End of Life Choice bill introduced to Parliament

David Seymour is currently opening debate on his End of Life Choice Bill in Parliament. The first reading is likely to be voted on tonight. It will be a conscience vote for most parties, but NZ First have indicated they will block vote for the first reading if there is a commitment that the ultimate decision is by referendum.

Bill English is next to speak on the bill and opposes it.

I’m not posting a link to Simon O’Connors speech, he made some good points, but in repeating his view that the bill was about killing people I think is taking things too far.

Labour MP Lousia Wall:

Tracey Martin on behalf of New Zealand First:

She confirms that NZ First will vote for the first reading.

A Maori view from Nuk Korako:

He says the bill will fast forward death process for Maori and leave them in limbo unable to join ancestors. Voting against.

A Samoan perspective from William Sio:

He says says you have to deal with the reality of pain and death in order to understand the purpose of life.. Voting against – he says he already has sufficient information to make a decision now.

Julie Anne Genter (Green Minister):

Has concerns about about it being to broad and has insufficient protections for the disabled. She will vote for at this stage.

Maggie Barry is next – the first three National MPs all speaking strongly against the bill.

There are some Nationals MPs who support it. One is Chris Bishop, who is next up.

He says the current choice is cruel, and we have an opportunity to have a more compassionate society.

Then another National MP, Chris Penk.

Opposing the bill – a “choice to end all choices”.

And David Seymour closed the debate, I think ably and eloquently.

Predictably there will be a personal vote. By the look of the comparative numbers going to either side, followed by hand shaking in the Aye side, it looks like the bill will progress.

End of Life Choice Bill – First reading personal vote:

  • Ayes 76
  • Noes 44

 

 

 

Extreme claims after to ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ campaign launch

David Seymour hopes his Member’s Bill on euthanasia will come up in Parliament for it’s first vote soon and has launched a campaign, but there has already been some ridiculous comments fro  National MPs Maggie Marry and Bill English.

NZH: Heated words from both sides as euthanasia vote nears

The first vote in Parliament on a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia is near but National MP Maggie Barry’s description of it as a “licence to kill’ and a disruption at Act leader David Seymour’s campaign launch in support of the bill showed how heated the issue will be.

That’s ridiculous from Barry. Bein an MP doesn’t give her a license to be stupid.

Seymour, whose bill was drawn from the ballot last term, launched the campaign at Parliament today alongside MPs from other parties, End of Life Choice’s Dr Jack Havill and Matt Vickers, the husband of the late Lecretia Seales.

Seales unsuccessfully took the issue to the High Court after she was diagnosed with a non-operable brain tumour and died in 2015 soon after the High Court ruled it could not grant her wish and said it was up to Parliament to change the law.

The bill could get its first reading on Wednesday night or early next year.

The first reading of the End of Life Choice Bill is expected to be early next year and MPs will have a conscience vote on it.

Vickers, on a visit from New York, said Seales would have been delighted to see the legislation arrive at Parliament and urged MPs to support it.

“Obviously when she took the court case her ultimate goal was to get legislative change and this is the mechanism by which that happens. So she’d be very happy to see that this was going ahead.”

It has support from MPs in every party in Parliament.

It is a conscience vote for most MPs and those in support at the launch were Green leader James Shaw, National’s Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop, and Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway.

Nobody from NZ First was at the event and NZ First leader Winston Peters later said his party would support it at first reading but after that support would be conditional on whether a referendum was held on the issue. He said the public should decide – not 120 MPs.

His own ranks appeared split – MP Shane Jones said “I do not support euthanasia” but later clarified that did not mean he would not vote for it to be debated at select committee.

I don’t think it is a suitable issue for a referendum. MPs and parliament need to take responsibility for something like this.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would support the bill because she believed people should have choice.

“I will always look for safeguards in place to make sure no one is ever manipulated or left vulnerable. But I also support people having their own choice in those circumstances.”

Note that it is generally younger MPs in support of people making their own choices about their own lives.

National MP Maggie Barry was also vehemently opposed, saying it was a “licence to kill.” She said there were no protections for the disabled, the elderly or the vulnerable. “It would make us the most liberal country in the world to die.”

Extreme rhetoric.

However, National leader Bill English – a Catholic – said he did not support euthanasia and believed Seymour’s bill was worse than others that had come up because it lacked the necessary safeguards.

If it passes the first vote then suitable safeguards should come out of the committee stage.

In the lead up to the election, Bill English said it was wrong to link suicide and euthanasia ().

Today he said: “It’s going to be a bit tricky for Mr Seymour to answer the question as to why some suicides are good and some are bad.”

That’s a petty and pathetic comment from English.

End of Life Choice president Maryan Street urged MPs to at least let the bill go to select committee for submissions.

“That way they can find out what it is really about, the safeguards provided in it and the checks and balances to be followed. In those respects, it is similar to legislation in other jurisdictions around the world.”

She said there was strong public support for the move and MPs should consider that when weighing up their decision.

“We want people to have the confidence they have the choice to die well, not badly, at the end of a terminal illness or when they can no longer bear their irremediable condition. We want them to have a choice.”

I want to have a choice. I don’t want the Government and some MPs dictating what I can or can’t do with my own life.

I understand  that some people are against it – but they don’t have to speed up their own deaths.  It is aimed at being voluntary.

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.

David Seymour on ‘end of life choice’

It was announced yesterday that the Health Select Committee will carry out an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia – see Select committee to consider euthanasia – after a petition was presented to the committee.

ACT MP David Seymour was one of a number of MPs who were present when the petition arrived at Parliament. He is drafting a Member’s Bill to try and initiate debate on euthanasia. He has also just posted his thoughts on this difficult topic.

Free Thoughts – End of life choice

The contentious issue of voluntary euthanasia is one I have been considering for some time, and I want to explain here why I am preparing a private member’s (End of Life Choice) Bill to lodge for ballot in Parliament.

The primary motivation for this Bill is compassion.

Many of my constituents have urged me to proceed with a Bill, particularly in light of the withdrawal last year of a similar Bill sponsored by Iain Lees-Galloway, originally introduced by former MP Maryan Street. Two previous Bills on this issue have in the past failed to gain Parliamentary support, but the clear international trend since the 1990s is towards the legalisation of medically assisted end of life choice.

The motivation for this Bill is the very real anguish faced by people with terminal illness, as they anticipate the prospect of intolerable suffering, and the indignity of the final few days and weeks of their lives. While pain can be ameliorated somewhat, the suffering and indignity of that final period of life remains a profound concern to many people.

The intention of the Bill is to allow people with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” to obtain medical aid to die if they should so choose.

I appreciate that within our community there is a wide range of religious and philosophical views which influence attitudes to this issue. What is unthinkable for some, is considered by others the most compassionate way to address the inevitability of end of life, and the realities of terminal illness.

The Bill I intend to lodge will offer choice that is currently prohibited, for those in our community who are grievously and irremediably ill and who wish to have the option, as they near life’s end, to choose the manner and timing of their final days.

The protections designed to avoid potential abuse are crucial, and would need to be fully examined before any final Bill was to return to the House. A Select Committee process considering specific proposals will enable all these matters to be considered in detail and in public, will provide an opportunity for the full range of views in our community to be heard, and will allow us to examine the international experience.

There are several key considerations behind my intention to lodge a private members Bill.

In my view it is politically, morally, legally and, in terms of public policy, the right thing to do.

I will consider each of these in turn.

Legally this is the right thing to do.

As noted in the recent judgement on the Lecretia Seales case, the issue of end of life choice is a matter for Parliament to determine.

Likewise, earlier this year the Canadian Supreme Court determined unanimously that “The prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes on the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

But the Court suspended its judgement for 12 months, giving the Canadian Parliament a year to draft new legislation to reflect that judgement.

This reflected a view that it is a matter for Parliament to decide, not the Courts. Legislation to give effect to assisted dying will involve very many detailed ethical, legal and practical considerations.

The scrutiny of a select committee process, examining a concrete proposal, is the best and most thorough way of considering this issue.

In terms of appropriate legal process, introducing a Bill to Parliament is the right thing to do.

Morally this is the right thing to do.

The difficulty with assisted dying is that we are attempting to balance competing values, each of great importance.

The first is the sanctity of life and the need to protect the vulnerable. The second is the autonomy and dignity of a competent adult who seeks to end their life as a response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

The difficulty is that an absolute prohibition on assistance in dying effectively creates a “duty to live” rather than a “right to life”.

An absolute prohibition on assisted dying also calls into question the existing legality of any consent to the withdrawal or refusal of lifesaving or life-sustaining treatment. Yet already there is a degree of societal consensus that the administration of palliative sedation and the withholding or withdrawal of lifesaving or life-sustaining medical treatment, which can have the effect of hastening death, are ethically acceptable.

Protracted dying was once rare; death typically came swiftly. But medicine has advanced, and now a protracted death is common.

By acknowledging this reality, the argument can be advanced that it is also ethical for voluntary adults who are competent, informed, grievously and irremediably ill, and where the assistance is clearly consistent with the patient’s wishes and best interests, and in order to relieve suffering, for them to have the option of physician assisted end of life.

In short, an absolute ban on assisting another person to end their own life can amount to condemning a person to a life of severe and intolerable suffering.

It was for that reason the Canadian Courts concluded that the ban on assisted dying was too broad – by justifiably attempting to protect the vulnerable, it denied the rights of some individuals in a way that bore no relation to the object of the law.

As the Court said, “A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”

That is why the international trend since the 1990s has been for Parliaments to recognise that, in certain well defined circumstances, an individual’s choice about the end of their life is entitled to respect.

The international evidence was closely examined in the Canadian courts. There it was stated that an absolute prohibition on assisted dying would have been necessary if:

  • The evidence showed that physicians were unable to reliably assess competence, voluntariness, and non-ambivalence in patients;
  • That physicians fail to understand or apply the informed consent requirement for medical treatment;
  • Or if the evidence from permissive jurisdictions showed abuse of patients, carelessness, callousness, or a slippery slope leading to the casual termination of life.

But after an exhaustive examination of the evidence these possibilities were rejected. The judgement found that properly designed and administered safeguards were capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error, that the elderly or people with disabilities are not at a heightened risk, and that there was no evidence of a slippery slope.

Before any changes to New Zealand law are contemplated, these issues should be considered afresh by our Parliament.

Morally, reconsidering the law on end of life choice is the right thing to do.

Politically this is the right thing to do.

My job as a Parliamentarian is to represent the voters, and that involves reflecting the will of the public, insofar as that “will” makes sense and is not inconsistent with my fundamental beliefs.

On this issue, for some MPs, there will inevitably be a clash with some profoundly important religious or philosophical beliefs.

That said, the public clearly wish this issue to be debated, so that regardless of one’s personal view on the matter, this is an issue which deserves to be placed before the House – as I will seek to do with my Bill – and which deserves also to be taken at least to select committee for the sort of thorough review that the Canadian case examined.

Advancing the consideration of End of Life Choice through a Bill to be thoroughly examined via select committee, is the best way to respond to the wishes of the NZ electorate.

I concluded therefore that, politically, introducing my Bill is the right thing to do.

In terms of public policy this is the right thing to do.

The law against assisting somebody to end their life, is of course a ‘generally sound law’. But it is also one which has an extraordinarily harmful effect on a small number of individuals.

As the Canadian judgement determined, that law is overly broad.

As a matter of public policy, we need to reconsider the situation of that small number of persons who:

  • clearly consent to the termination of their life, and
  • have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual.

The eventual scope of any Bill which might be returned to the House from a select committee review is not to be determined here.

My case is that New Zealand needs and – as is evident from recent opinion polls – wants this debate.

Our Parliament should facilitate this discussion by considering this issue afresh through the mechanism of a Bill passing its first reading in the House and proceeding to select committee review.

All New Zealanders should have the opportunity to be heard on this matter. The discussion and review should not be rushed.

My End of Life Choice Bill, when lodged and if drawn from the private members’ bill ballot, will allow this much needed review to occur.

It is the right thing to do.

David Seymour
ACT Party Leader

This is thoughtful and politically gutsy stuff from Seymour. Some people will strongly oppose making any changes on law around euthanasia and other parties have not been prepared to promote debate on it. In fact Seymour has picked up a Labour Member’s Bill carried over from last term by Iain Lees-Galloway after Andrew Little had it withdrawn as ‘not a priority’.