Not just the Government – some opposition MPs and parties could be seen as unwilling to address an important issue for many people too.
A lead item on Stuff:
John Key supports euthanasia but he won’t make it a Government bill – is it time for a rethink?
The actual article headline is less provocative:
A petition was handed to MPs at Parliament, which sparked an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.
Wellington was home for Matt Vickers for a long time – it’s also where his love and memories of his late wife Lecretia Seales live on.
Seales died from in June last year after a long battle with cancer that ran hand-in-hand with a courageous fight to win the right to choose to end her own life. Hours before she took her last breath she learned her legal battle had failed.
On Wednesday Vickers will be the first of 1800 people to speak to a parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia, instigated by a petition in the name of former Labour MP Maryan Street and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
The petition, which garnered 8795 signatures and cross-party support, came in the wake of Seales death.
It demanded the committee examine public opinion on 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”.
More than 21,000 submissions later – the most ever received by any select committee – Vickers will pull up a seat at 8am in front of a panel of MPs to explain Lecretia’s story.
“Lecretia was very strong in wanting a choice, that wasn’t a weakness of character. She wanted to be able to exercise her strength by having a choice,” he said.
The submission process is an opportunity for the country to “honestly and unashamedly talk about the end of our lives without fear”.
The problem is that generally MPs and parties don’t want to be associated with discussing euthanasia despite strong public support for change.
And the chair of the Parliamentary committee has caused some concern.
While in Wellington Vickers will also launch his book, Lecretia’s Choice, and already one member of the select committee intends to read it – chair and National MP Simon O’Connor.
The Tamaki MP is Catholic and spent almost a decade studying for the priesthood with the Society of Mary before deciding he couldn’t be a politico and a cleric.
Vickers, much like Street and Seymour, is concerned about O’Connor chairing the committee – all three question how someone publicly opposed to euthanasia can chair an inquiry into it.
But some MPs from different parties are promoting the discussion.
National MP Chris Bishop stood alongside Seymour, Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway and Green MP Kevin Hague when Parliament received Street’s petition in June.
Bishop supports the inquiry and Seymour’s bill and says while O’Connor chairs the committee, “he’s not doing the whole inquiry – he’s only one person”.
Seymour says O’Connor should apologise before oral submissions kick off on Wednesday for “soliciting submissions from a certain point of view which happens to coincide with his own beliefs”.
“If you look at the way Simon’s behaved you’ve got to be pretty concerned … it’s really quite shameful given you get paid an extra $20,000 to be a chair.”
“He’s got every incentive, he’s an ambitious guy like most people in Parliament, and if he wants to be a minister one day then he has to actually play a straight bat and be seen to play a straight bat.”
Seymour versus National:
Even Prime Minister John Key supports euthanasia and Seymour’s bill and said the select committee inquiry is proof “it’s quite possible without a bill being in Parliament to have a good and open discussion about the issue”.
The Government has no intention of picking up Seymour’s bill but Key says “at some point it’s bound to be drawn”.
According to Seymour, every Government is reluctant to pick up controversial issues and this National government isn’t alone – homosexual law reform, abortion law and marriage equality also came out of members’ bills.
“All governments have been cowardly on controversial issues, not just this one.”
And some opposition parties. ‘Not a priority’ is a cop out.
He also blames several senior Ministers in Cabinet being strongly opposed to euthanasia for blocking it.
He wants a public conversation that does some myth-busting.
I hope the committee listens well and does this inquiry justice.
I strongly believe that with adequate legal protections freedom of choice for individuals who are dying should be paramount – and certainly choices about our own lives should not be illegal.