26 Sep 2019

Euthanasia bill moves forward in committee stage

6:44 am on 26 September 2019

The End of Life Choice Bill has moved through another phase of its committee stage in Parliament and opponents' efforts to change the bill have again been voted down.

David Seymour addresses media following the release of the justice committee's report on the End of Life Choice Bill

David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

National MPs put forward around 20 amendments to ACT leader David Seymour's bill last night - but unlike the last session, where MPs stayed voting until 1am, the voting wrapped up at 10.30pm.

Mr Seymour's chief opponent Maggie Barry, who apologised for yelling at Labour's assistant speaker Ruth Dyson during the last debate was not in the House last night.

However, her proposed amendment still got a lot of air time through her colleagues.

Ms Barry wanted the death certificate of someone who dies from assisted dying, for the purposes of any life insurance contract, to state that the person died as a result of the administration of medication.

National MP Melissa Lee told the House legislation shouldn't compel someone to misreport or misrepresent a cause of death.

"We should not try and hoodwink the actual reason why someone had in fact died ... this bill of David Seymour's is trying to actually say they did not infact die from a lethal dose of a poison.

"That to me is actually a lie and I do not think that legislation should facilitate the falsehood," Ms Lee said.

But Mr Seymour said there's no deceit or deception going on.

"Under the requirements of this legislation, the death certificate says that the person died of the illness that qualified them to be eligible for assisted dying, also the fact that they died from assisted dying.

"So anybody reading that certificate I think can figure out that this was done under the law.

"There's no subterfuge, it's very easy for anybody to read and understand what that's saying", Mr Seymour said.

The amendment was voted down 38 votes to 81.

Alfred Ngaro

Alfred Ngaro Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National's Māori, Pasifika, and ethnic MPs also tried to push for cultural considerations and the Treaty of Waitangi to be properly addressed by the bill.

MPs Harete Hipango and Alfred Ngaro put forward amendments that Deputy Speaker Anne Tolley ruled out of order because they related to other parts of the legislation that were debated weeks ago.

But Ms Hipango submitted another amendment during the debate and put forward her case.

"It is well known that the legislation of this land requires that commitment [to the Treaty] which has been mandated.

"I implore members of this House, I implore members of the public, that we have a duty of care and responsibility to our most vulnerable. This bill that's proposed has no lens, no optics whatsoever in terms of addressing that," she said.

Mr Ngaro accused Mr Seymour of being dismissive of the importance of cultural considerations.

"The question that has to go to the member of the Bill who talks about the importance of choice, what about the importance of ensuring that people know what choices they are making?

"Many times when we think about it in different cases with different cultures people may be asked a question, and if I talk about the Pasifika community, people will nod and say yes do you understand.

"The truth and the reality is they do not understand the technical implications in this regard," Mr Ngaro said.

But Mr Seymour said putting in a specific requirement around cultural considerations would be problematic.

"Of course we expect all medical professionals in New Zealand to be respectful of who their patients are, it would be quite extraordinary if that wasn't the case.

"And I think it would be a terrible signal for Parliament to send that in specific instances they're required to carry out those kinds of duties because the implication might be that they weren't expected to carry out duties of cultural competency in other settings," Mr Seymour said.

The End of Life Choice Bill will be up in the House again late next month when New Zealand First's proposal that the bill be put to the public in a referendum is expected to be debated.

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