The End of Life Choice Bill
In 1995 MP Michael Laws Private Member’s Bill “Death with Dignity” was defeated by 61 votes to 29, with many abstentions. A few years later (2003) MP Peter Brown’s Private Member’s Bill once again raised hopes but was defeated by 2 votes at its first reading.
Maryan Street was the next MP to tackle this issue and promoted her End of Life Choice Bill, but was forced to withdraw her Bill in advance of the general election in 2014. However, she got the ball rolling once more with her successful petition on medically-assisted dying in 2016. The tide was turning.
June 2015 saw the tragic death of lawyer Lecretia Seales, the same day that her case for medically assisted dying was turned down. Lecretia had filed a claim with the High Court arguing that her GP should not be prosecuted under the Crimes Act (1961) in assisting her in her death with her consent, and that under the Bill of Rights Act (1962) she had the right to not be subjected to the unnecessary suffering of a long, cruel death.
Finally, MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill was drawn from the members’ bills ballot on 8 June 2017. The Bill passed its first reading in parliament on 13 December 2017 (76 to 44 votes), and was referred to the Justice Select Committee.
After a year of hearings, the Select Committee reported back to parliament on 9 April 2019. Listen here » to Ann David talking to Coast Access Radio about submissions to the Select Committee and the EOLC Bill (26 April 2019).
The Bill passed its second reading in parliament on 26 June 2019 (70 to 50 votes). Read the transcript of the reading here »
The Bill is currently being debated by the Committee of the Whole House (CWH) on a number of Wednesday evenings allocated to Private Members Bills. These debates are scheduled for August 21st, September 11th and 25th, as well as October 23rd. They can be watched live on TV Channel 31.
Following the second reading, the End of Life Choice Bill has now been referred to the Committee of the Whole House. During this stage, MPs can present Supplementary Order Papers proposing amendments to the Bill before it goes to its third reading.
The New Zealand Labour Party and New Zealand First Coalition Agreement provides for a referendum after the third reading of the Bill. The Green Party also support the Bill in cases of terminal illness. Responding to these political realities, David Seymour has produced a Supplementary Order Paper indicating a number of recommendations for changes to his Bill as originally proposed. These include holding a public referendum at the same time as the next General Election in 2020, and limiting the eligibility criteria to cases of terminal illness only.
The EOLC Bill is now completing its Committee of the Whole House stage, with the last debate on this section due on Wednesday 23rd October. Amongst other issues up for debate will be whether New Zealand will have a Referendum to decide this Bill at next year's General Election.
In the meantime, no amendments (or SOPs) which opposed David Seymour's current Bill have been accepted.
In 2018 a group of Otago University researchers reviewed existing data on New Zealanders’ attitudes to euthanasia or assisted dying over the past 20 years. A total of 36,304 people had been surveyed. Across all these surveys, on average, 68.3 per cent of people had supported euthanasia and 14.9 percent opposed, while 15.7 percent were neutral or unsure.
The latest independent results obtained through a Horizon poll in April 2019 of over 1300 people were very similar to previous Horizon polls:
The criteria and processes of the EOLC Bill.