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.

Government considering triple referendum:

On Q+A last night Andrew little revealed that the Government is considering a triple referendum that would include questions on Euthanasia, Cannabis and MMP Electoral reform.

Hopefully the MMP question would be on lowering the threshold.

Little didn’t say whether this would be before or with the next General Election, but I think it would be far opreferble to have a separate non-postal referendum.

I guess it would be to much to expect also including a referendum on becoming a republic.

How a cannabis referendum might look

With the possibility of a referendum on personal use of cannabis, perhaps as soon as next year, there has been discussion on how a legislation followed by referendum approach might work.

In January Graeme Edgeler posted:

There is a good way to conduct government-initiated referendum, and there are bad ways to conduct them.

Yesterday he tweeted suggested wording for a cannabis referendum adapted the language used in the 1993 MMP referendum.

I think that would be a good approach on cannabis, and similar on euthanasia.

Parliament debate and vote on legislation, to be approved by a binding referendum  – binding in so far as a commitment by MPs and parties to abide by the result and allow the legislation to come into effect.

This wouldn’t stop later changes in law, as can happen with any law.

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.

Good ways and bad ways to conduct referendums

Our binding referenda on constitutional issues like MMP have followed good process.

There were some valid questions about how the two referendums on the New Zealand flag were conducted, but the main problem with that process was political interference with attempts to discredit the process by some because they didn’t want flag change, and by others because while they supported flag change they opposed it being initiated by John Key – in other words, the process was trashed by petty politics.

The smacking referendum was a waste of time, it was non-binding so was toothless, and the question asked was vague and therefore futile.

We will have at least one referendum during or at the end of this term, could have two and may have more.

Graeme Edgeler has posted about good ways and bad ways to do referendums in How not to waste millions of taxpayer dollars

There is a good way to conduct government-initiated referendum, and there are bad ways to conduct them.

During the course of this Parliament, New Zealand will conduct one or perhaps two, referendums – one of the legalisation of cannabis use (a result of the Green Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Labour Party), and perhaps another on euthanasia. Unfortunately, indications are not promising that the process for either these referendums will be good.

During September, October and November last year Australia conducted a referendum. We should learn from its mistake. Australia’s nationwide “plebiscite” on the legalisation of same sex marriage, in an exceedingly useful example of how not to conduct a public referendum.

How it went is no longer breaking news: a sizeable majority of the voting public indicated support, and then the Federal Parliament passed a law providing for it.

The marriage vote asked Australia voters to give a yes or no answer to the question:

“Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

This is a perfectly reasonable question to ask to get a general sense of public feeling about a general issue, but is a stupid question to ask when wanting guidance on what a law should say.

So it’s better if a law change is defined then voted on.

How should you vote if you wanted politicians yet-to-consider a same-sex marriage bill to know that you would support changing the law to allow people of the same sex to marry, but would object to a law which might require churches to marry people in breach of church doctrine?

How should you vote if you wanted politicians to know that you thought people of the same sex should be able to marry, but would find offensive a system where a whole new law was created, setting up a separate same-sex marriage register, with separate same-sex marriage celebrants wholly separate from marriage celebrants?

You couldn’t. Holding a vote in advance of a bill being written makes that impossible.

This is a trap we should aim to avoid in both the cannabis referendum, and the potential referendum on euthanasia that New Zealand First is pushing for (and which David Seymour, the sponsor of the euthanasia bill, says he supports holding).

I hope the Government avoids these traps. They are fairly fundamental.

Will it be legal to sell cannabis, or just to possess and use it? Will people be able to grow their own, or will they have to buy it from specific government licenced dealers? Will you be able to smoke it outside in public places, like tobacco, or will that be prohibited, like the public consumption of alcohol often is? How will it be taxed? Will cannabis advertising and sponsorship be banned? Will councils have a role in regulating where it can be sold, or used? Will they be able to set up enforceable non-cannabis zones (like they can with alcohol), or only unenforced zones (like non-smoking areas)?

Will euthanasia be limited to the terminally ill? Will it need a judge to sign off a decision to offer aid in dying? What will a doctor who refuses to take part have to do, if anything? Will advance directives be able to be enforced, or will applications have to be made by people who are conscious?

Unfortunately, while the legislative process underway for the euthanasia legislation should work through the detail of the scheme, any referendum seems likely to be an afterthought.

I hope that Parliament (MPs) will have the fortitude to make a decision on medical cannabis without the need to then delay it by going to a referendum.

I think that in our system of representative democracy MPs can also decide on what is best for the minority that may want to consider euthanasia.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. The euthanasia law is still early in its early legislative process, and the cannabis referendum isn’t set up yet. Hopefully, we can avoid not only the mistakes Australia made, but also new ones of our own.

It may be a mistake to even have a referendum on euthanasia, but at least it won’t happen prior to legislation being debated and voted on in Parliament.

As Edgeler says, there are good ways and bad ways of having referenda – and there are also times when they aren’t appropriate, especially if used as a way for MPs to cop out of their responsibilities as representatives.

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 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.