End of Life Choice Bill – First Reading

David Seymour introduced his End of Life Choice Bill to be read a first time in Parliament last night.

It passed the first vote by a comfortable 76 votes to 44.

This is a big achievement for Seymour, and a good victory for Matt Vickers, who was in Parliament for the first reading.

It doesn’t mean the Bill will get an easy passage through Parliament. It is likely to be strongly debated in the committee stage and there is certain to be many strong submissions for and against the Bill.

The Aye vote (with Noes also indicated):

Interesting to see Dr Jonathan Coleman and Dr Liz Craig voted for the bill, and Dr Shane Reti voted against.

It would have been a travesty if the Bill had not passed the first reading, which would have denied full debate and public submissions.

The Bill may be amended, and it has two more votes to go before it succeeds or fails.

Links to all the First Reading speeches, videos and transcripts:

Matt Vickers to euthanasia inquiry

The inquiry into euthanasia, instigated by a 8795 signature petition to Parliament after the death of Lecretia Seales, started hearing submissions today. First to speak was Seale’s husband (now widower) Matt Vickers.

NZ Herald: Lecretia Seales’ husband makes emotional appeal to MPs about voluntary euthanasia

The husband of Lecretia Seales has made an emotional appeal to MPs to reform the law on voluntary euthanasia – saying fear and religious opposition should not deny others a choice.

Matt Vickers has travelled from his new home in New York and presented to Parliament’s health committee this morning, in front of a large number of media and members of the public.

“Why do we accept that the laws as they are force people to suffer against their wishes,” Vickers asked.

“I want to be crystal clear that Lecretia valued her life very much. She did not want to die…but she felt it was right for her to be able to choose the circumstances of her death.

“Assisted dying legislation is not a threat, but an opportunity.”

A large number of submissions against changing the law were based on religious reasons…

Probably organised opposition, as often happens with submissions to try and play the numbers card.

…Vickers said, and that was not a good enough.

“We live in a country with a plurality of religious beliefs and I think assisted dying legislation is the only way to respect that plurality.”

While a majority of submissions on voluntary euthanasia were from those opposed, Vickers said that was not a representation of wider society. Rather, it showed the depth of feeling on the issue.

Vickers urged members of the committee to examine the evidence on assisted dying in some US states and in European countries. Oregon’s experience proved there was no “slippery slope”, he said.

“In most cases it is impossible to justify the status quo,” he said.

“Why do we prohibit assisted dying when we know, both from [Lecretia’s court case] and now illustrated by examples in some of the submissions you have received, that between 5-8 per cent of all recorded suicides are ill New Zealanders who might have lived longer had assisted dying laws been in place.

“Why do we accept that the laws as they are force people to suffer against their wishes, when we know that palliative care can not help all people in all cases.”

There is video at Lecretia Seales’ husband makes emotional appeal to MPs about voluntary euthanasia.

Stuff also reports in Matt Vickers calls on MPs to have open mind about euthanasia:

‘Care Alliance’ careless

The so-called ‘Care Alliance’ has issued a very careless press release attacking the husband of Lecretia Seals.

Matt Vickers has been attacked for considering an invitation to speak at the Euthanasia 2016 conference in Amsterdam in May.

NZ Herald: Widower of Lecretia Seales attacked for attendance at euthanasia conference

His possible attendance has been slammed by the Care Alliance, which issued a press release asking if he would now lobby for suicide pills for all over 70s.

Matthew Jansen, secretary of the group, which formed in 2012 and includes Family First NZ, Hospice New Zealand and the Salvation Army, said Mr Vickers’ attendance showed “what a slippery slope the so-called right to die really is”.

“The Dutch organisers of the conference are campaigning for everybody over the age of 70 to have access to a suicide pill as a matter of right. Will Mr Vickers be speaking for or against such a law change here?”

This is a very careless attack by Jansen, and Hospice New Zealand, Family First and the Salvation Army should be very concerned to be seen as associated with him.

Mr Jansen said he was not attacking Mr Vickers personally, but publicising the fact he had been invited to the conference, and the views of conference organisers and some attendees.

“He has allowed his name to be associated with that [Euthanasia 2016]. I am pointing out the facts.

“[Assisted dying advocates] start with the thin end of the wedge, but I think people are entitled to understand what the thick end of the wedge looks like.”

Jansen is not pointing out facts, he is making fairly despicable connections between Vickers and more extreme measures that Vickers has not had any link to.

Mr Vickers, who is writing a book about his wife’s dying quest, told the Herald that the criticism was unfortunate.

He was still deciding whether to attend the conference, but should he do so it would be “simply fallacious” to assume his attendance was an automatic endorsement of the views of organisers or attendees.

“I think in New Zealand we probably want more moderate laws, laws that are more similar to some of those in the US states, rather than some of the laws in the Netherlands and so on.

“I am interested in getting to the bottom of what is happening in the Benelux countries [Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg] — understanding more about some of the assertions from people like the Care Alliance about just how unsafe they think that these laws would be.

“It is much an understanding thing, if I do decide to go, as it is talking about Lecretia’s story.”

Mr Vickers said recent attacks from the Care Alliance and its allies were “deeply undignified, insulting to Lecretia’s memory, and unfortunately lowering the quality of the public debate”.

“That they’re resorting to such tactics indicates they must be losing faith in the quality of their arguments and their ability to debate fairly.”

It is very undignified and insulting.

Hospice New Zealand, Family First and the Salvation Army should disassociate themselves from Jansen’s attack, and possibly from Jansen altogether if he is this careless with his press releases.

We should debate euthanasia in New Zealand but Jansen isn’t doing any credit to his arguement, nor to the so called ‘Care Alliance’.

Health select committee agrees to euthanasia inquiry

In response to a petition presented to Parliament by the Voluntary Euthanasia  the Health Select Committee has agreed to investigate matters raised by the petition.

NZ Herald reports: Parliament to hold euthanasia inquiry following Lecretia Seales’ death

An inquiry into voluntary euthanasia is to be carried out by Parliament – a process supporters hope will be an important step towards a law change.

Today’s announcement comes after a petition from the Voluntary Euthanasia Society was presented to Parliament by supporters including Matt Vickers, the husband of the late Lecretia Seales.

The petition, signed by former Labour MP Maryan Street and 8,974 others, asked that Parliament’s health and select committee “investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable”.

It will set-up an inquiry to “fully investigate the matters raised by the petition”, health committee chair Simon O’Connor said.

The terms of reference will be drafted over the next few weeks, which will form the outline of that investigation.

“This is an important subject and the committee needs to think carefully about the best way to examine it,” Mr O’Connor said.

“I would like to see a thorough investigation that covers as many aspects of this topic as possible in a responsible and robust manner.”

It’s impossible to know where this may lead, if anywhere, but i think it’s time Parliament properly and comprehensively looked at the pros and cons of voluntary euthanasia, the right to choose how we die etc.

What now for Lecretia Seales?

Of course there’s little left for Lecretia Seales except her funeral. Except that in her memory it’s possible she might prompt some political action on assisted dying or euthanasia.

In a media conference today her husband Matt Vickers said how disappointed Lecretia and he were with the news that her legal action had been turned down by the court (Judge Collins).

NZH reports Lecretia Seales’s husband: ‘Her reaction utterly broke my heart’

“On Tuesday night I relayed Justice Collins’ decision to Lecretia. I explained she would not be able to seek assistance to die, and nature would need to run its course, and that her mother and I would do everything we could to make her comfortable and pain free.

“Lecretia listened to me as I explained the decision. Even though she couldn’t speak, she was able to share her feelings through her expression. There was no mistaking her response.

“She was hurt and disappointed. She fixed me with a stare with her good eye as if to say, ‘isn’t this my body? My life? Her breath slowed and she turned her head away. Her reaction utterly broke my heart.”

Very sad but not really surprising. Judge Collins has said that Parliament needs to deal with it.

Mr Vickers said the judgment was not what they wanted, but did make it clear that the law is “paternalistic, overly-protective and rooted in the past”.

He said Parliament had to work across party lines to ensure the issue reached select committee stage. That would enable the facts and overseas evidence to be properly examined and debated.

“We must respect the autonomy and dignity of terminally ill people like Lecretia and say, ‘yes, we respect your wish to go your way’. Anything else is paternalistic. Anything else says, ‘I know better than you’.
“I implore our Prime Minister, who only two weeks ago said publicly that he would welcome a debate, to actually initiate that debate and to not defer it and wait for a private member’s bill, which may not see it debated for months or years.

“This debate needs to happen now. Prime Minister, I urge you to give the public what they want and start the debate. I urge you to follow my wife’s example and to be a courageous leader…let us give Lecretia her legacy.

That sounds like something worthwhile for Lecretia’s legacy.

It’s now up to the MPs and the parties to do something about it.