to the bill may have hardened after the lengthy, and often harrowing, consultation period.

Mr Seymour will put amendments forward in the House – probably in June – which will include restricting the bill to those who have a terminal prognosis only and introducing a referendum.

“There’s some [MPs] still to work on to get it across the line,” he said.

The first reading passed with a 76-44 margin and Mr Seymour said that gave him confidence that MPs would line up with the majority of New Zealanders and support the bill.

Asked whether Ms Barry was the right person to deputy chair the select committee given her active campaign against euthanasia, Mr Seymour said: “I’m the tinder paper to Maggie Barry’s inner volcano so I’m probably not a natural observer on her.”

Full report on the End of Life Choice Bill

Recommendation

The Justice Committee has examined the End of Life Choice Bill and the Report of the Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the End of Life Choice Bill. We recommend that the amendments set out below be passed.

We were unable to agree that the bill be passed.

Conscience vote

This bill is expected to result in conscience votes by members in the House. In previous situations where a bill was expected to result in conscience votes, committees have recommended amendments that left the policy content of the bill largely intact, while trying to ensure that the bill was a coherent and workable piece of legislation— particularly regarding consequential amendments and amendments to related legislation.

The eight members of this committee hold diverse views. We decided to report the bill back with minor, technical, and consequential amendments only. We leave it to the full membership of the House to resolve the broader policy matters

The End of Life Choice Bill (as it currently stands)

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.

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.

Changes proposed for End of Life Choice Bill

David Seymour is recommending changes to his End of Life Choice Bill after getting feedback from public submissions (a record 37,000) – and by the sound of things, to get sufficient support from MPs.

NZH: Act leader David Seymour recommends changes to End of Life Choice Bill

Seymour has written a report on his End of Life Choice Bill for the Justice Select Committee considering the bill containing proposals he says seeks to put the best possible version of the bill forward to MPs to ensure it gets through its second reading.

Seymour’s report set out both minor and substantive issues raised by submitters on the bill and the public during the select committee process and during consultation, analysed overseas evidence and proposed a range of changes to the bill.

“My findings are that there is high public support for legislative change in New Zealand, there is no risk of coercion of the vulnerable, and that the provision of palliative care is complementary to the provision of assisted dying,” Seymour said in the executive summary.

But due to concerns on those matters he recommended the following :

• A binding referendum at the next election

• Limiting eligibility to the terminally ill

• Clarifying that access cannot be by reason of mental health conditions and disability only

• Incorporating the Access to Palliative Care Bill sponsored by National MP Maggie Barry.

The report also suggests an amendment to clarify the role and protection of pharmacists, nurses and medical practitioners.

The proposed law change 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.”

If it is to go too a binding referendum then Parliament shoukd be putting the best possible Bill forward and then leave it to the people to decide. The people should be able to decide how they die if they get an opportunity to make a choice.

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.

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.

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.

Should euthanasia law be decided by parliament or referendum?

Maryan Street’s  End of Life Choice bill (euthanasia) has been added to the Member’s Bill ballot and will need to be drawn to proceed. There’s been some interesting blog discussion about it.

One question that came up was whether any final decision should be made by MPs and parliament, or by people via a referendum.

Graeme Edgeler has confirmed that the final referendum option is feasible:

July 24th, 2012 at 11:21 am

Basically, you go through a whole Parliamentary process, debate the full implications of everything and come up with a fully fleshed out proposal, which is drafted as legislation. It passes all its readings, but only comes into force if a majority of people voting at a referendum answer the question: do you support the proposed system of legalised euthanasia contained in the End of Life Choice Act 2014? in the affirmative.

However I have emailed Maryan Street about this and she has responded:

No, I would never consider this issue as one to be decided by referendum. It is too complex an issue for that. It is exactly the sort of issue which requires thoughtful legislation, not the kind of reductive approach required by referenda.

This doesn’t rule it out – for example, if enough MPs are in favour then Street’s bill could be amended to make a referendum a final decision.

Graeme Edgeler responds…

MPs will be faced with the same simplistic, reductive question at the third reading. They get one vote on one question: those who think this bill should become law, say “Aye”, those opposed say “No”. Those who wanted it, but in a different form, covering more or less, or having some different scheme of safeguards will be faced with the same question:

given what the select committee and the committee of the whole house have adopted, do I support the bill in its present form becoming law?

That is no more reductive than a referendum.

…and also explains the ‘reductive approach’:

What’s a “reductive approach” when it’s at home?

A reductive approach to a matter like this is one that is reduced to a simple yes/no question:

e.g. do you support a law change to provide for voluntary euthanasia for adults with terminal illnesses?

Getting public opinion on such a question is largely meaningless in drafting a law which people may actually agree with.

So, should parliament decide on this (should the bill get drawn from the ballot) or should people make the final decision via referendum?