8 Jun 2015

Euthanasia not on Govt agenda - Key

6:38 pm on 8 June 2015

Prime Minister John Key would support a select committee inquiry into euthanasia but says the Government is not planning to actively promote a law change.

Lecretia Seales

Lecretia Seales Photo: Facebook/ Lecretia's Choice

Prime Minister John Key has repeated his support for legalising euthanasia in some circumstances.

Debate on the issue has been reignited by the case of Wellington woman Lecretia Seales, who was suffering from brain cancer and died on Friday.

She took a case for the right to die on her terms to the High Court in Wellington, but Justice Collins rejected it saying only Parliament could change the law.

Mr Key said he would personally support a law change.

However, from the Government's point of view, a select committee inquiry would be a good place to start.

"If the select committee sees it fit, however I would caution that while this would facilitate a debate, allowing the public a forum in which to participate, it would not satisfy Lecretia's ultimate wish for the law to be changed."

John Key.

Prime Minister John Key Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

As well, there was still a lot of resistance to any change to the existing law.

"I know the debate at the moment might be skewed in a way of people currently saying that there's a lot of support for the stance that Lecretia took and I'm sure that does reflect the view of many New Zealanders," Mr Key said.

"But I'll tell you something for nothing - there'll be a hell of a lot of New Zealanders who will be deeply opposed, for religous reasons and a variety of other reasons."

Mr Key said the Government has no intention of introducing legislation, so any law change would have to be through a member's bill.

If a bill were to come before Parliament, it would be a conscience vote for MPs, and not one conducted along party lines.

Metiria Turei giving her 2015 Budget Speech to the house, parliament.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said if the Government did not put forward legislation there was no guarantee MPs would have an opportunity to vote.

"I do think John Key should take a lead on this, though, and support a select committee inquiry of some kind rather than leave it to the lottery of a member's bill."

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said he, too, favoured a select committee inquiry into legalising euthanasia, rather than the 'luck of the draw' approach of a member's bill.

He said it was a contentious issue but one Parliament should be addressing directly.

"Only Parliament can really effectively deal with the issue in terms of having an effective legal framework around it, but that's not to say equally there are a lot of people concerned about anything that looks like an erosion of the basic principle that we should strive to preserve life."

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little.

Labour leader Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Mr Little said he backed the idea of a select committee inquiry, before any legislation was introduced.

"The benefit of a select committee inquiry is that it can go quite broadly and it can invite public submissions not just on what's in somebody's idea of ideal legislation, but actually to get the public input into the policy development part of the process as well.

"And, properly conducted it can get around the country and gather views and input into that.

"If it's just a select committee considering a draft piece of legislation then the public are confined to what's in that legislation for their comment for it to be taken on board so my preference is strongly to have a select committee inquiry."

Mr Little said it was hard to gauge the level of support within this Parliament for a law change but a public debate would be a good place to start.

Epsom electorate MP David Seymour

ACT leader David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

ACT leader David Seymour said his party was strongly in favour of a law change and its board had cleared him to go ahead with a member's bill.

"At the end of a select committee inquiry all you have is a report, whereas a private member's bill also has a select committee stage built into it and it can result in legislative change if there's support in the House."

Mr Seymour said his party would support a select committee inquiry into legalising euthanasia, but preferred legislative change.

Mr Seymour said the Greens' proposal of a select committee inquiry would have some merit, but could only go so far.

"At the end of a select committee inquiry, all you have is a report, whereas a private members' bill also has a select committee stage built into it, just like any other piece of legislation, and it can result in legislative change if there is support in the House."

Winston Peters giving his 2015 Budget speech.

NZ First leader Winston Peters Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the public should have its say on legalising euthanasia, before MPs make any decisions.

The Government should hold a referendum to gauge the level of public support.

"Rather than parliamentarians deciding, the public should.

"That way the public would feel far more bound up in terms of having to accept a democratic outcome than they currently do on some conscience issues, where they are out of kilter with the public view."

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