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The next debate for the EOLC Bill will be Wednesday 11th September. We should see the 3rd Reading completed by the end of the year. What a wonderful Christmas present!
What's it like to help someone end their life? It's something doctors here could soon be doing, as David Seymour's End of Life Care bill passed its second reading [on 21 August].
The proposed euthanasia law has had new safeguards inserted to make sure that doctors cannot be the first ones to suggest assisted dying.
Other successful changes protect health professionals conscientiously objecting to euthanasia from employment repercussions, provide for patients delaying euthanasia, and further formalise the exact process that those seeking assisted dying would go through.
The changes were all inserted on the behest of the bill's sponsor David Seymour by 69 votes to 51 in a late-night Parliamentary session on Wednesday night, while the End of Life Choice Bill was in the second day of its committee of the whole house debate.
Seymour has been seeking to narrow the bill and strengthen protections in order to keep the loose coalition of MPs who have backed it so far onside for the third and final reading.
At the End of Life Choice Bill's second reading, MPs share their personal stories on why they support or are opposed to the legislation.
He was stymied in his attempt to do this through the 16-month select committee process but succeeded in his first day of debate several weeks ago, when he managed to narrow the bill so it only allowed the terminally ill to request assisted dying.
This was enough to keep the support of the Green Party, who had faced serious lobbying from the disabled community who were worried the bill would allow coercion.
David Seymour has been seeking to narrow his bill.
The debate on Wednesday concerned the exact process for assisted dying and went well past 11pm as a personal vote was called for on many of the proposed 31 amendments.
The bill now confirms that the patient must be the one to first suggest assisted dying. They then must make this request to their doctor or other health professional - who can conscientiously object, but must tell the patient that they can contact a special Health Ministry office who can help them find a practitioner who can help.
If that practitioner thinks it is appropriate they must make sure the consent is "informed" - that the person knows all of their options for care - and if the patients still wishes to go through with it the request must be put in writing.
Two doctors must then agree that the patient is informed and the criteria to request assisted dying are met, and if either of them are not sure if the person is making the decision themselves or with informed consent, a psychiatrist must be asked for their opinion. Any of the three doctors can veto the process.
A new change inserted by Seymour on Wednesday would allow a patient to defer this process for up to six months without having to start from the beginning again - or cancel it at any point.
"Evidence from offshore is that there is a palliative effect simply from having the choice. Once people know that they have the choice about how and when they die, if they want it, then that actually has a huge positive effect on their wellbeing," Seymour said.
Speaking after the bill was passed Seymour said much more work remained in the coming months of debate on the bill.
"It's long grinding process and there will be several months of this to come," Seymour said.
He said his change made sure that there was a "very low threshold" for suspicion of coercion that would stop the entire euthanasia process.
Opponents of the bill put forward several unsuccessful amendments to make the law more restrictive, including one from National MP Chris Penk which would create an advisory council to approve or disapprove of every case.
This amendment failed 71 votes to 49, a similar margin to the other amendments put forward by opponents to the bill.
Penk and other opponents made clear that they believed the bill was generally unsalvageable and that coerced deaths would still happen - so they would definitely not vote for the bill at third reading.
"Even if you are supportive of euthanasia in principle, this is certainly not the bill to deliver it," National MP Maggie Barry said.
Seymour still faces serious challenges before making the bill law.
He will need the win the support of the House for a referendum on the law to keep all of NZ First's nine votes for the third and final reading. The bill only passed its second reading with a margin of ten votes, so if all NZ First votes were to go, only a single MP changing their mind would see the bill sunk.
He said on Wednesday he was pleased his coalition of around 70 votes in favour was sticking with him on all the amendments.
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