Reverend questions euthanasia bill's impact on te ao Māori

1:26 pm on 15 January 2018

MPs are being questioned about how euthanasia fits in with their Māori values, as a bill legalising euthanasia makes its way through parliament.

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ACT Party leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill was drawn from the ballot last year and it passed its first reading in December with strong backing from Māori MPs across all political parties.

Reverend Chris Huriwai questioned Māori MPs on Twitter about why they support the bill.

The Gisborne-based reverend said he does not back the bill because of personal beliefs, but he wanted to spark a wider discussion on euthanasia.

"Not necessarily discussions for or against euthanasia but just keeping those ... Māori concerns in our minds as we continued to grapple with something as big as this."

Mr Huriwai said euthanasia might affect traditional practices such as tangi or funerals.

"How does a kaikaranga respond to calling on the body of someone who elected for themselves to die?

"How does someone who's doing whaikōrero mihi to the departed with that sort of ever-present reality in the background."

He said there were traditional Māori concepts including whare mate - where those who were sick or dying lived outside of the main village, similar to a hospice.

Green Party MP, Marama Davidson.

Marama Davidson Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Green Party MP Marama Davidson said her taha Māori and values helped to guide her decision to back the bill to the select committee stage.

As party spokesperson for the elderly and people with disabilities, Ms Davidson said great care was needed to ensure vulnerable groups were protected.

"We make sure that people are getting the necessary palliative care to improve their quality of life so they don't feel they are a burden."

Hospice New Zealand's Māori advisory group chair Ria Earp.

Ria Earp. Photo: Supplied

Hospice New Zealand Māori advisory group chair Ria Earp said Māori were generally more open about death.

"There is more of an ability and willingness to discuss death and dying and particularly how we care for our funeral services and how we care for grief."

Mrs Earp said Hospice New Zealand does not support the bill, and would like to see more focus on palliative care.

Parliament's justice committee is currently seeking public submissions on the bill.

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