9 Apr 2019

Euthanasia bill report tabled in Parliament

4:54 pm on 9 April 2019

After 16 months' worth of submissions, a report on euthanasia legislation has been tabled in the House and sponsor David Seymour says he's quietly confident he'll have the numbers to pass it.

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The End of Life Choice Bill would allow assisted dying for those terminally ill, likely to die within six months and experiencing "unbearable suffering". Photo: 123rf

Parliament's justice committee reported its findings this afternoon after nearly 39,000 submissions were heard by MPs on the bill that would allow assisted dying for those terminally ill, likely to die within six months and experiencing "unbearable suffering".

The report said that 90 percent of the 36,700 written submissions opposed the bill.

"We note that the majority of written submissions discussed only whether assisted dying should be allowed in principle."

The vote is one of conscience, so individual MPs can cast their vote according to their personal views.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be voting in favour.

"I understand those deeply held convictions that means they'll be opposed to it, my view is the best way that I can allow people to make their own decisions is actually giving them access to that choice,'' she said.

Read the full report here

It is still not clear whether the bill will have enough support once it returns to Parliament.

National MP Maggie Barry sat on the committee and said she thought political opposition to the bill may have hardened after the lengthy, and often harrowing, consultation period.

National MP Maggie Barry sat on the justice committee

National MP Maggie Barry Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

"As is often the case Members of Parliament will vote something through to the first reading so that there can be a discussion, a select committee process, and this has been a long one ... by hearing all the people that asked to be heard there has been a very robust engagement with the public of New Zealand."

Back in Parliament this afternoon, MPs were presented with the changes the Justice Committee believes are needed.

They include delaying the date it takes effect by six months to allow government agencies more time to prepare for the law change.

There are other technical recommendations relating to the medication used, the review committee, and criminal and civil liability.

National MP Chris Bishop said in line with past practice no major changes were made to the bill as it was a conscience vote, but it was still a very worthwhile exercise.

At this stage, the second reading of the bill is expected to take place on 22 May but that could still be subject to change.

Mr Seymour said 1600 people spoke in person to the committee - everyone who wanted to submit in person was given the opportunity to do so.

"I don't think any select committee has done that before,'' he said.

Mr Seymour will put amendments forward in the House - probably in June - which will include restricting the bill to those who have a terminal prognosis only and introducing a referendum.

"There's some [MPs] still to work on to get it across the line,'' he said.

The first reading passed with a 76-44 margin and Mr Seymour said that gave him confidence that MPs would line up with the majority of New Zealanders and support the bill.

Asked whether Ms Barry was the right person to deputy chair the select committee given her active campaign against euthanasia, Mr Seymour said: "I'm the tinder paper to Maggie Barry's inner volcano so I'm probably not a natural observer on her.''

People from New Zealand's Pacific communities rallied at Parliament against the bill today, saying the legislation compounded poor health outcomes for the Pacific community.

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