16 Aug 2018

Proposed euthanasia bill in NZ 'needs tweaking'

From Nine To Noon, 9:32 am on 16 August 2018

The wording of proposed euthanasia legislation should be tightened to ensure it only applies to the terminally ill, members of an Australian advisory panel say.

Lucretia Seales

 Lecretia Seales died while fighting in the courts for the right to end her life. Photo: FACEBOOK

Parliament's justice select committee is nearing the end of a nationwide tour hearing submissions on the controversial End of Life Choice Bill.

The committee will hear from people at Parliament in Wellington today.

Laywer Julian Gardner and disability advocate Tricia Malowney were members of the Victorian Ministerial Advisory Panel which was convened before the state became the first in Australia to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill.

Mr Gardner told Nine to Noon the Victorian law has a number of safeguards in the legislation, including that a person has the capacity to make the decision, and has an incurable disease or illness that is likely to cause death within six months, or 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition. 

The New Zealand bill needed to be re-worded, he said.

"I think the intention was that it would be [for people with] a terminal condition and I think the bill would be strengthened by just clarifying that point because this is about end of life as the title of the bill suggests."

Mr Gardner said he was asked to be on the advisory panel as a human rights expert, not as a euthanasia supporter.

"The evidence that we listened to from the people in the community and so many medical specialists, led me to very strongly see that this is a very necessary piece of legislation."

New Zealand's was a "sound bill" that needed only minor tweaking, he said.

Ms Malowney said she was also swayed by the evidence before the panel.

"At the end of it, I came to support the bill that we ended up getting passed."

She also said she believed the New Zealand bill needed to be re-worded. 

"I think it plays into the fears of people with disabilities. I have an incurable irremediable condition, but it's not going to kill me yet, hope I've got 40 years or so. 

"If we change the wording, having a disability isn't a reason for accessing it, would strengthen it."

The legislation was for people at the end of their life, not for people who were old or disabled, she said.

For more details on the nationwide tour that is hearing submissions please go to this table of travel dates.