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Lecretia would have been pleased with the End of Life Choice Bill

23 Jun 2019 2:53 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

by Matt Vickers | Source: Stuff

Assisted death advocate Matt Vickers, former prime minister Sir Bill English and wife Dr Mary English fronted a parliamentary hearing on the End of Life Choice Bill in August.

OPINION: This week MPs will decide whether the End of Life Choice Bill will pass second reading. It has been over four years since my late wife Lecretia Seales pursued a choice about how she died. It has taken a long time and a lot of work to get to this point.

Lecretia was a law reformer and well respected amongst the legal community. She worked for two prime ministers: Sir John Key, as a justice advisor, and Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC, as a senior legal advisor at the Law Commission. She knew exactly what she was asking for, and its legal implications, and she would be pleased with the End of Life Choice Bill, which has been crafted with the assistance of lawyers who acted for Lecretia in Seales v Attorney-General.

Those lawyers have been steeped in this issue for years and have a deep understanding of how the laws work overseas. They are this country's legal experts on this issue. And despite misrepresentations from opponents, this bill stands up as one of the best examples of all of them, tailored to the needs of New Zealanders.

It is smart, robust, and evidence-based law.

Matt Vickers and Lecretia Seales in 2010.

MATT VICKERS | Matt Vickers and Lecretia Seales in 2010.

Palliative care is a wonderful thing, but like medicine, it is not perfect. Justice David Collins, in his ruling on Lecretia's case, accepted this fact based on the evidence presented by both parties. So the question becomes: what do we do if we know that palliative care cannot deal with all suffering? Do we just accept that some people will suffer awful deaths, turn away from them, and decide that those people are just unlucky? Or do we listen to them, show compassion, and allow those people to have a choice about how they die?

The End of Life Choice Bill offers people that choice, which I believe is the only humane thing to do. Next month, at a memorial lecture I have organised in my wife's name, a philosophy professor specialising in ethics from Harvard University will visit New Zealand to discuss the moral permissibility of offering these sorts of choices.

Should the bill pass second reading, we will see amendments proposed by MPs for tightening the wording and the criteria. In fact, the Ministries of Justice and Health have already been providing input to amendments to address all the concerns of opponents.

Matt Vickers submits on the End of Life Choice Bill at a select committee hearing in August.

MONIQUE FORD/STUFF | Matt Vickers submits on the End of Life Choice Bill at a select committee hearing in August.

The sponsor's amendments will restrict access to those that are terminally ill, and in an advanced state of decline, and who are suffering unbearably. Despite the claims of opponents, the bill will not allow people to access assisted dying on the basis of a disability alone. No one wants that. I certainly don't support that, and neither would Lecretia. It will bring the law into line with the one that just came into effect in Victoria, Australia, which is regarded as the most rigorous assisted dying regime in the world.

New Zealanders deserve to see the final bill, what the criteria would be, and who would be affected. So let's support the bill, get to a final drafting, and then talk about what it will mean before a final vote later this year.

Matt Vickers is looking forward to the second vote on the End of Life Choice Bill next week.

SUPPLIED | Matt Vickers is looking forward to the second vote on the End of Life Choice Bill next week.

If the bill was voted down at second reading, that would be MPs denying New Zealanders an opportunity to see the bill's final wording, which would be a terrible disservice to the public, and to Lecretia's supporters, who have worked incredibly hard to see this issue considered after decades of parliamentary inaction. Support for assisted dying runs anywhere between 65 and 75 per cent, depending on who is doing the polling.

Our elected representatives know assisted dying is well supported by their constituents and therefore have a duty to give this bill the best chance of success.

MPs that vote yes on Wednesday are not only voting in support of assisted dying, but in support of representative democracy itself.

I look forward to applauding them.

Sunday Star Times

© End-Of-Life Choice • PO Box 321, Gisborne 4040 • Email: office@eolc.org.nz




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