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Source: The Spinoff
Fervent euthanasia opponent Maggie Barry is giving her party a headache that may last right up to next year’s election.
NATIONAL PARTY LEADER SIMON BRIDGES AT THE PARTY'S 2019 CONFERENCE (RADIO NZ/CRAIG MCCULLOCH)
When Judith Collins tearfully told Parliament during the second reading of David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill in June that she had been on “the wrong side” of the debate and now she was on “the right side” by voting in favour, it was impossible not to hear her sniffing the winds of political change.
It has gone mostly unremarked that of the five MPs who are commonly tipped as contenders to replace Simon Bridges as leader — Collins, Paula Bennett, Mark Mitchell, Nikki Kaye and Todd Muller — only Muller voted against the bill in June.
Departing Selwyn MP Amy Adams, who ran Bridges close in last year’s leadership race, also voted for it as did two MPs touted as future leaders — Nicola Willis and Chris Bishop.
Collins is smart and canny. Why would she want to remain not only on the wrong side of a majority of New Zealand voters, but also on the wrong side of a majority of National supporters — especially if she guesses the bill is likely to pass?
A Horizon poll published in May showed 65% of National’s voters approve of an assisted death for anyone with an end-stage terminal illness aged over 18 who is of sound mind and suffering unbearably.
Fifty-eight per cent of National voters also support assisted dying for adults with neuro-degenerative conditions, such as motor neurone disease, and who are suffering unbearably, even if their death may not occur in the immediate future.
However, while nearly all of National’s potential leadership contenders favour assisted dying, the bulk of the party’s MPs are dramatically out of step with the people they represent.
The second reading of the End of Life Choice Bill showed this glaring disjunction very clearly. Two-thirds of National voters want some form of assisted dying but only a third of National’s MPs — 18 out of 55 — voted in favour.
Another worry for National is that North Shore MP Maggie Barry is by far the most prominent opponent in the debate. Her campaign of opposition is often seen as being pursued with a reckless disregard for evidence and couched in exaggerated and inflammatory language.
And that is a problem for Bridges and his party because her aggressive and obstructive stance is unpopular with much of the public and her fellow MPs.
MAGGIE BARRY AT WELLINGTON BOTANIC GARDENS, 20 MARCH 2017 (PHOTO BY MIKE CLARE/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES)
Before the End of Life Choice Bill returned to Parliament last week, Judith Collins told journalists that she hoped “people don’t play silly buggers” and abuse the process as it is debated.
Collins didn’t identify the “silly buggers” she was referring to but her comment has been widely interpreted to mean Maggie Barry and her religious allies.
Last Wednesday, hours before David Seymour’s bill was due to be debated, Barry fronted the media — accompanied by National colleagues Simon O’Connor, Chris Penk, Alfred Ngaro and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi — to reaffirm their intention to lodge more than a hundred amendments.
National Party strategists must wonder what they have done wrong in an earlier life to deserve photos of a posse of their MPs splashed across the news media under headings such as: “Euthanasia critics look to drag out battle in Parliament.”
That banner could easily have read: “National MPs intend to filibuster a very popular bill that even their voters support.”
Barry denied that the 120 amendments they will lodge constitute filibustering. In fact, she doubled down, telling journalists: “I would imagine it could quite easily go beyond that  because you can make amendments on amendments.”
Proposing 120 amendments for a bill of only 28 sections is extraordinary but threatening amendments to amendments looks unrepentantly vexatious and a clear example of the abuse of process Collins warned against.
MIKE’S MINUTE, WEDNESDAY, 13 DECEMBER 2017
National has currently got the wind at its back after a successful party conference and a Colmar Brunton poll that put the party at 45%. What it really doesn’t need right now is months of negative publicity as Barry and her confreres are portrayed in the media as niggling spoilers.
Some of the sharpest critics include those normally sympathetic to National. After last Wednesday’s parliamentary debate, Mike Hosking told his Newstalk ZB audience: “Now, this [debate] ain’t over yet, not by a long way thanks to Maggie Barry and her mates who, despite what she claims, is doing herself no favours by stalling with her 100-plus amendments.”
And it’s not the first time he has criticised her.
At the time of the second reading of the bill in June, when he asked National’s Mark Mitchell what he thought of Barry’s role in the assisted dying debate, the Rodney MP replied: “No comment.”
Hosking later told his Breakfast audience, “When Mark Mitchell says ‘no comment’, you know exactly what he’s thinking. I just wonder… internally, within the party… if she is doing herself a little bit of damage with her stance at the moment.”
Hosking, of course, will know very well from National insiders just how much Barry’s aggressive stance is alienating her colleagues, including some of those who oppose legalisation. She has always been polarising but her crusade against assisted dying has turned the former garden-show host into Roundup on legs in the opinion of many both within and outside Parliament.
The radio host told Mitchell he thought Barry was “giving politicians a bad name” and said: “Even if she doesn’t like [the bill]… there’s not 120 amendments required.”
The North Shore MP’s threat to unleash an avalanche of amendments has been widely seen not only as an attempt to stop the bill or delay its passage, but also to make its criteria so restrictive that it will be more or less unworkable in practice if it does pass.
A big problem with such a diehard stance, of course, is that the bill is not nearly as contentious as the media likes to depict. That much was made clear once again last week when a Colmar-Brunton poll showed 72% of the nation are in favour of assisted dying with only 20% opposed.
That such a substantial majority persists after several years of a vociferous campaign of opposition to Seymour’s bill makes it clear just how popular such a law change would be.
SIMON BRIDGES ADDRESSES THE 83RD ANNUAL NATIONAL PARTY CONFERENCE AT CHRISTCHURCH TOWN HALL. (PHOTO BY KAI SCHWOERER/GETTY IMAGES)
Simon Bridges voted against the bill at both the first and second readings but he must be very aware of the damage Barry and her allies could do to National if the debate continues to run hot in the media until a referendum is held at the next election.
Bridges told Magic Talk radio in June that he was unhappy with NZ First’s call for a referendum before the bill becomes law — which is a condition of the party’s continued support and would be held at the next election alongside one on marijuana for personal use. “I think if we get to the point where we’re having a number of referendums it becomes very distracting from choosing a government to lead this country into the future.”
There will be no referendum, of course, if the bill is defeated at the third reading.
However, if it is passed and requires a plebiscite to become law, the battle will only intensify as opponents mount a desperate rearguard action to defeat it. And that will suck up a lot of oxygen in an election year.
National will consequently be identified in the run-up to the election as the face of fierce opposition to a popular law reform — and that face will inevitably most often be Barry’s.
Like Bridges, Jacinda Ardern is not in favour of a referendum but has said she would vote for one if it was the only way to get the bill over the line. However, she would undoubtedly also prefer not to have the election campaign dominated by two referendums.
The prime minister, who is firmly in favour of assisted dying, reckons a referendum on assisted dying “isn’t required to ensure that the voice of New Zealanders has been heard and to reflect the will of Parliament and the people they represent” — which could be interpreted as a recommendation for MPs to pass the End of Life Choice Bill with enough of a margin to sidestep Winston Peters’ demand for a plebiscite.
The vote at the second reading was a healthy 70-50 in favour but if the nine NZ First MPs vote against the bill at the third reading because a referendum isn’t approved, that majority would become, on current numbers, wafer thin.
However, the changes Seymour has proposed may make his bill palatable enough to some conservative MPs to win their vote and possibly gain sufficient cross-party support to ensure a healthy majority — which means a referendum could be avoided even if NZ First votes against it.
If that happened, the bill could become law before the end of the year.
There are obviously strong incentives for both Labour and National to sort the issue without letting it drag on to the election. Consequently, it’s quite possible that Judith Collins’ switch to the “right side” of the debate will not be the last Road to Damascus experience we see as MPs try to clear the decks before next year’s election campaigning begins.
A Colmar Brunton poll for TVNZ News on medical assistance in dying cross confirms earlier findings by Horizon Research.
A July 2019 survey of 1000 adults nationwide by Colmar Brunton finds 72% think a person who is terminally or incurably ill should be able to request the assistance of a doctor to end their life.
20% thought they should not be allowed.
Though four months apart, the result is similar to one from Horizon Reseach's survey of 1,341 adults in April 2019 which found assistance for those suffering end-stage terminal illness was 74%.
This compared with 74.9% overall in May 2017.
In the April Horizon 2019 survey
Horizon also found strong support for other measures, now being ruled out of the end of Life Choice bill before Parliament.
Where such a request has come from a mentally competent patient, 18 years and over, who has irreversible unbearable suffering which may not cause death in the immediate future (e.g. motor neurone disease or some other degenerative or irreversible condition): 65% support, 19% oppose
Allowing a competent person to write a legally enforceable and binding Advance Directive to allow medical assistance to die should the situations in situations 1 and 2 above occur after the patient becomes mentally incompetent (e.g. with severe brain injury): 66% support,19% oppose
Legalising such a request for medically assisted death by Advance Directive, when a person is suffering from severely advanced dementia: 65% support, 20% oppose.
Comments on this survey result are welcome at Horizon Poll's Facebook page.
David Seymour has successfully narrowed his End of Life Choice Bill to only allow assisted dying for terminal patients.
This amendment, which Seymour himself disagrees with, is key to keeping the support of the Green Party and several other MPs for a third reading.
The bill is currently in the Committee of the Whole House Stage, where it could stay for weeks if not months being debated clause-by-clause, before finally going to a third reading debate - and possibly a referendum.
On Wednesday evening during its first committee session, part one of the bill was examined, which includes the definition of who is eligible to request assisted dying.
His amendment passed 74 to 44.
Louisa Wall breaks down in euthanasia speech over personal experience in family
The Labour MP said a family member had a terminal illness, and providing choice is incredibly empowering.
Seymour sought to narrow the bill during its 16-month select committee process but this was not possible as the committee had severe disagreements with how to deal with the bill.
ACT Party leader David Seymour has narrowed his euthanasia bill to only cover those with a terminal illness.
His amendment narrows the bill to only allow a person with "a terminal illness that is likely to end the person's life within six months" to request assisted dying, or euthanasia. The first version of the bill also allowed for a person with "a grievous and irremediable medical condition" to request assisted dying, leading to stern opposition from disability groups who said the bill would allow the disabled to be coerced into death.
Terminal illness is not the only criterion: the patient must also be capable of understanding the decision made and be in a state "of irreversible decline in capability".
Seymour's full suite of amendments - not all of which have passed yet - will set out many other elements of the bill, including the need for two doctors independent of each other to confirm the terminal diagnosis.
The bill passed second reading 70 votes to 50. It is a conscience issue for National and Labour MPs, meaning they are able to vote independently. Indeed, some of the most severe divides on the bill are within the National Party.
Several MPs spoke against the bill, including former speaker David Carter.
"I will oppose this legislation, and I'll oppose it for one significant reason: I cannot be assured that there won't be some elderly person who is coerced into accepting assisted dying," Carter said.
Seymour said there was not evidence of any undetectable coercion from around the world.
"When we look around the world we don't find evidence of it, and, second of all, I don't believe that it's a standard that people apply to other aspects of law. They certainly don't apply it to any of the other medical decisions that people make, and if they did the entire field of medicine would be unworkable."
He said the progress with the bill was very encouraging."The critical change other MPs have asked for has been made, and we've made very good progress.
"If we can pass a part of the bill every member's night then we will be done in September - October or thereabouts."
Green and NZ First MPs are all whipped into supporting the bill provided several amendments.
The Greens sought the narrowing, while NZ First will seek a referendum to be added into the bill.
That decision will not be made until the last stage of the Committee of the Whole House, likely some time away.
Tuesday, 30 July 2019, 2:17 pm
Press Release: ACT New Zealand
David Seymour, ACT Party Leader and Sponsor of the End of Life Choice Bill, has today released his Supplementary Order Paper containing his amendments to the End of Life Choice Bill.
“Over the last few months I have worked with the Parliamentary Counsel Office and have been provided advice from both the Ministries of Health and Justice. I have also consulted with other Parties and individual MPs, as well as interested parties outside parliament.
“The amendments are formatted as a revision-tracked SOP which clearly shows all amendments I wish to make to the Bill as they would appear in the final legislation if these changes were adopted.
“The End of Life Choice Bill has always been a safe bill as it was designed in line with international Best Practice, contains numerous safeguards and was considered “tightly circumscribed” by the Attorney-General.”
“This SOP has been developed in consultation with Members of Parliament and a range of organisations to allay valid concerns and I am confident that this SOP will receive support from the greatest number of Members of Parliament to ensure a safe and efficient passage of the Bill through Committee of the whole House.”
“I am asking those who support giving compassion and choice to New Zealanders suffering at the end of their life to support these amendments, and New Zealand First’s proposed referendum amendment, while opposing all others. This course of action will ensure a coherent policy outcome and a straightforward Committee of the whole House stage for the bill.
“Some supporters may be disappointed that this SOP will create one of the most conservative assisted dying regimes in the world, but I have listened to concerns from supporters and opponents and have developed them into a high-quality amendment that compliments the Bill as introduced.”
In summary, the major changes are:
The SOP can be found here.
by Dr Mary Panko
Published: July 26, 2019
COLUMN – Gisborne Herald
In a few days’ time, July 31, the third round of David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill will be debated in Parliament and the Committee of the Whole House (CWH) gets to vote on a range of amendments.
There will be a large number of these, some coming from David Seymour himself but most from those opposed to any law change to permit medically-assisted dying. Maggie Barry has already said she plans to raise 120 amendments intending to get the Bill talked out — a method known as filibustering originally introduced by some long-discredited American politician. The filibuster tries to talk a bill to death so that it runs out of Parliamentary debating time.
However, for those who listened to the 20 MPs who spoke on the subject during the second reading (passed by 70 votes to 50), it was clear that there are honestly-held doubts on both sides of the argument — whether the bill goes far enough or if it provides enough safeguards — which make it worthy of an honest debate.
The nearest place to New Zealand which has a similar law is Victoria in Australia and it is worth comparing it to the proposed bill.
Many of its fundamentals are similar; to qualify a patient has to be a resident of the state, aged 18 or over, suffering from terrible pain as a result of a terminal illness and demonstrably not being coerced.
But the Victorian law has at least 68 safeguards, making it the most conservative of all international legislation, some of them pretty strange. Firstly, the patient’s doctor cannot tell them about the potential option of assisted dying. This is a bit like Basil Fawlty’s “Don’t mention the War”. So a dying and suffering patient may be informed about a range of options from palliative care to terminal sedation (oh yes — that’s legal) but not a word about medical-aid-in-dying.
It was argued that if a doctor mentioned this, it could be viewed as coercion. Therefore, people unaware of this possibility will not be permitted to find out about it. Unfortunately, David Seymour appears to think this proviso will persuade one or two additional MPs to vote for the bill and so has scooped up this clause into his own Supplementary Order Paper.
A further level of craziness in Victoria prevents any discussion of assisted dying by phone, text, Internet or, presumably, via carrier pigeon. This means that a dying person living far away from Melbourne and already approved for medical assistance, is barred from discussing any concerns or queries with their doctor. It is to be hoped that we can avoid this problem.
Further, once a patient has been approved for assisted dying in Victoria, the process ceases to be the business of the patient’s doctor or nurse practitioner and is handed over to a pharmacist from the main Melbourne hospital which has been given sole responsibility for dispensing the required lethal drug.
At this point, the dying person is expected to travel to Melbourne to collect the drug and instructions on how to administer it. If the patient is unable to do this, the law says the pharmacist will take it to them. How they can find out that this is necessary, if they wish to avoid federal prosecution for a forbidden discussion, is not clear.
Now, I have the utmost respect for the pharmacy profession as I lectured in a pharmacy department for 20 years, but having to understand and remember a number of complex instructions about a series of drugs which have to be measured and mixed and ingested in a desired sequence is asking too much of most of us. Let alone if we were on the point of death.
Furthermore, pharmacists’ instructions are probably the most ignored of any profession in a day-to-day sense. The pharmacist is also not required to be present while the dying patient attempts to mix and swallow the medication. Will they remember to take the anti-nausea draught first? Will they choke with no one there to help them?
As our MPs prepare to debate this issue again, I ask them to remember that a clear majority of their constituents (two-thirds to three-quarters, according to all reputable scientific opinion polls) want a law change to allow the suffering sick to end their lives painlessly and with dignity.
I also beg them to think compassionately and sensibly about those 2000 New Zealanders who die in unremitting pain every year and allow the tiny proportion who are likely to opt for medical assistance to die, to have the choice this bill would provide.
A group of doctors who support a law change to allow medically-assisted dying for the terminally ill has accused the New Zealand Medical Association of ignoring international evidence on the issue in favour of “conservative cultural and personal beliefs”.
The group accuses the NZMA board, which opposes the End of Life Choice Bill before Parliament, “of being no more advanced than the ‘anti-vaxers’ or the ‘anti-1080 lobby’, whose beliefs cannot be impinged upon by science, fact or rational thinking.”
The charges are made in a letter to Dr Kate Baddock, chair of the NZMA, signed by Dr Miles Williams, cardiologist of Hastings, and 18 other practising and retired doctors.
He says the 133-year-old NZMA has “been on the wrong side of history in the past, for example in taking conservative, paternalistic and moralistic approaches on issues such as contraception and abortion”.
Dr Williams says that in claiming that no end-of-life choice legislation could be safe, the NZMA is “asserting the superior intellect, insight, analytical powers and judgement of the six members of a small parochial New Zealand board whose collective knowledge and experience of this subject is likely to be limited to discussions around the boardroom table” over that of the judiciaries of countries and states in Europe, the Americas, Canada and Australia, representing more than 150 million people.
In the letter, released shortly before Parliament resumes debate on the bill on July 31, Dr Williams says: “It is important that the New Zealand public is made aware that there is absolutely no contemporary evidence to support any aspect of your opposition to giving the people of this country the right to End of Life Choice.
“It has been successfully implemented in many countries, none of whom have reversed their legislation. It is not unethical, there is no evidence in the literature of coercion, increased suicide rates, distrust of doctors, exploitation of the vulnerable, or of wrongful deaths.
“In all of these countries and states the practice is subject to government-controlled audit. Your dismissal of polls, not only in this country, but of those undertaken in many nations around the world, showing that the majority of people in these countries understand and support EOLC, represents blatant and unapologetic paternalism.”
The NZMA opposed the bill in a submission to the Justice Select Committee in February 2018 and in an interview Dr Baddock gave on TV1’s Breakfast programme on May 22. Dr Williams said “the quality and accuracy” of the statements she made “fell well short of the standards aspired to by the NZMA”.
The NZMA claims to be the country's only pan-professional medical organisation representing the collective interests of all doctors and a strong advocate on medico-political issues.
More information: Dr Miles Williams, 027 240 6127 firstname.lastname@example.org. The full letter to Dr Baddock is attached.
Released by David Barber on behalf of Doctors for End of Life Choice Tel: 021 072 8760
Kia ora koutou katoa / Greetings to all.
It was my dream that by this time we would be celebrating the successful final passage of the End of Life Choice Act and that I could stand down as President knowing that we had achieved our goal of making assisted dying legal.
In last year’s report I referred to the significant curved ball which Parliament threw us when they agreed to an extension of time for the Justice Select Committee to do its work of hearing as many as possible of the record number of more than 36,000 submitters all told. I had even reduced my ambition to hoping that we would be celebrating the successful passage of the second reading by now, but that has not happened either.
But it will next Wednesday!
Our patience and our aspirations have both been sorely tested in the last year. We have waited and we have lobbied until we are now at the stage where most MPs have taken the phone off the hook (to use a slightly old-fashioned reference).
We have accepted possible compromises as we have seen David Seymour whittle his bill down, first to a half of my original bill by removing the section on Advance Directives, then by another half to exclude grievous and irremediable, but not terminal, conditions.
We haven’t liked the reductions, but we have understood the arithmetic of Parliament. We have been very focussed on getting the requisite votes over 60 in order to get something of what we want passed, rather than nothing achieved at all.
We have also accepted the delays which will occur by virtue of the introduction of a referendum on the Act (as we hope it will be by then), to occur in conjunction with next year’s General Election.
When I have become dispirited from time to time because of these delays and the effort it takes to sustain a campaign over a long period of time, I think of those who have been faithfully battling over this issue for decades. I think especially of the people who first got me involved in it and who are no longer with us: John Murray, Jean Cartmell, and others like Diana Dombroski. You will all remember others too. They worked far longer at promoting assisted dying than I have. I have no right to feel tired!
We have spent the last year lobbying MPs, writing submissions and presenting them, writing blogs, sustaining websites, composing letters to the Editor of every paper in the country, writing opinion pieces, designing flags, t-shirts and stickers, commissioning polls and releasing them at the optimal time, creating petitions for presentation to the local MP, retweeting articles and links, sharing thoughts and overseas experiences on Facebook, and myriad other efforts.
They WILL work.
At the same time, we have fundraised to sustain all these efforts. We have continued to run a voluntary organisation on the smell of an oily rag. There have been no chauffeur-driven cars or wine storage facilities for us! And certainly no $3m+ salary!
I want to thank our National Committee, including our part-time Administrator Peter Cowley, for their unrelenting efforts. They have been a committed and hardworking group of people.
I wish in particular to thank two people who are leaving the National Committee this year because our constitution says they cannot do any more than 8 years’ service. I think they are probably grateful! They are Dr Jack Havill, our Immediate Past President and Carole Sweney, our Secretary. I owe them everything. They have supported me through the trying times and have always been there to give me the benefit of their hard won experience, I could not have done this job without them.
I also want to acknowledge another who is standing down from her National Committee position this year and that is Elizabeth Cronje, our Membership Secretary. Elizabeth was always of the view that what she did in keeping our membership lists up to date and arranging for people to call those whose memberships had lapsed, was of no significance. Quite the contrary – that is how voluntary organisations stay alive and we are very much alive.
To the others on the Committee – Mary Panko as Vice-President now stepping up to be President, David Barber, our indefatigable Newsletter Editor and media wrangler, Pete Cowley, our constant Treasurer as well as our Administrator, we owe enormous thanks. To our regional representatives – Jim Roskvist in Auckland, Dale Lethbridge in Hamilton, Esther Richards in the Bay of Plenty, Linda Kennington in the legendary Kapiti-Horowhenua branch, now stepping up to become our Vice-President, and Stef McKnight in Wellington, who doubles as our graphic artist and visual manager - to all of you, I am hugely grateful. You have kept the fires burning in the regions and provided the structure, including for “branches” such as Christchurch, Taranaki, Napier and Dunedin, which has made people feel connected in. I welcome the arrival of Helen Cartmell as our new Secretary and Teresa Keedwell as the new Kapiti-Horowhenua representative.
Finally, we will have a few more months of debate to get through. I am confident we will get there, despite the best efforts of our minority opposition. Let’s take it to a referendum and get people out to vote for it. We WILL win!
Every good wish to all of you over the next 12 months – keep up the fight!
MARYAN STREET, President, EOLC Society NZ (Inc.)
MPs are lobbied constantly to support or not support decisions in Parliament.
Please consider sending the MPs who supported the Bill in its second reading a brief email thanking them. It is more effective to send individualised emails rather than blind copying them all.
Click here for a list of supportive MPs and their email addresses. The correct way to address an MP is Hon [firstname] [lastname].
Stefanie Green didn't enter the medical field thinking she would end up helping Canadians end their lives. In fact, she spent much of the earlier part of her career on the other end of the lifecycle, in the maternity ward, helping mothers give birth.
Speaking at the medical campus of the University of Auckland on Thursday, Green told a gathering of students and clinicians that she had been directly involved in 150 assisted deaths since Canada first passed euthanasia legislation three years ago.
Green's visit coincides with the successful second reading of the End of Life Choice bill and her experiences provide a glimpse at what life might be like for the doctors who will have to carry out the tough job of helping people choose when they'd prefer to die.
Read more »
The conversation before a patient's last words is what a Canadian clinician finds most interesting about helping someone end their life.
It's a very candid, raw moment that Dr Stefanie Green says connects her with a human being in their final moments.
"Emotionally it's a very interesting conversation because there's really no BS in that moment," Green tells Stuff.
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