MPs back euthanasia bill revisions: 'This is to alleviate concerns' - David Seymour

10:12 am on 22 August 2019

ACT Party leader David Seymour's voluntary euthanasia bill has cleared another stage in Parliament with a suite of changes aimed at securing support.

David Seymour at the Hong Kong extradition law rally at Auckland University on 6 August.

Photo: RNZ / Jogai Bhatt

MPs voted 70 to 50 in favour of the End of Life Choice being given a third and final reading late last night after Mr Seymour introduced several amendments.

The bill now includes a requirement that doctors and nurses cannot suggest or recommend euthanasia to a patient; a requirement that doctors or nurses stop the process if it's suspected the patient has been pressured into it; and extra employment protections for doctors and nurses who object to taking part.

It is at the committee of the whole house stage, and has been split into five separate debates.

Mr Seymour told Morning Report that last night's vote was the second of these debates, and he suspected it would carry on through every second Wednesday into the end of September, maybe October.

"It is very very difficult - it's a bit like weather forecasting, progress in Parliament - but it looks likely at the current rate of progress that we'll have a final vote in November at the latest."

He said the amendment requiring any euthanasia conversation to be initiated by the patient were intended to alleviate the concerns that people had raised.

"I don't think we would have seen New Zealand doctors going around surreptitiously or improperly suggesting to people that they should have assisted dying ... but sometimes it's important to spell things out in the law," he said.

The concerns about coercion had been a difficult debate to address, he said.

"Because, of course, you can't prove a negative. We know from overseas - 20 years of experience that this has been studied and studied - the evidence of coercion and wrongful assisted death just does not show up in the data.

"However, people have that concern and we're addressing it so we're saying that if at any time there's suspicion that you're being pressured then the process stops, the doctor has to tell you 'sorry, you're out' and fill out a form saying as much and send it to the ministry."

He said it added to other protections in the bill that required doctors to have multiple conversations with the patient, saying in each that they could pull out at any time, have conversations with other people involved in the patient's care and talk to family members - dependent on the patient giving permission.

"People will say 'well, what if in theory somebody could completely internalise it and make people think something that they didn't think?' You can never disprove that but, again, what I would say is if that kind of stuff had been going on overseas for the last 20 years we might start to see some evidence of it.

"We'd see people who were less assertive, had less money, less access to healthcare, less education and so on would be more likely to do it and actually the opposite is true - it tends to be assertive, self-determining people that access it."

He said he thought it had a good chance - with last night's 70-50 vote showing relatively strong support - but he would continue to fight and lobby support for the bill.

"We've got a coalition of people who believe in choice and have continued to vote for the bill all the way through, but I don't take any vote for granted - I'll also keep lobbying and asking my fellow MPs to support choice."

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