Euthanasia, assisted dying, death with dignity, assisted suicide, end of life choice - there are possibly more names than opinions. Whatever you call it, it’s a touchy topic.
A bill before Parliament would give people with an impending terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting medical aid in dying.
This member’s bill is the creation of ACT party leader David Seymour. It’s the fourth attempt at similar legislation in New Zealand. The most recent member’s bill (from Maryan Street) was never selected in the members' bill ballot (which member’s bills even get debated is a matter of pure chance). The two earlier attempts (sponsored by Michael Laws and Peter Brown), were defeated in the House at the first vote (the first reading).
But David Seymour says more than 70 percent of the population is now in favour of some form of death with dignity and he’s hopeful he will have the numbers in the House to get past the first reading and into a select committee (when the public will get the opportunity to provide their opinions). He’s already nailed down more than forty of the 62 necessary votes, with fifty undecided.
His bill has a number of safeguards in it. Those desiring a soft exit would need to be New Zealand citizens over 18, and receive the agreement of two doctors that they were either in terminal decline (to die within 6 months), or suffering a grievous and irremediable condition that was in terminal decline. If the doctors were not certain the sufferer was of sound mind a psychiatrist would also need to agree.
Members bills get debated in Parliament every other Wednesday. As of the beginning of July, there are just two members days left before Parliament dissolves for the election, so this bill may very well not be debated prior to the new Parliament.
But regardless of that, David Seymour is encouraging voters to make appointments with their local MPs and make their opinions on his bill clear to them - whether they agree with him or not.
A Public Debate on Assisted Dying
Last week at Parliament Paul Foster-Bell hosted a public panel debate on assisted dying.
The speakers arguing for assisted dying are:
- The Honorable Maryan Street, former New Zealand MP and sponsor of a member’s bill - The End of Life Choice Bill.
- Professor Andrew Geddis, Otago University Law School, who acted for Lucretia Seales.
The speakers arguing against assisted dying are:
- Robert Preston, chair of Living and Dying Well UK.
- Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University, and cross-bench member of the House of Lords.
National party MP Paul Foster-Bell is the chair of the UK-NZ Parliamentary Friendship Group which looked after the event as the two ‘Anti’ speakers were from the UK Parliament.