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Source: NZ Herald
Euthanasia legislation has inched closer to a final vote in Parliament as opponents criticised the speed of the debate.
Act leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill, which would allow terminally ill adults to request assisted dying, returned to the House on Wednesday night for the third of what will be five lengthy debates over last-minute changes.
The legislation passed its second reading by 70 votes to 50 in June and Seymour has promised a swathe of amendments to secure much-needed votes ahead of the third-and-final reading.
He scored another victory on Wednesday night as his latest tranche of changes was voted through 68 votes to 52 as the Committee of the Whole House debated a section of the bill that sets up the organisations that would oversee and monitor assisted dying.
It lays out requirements such as reviewing the legislation after three years and for a "Review Committee" that will have to look at reports about every death to see if there's any non-compliance.
Seymour's changes for this section were largely technical.
But those opposed to the bill put forward 35 of their own amendments this week, many trying to tighten the rules for who could be appointed to the oversight bodies.
"They must be beyond reproach," National's Melissa Lee told the House as she asked for backing for her amendment that would ban anyone who had ever faced a professional complaint from one of the panels to be set up.
Several of the amendments had yet to be voted on, but all 15 considered ahead of Seymour's were rejected.
It's part of the push and pull between the Act leader and the bill's critics that has characterised the debates.
Those against have largely dominated the time in the House, calling for as many speeches as the chair of the debate will allow, and making clause-by-clause attacks in an effort to show the bill as not safe enough given the seriousness of its implications.
National MP Chris Penk described his interrogation of the bill on Wednesday as a "fine examination".
While every amendment from opponents has so far been voted down, the individual vote called for each proposal has seen sessions in Parliament run long into the night and across days.
Seymour, meanwhile, on Wednesday went as far as to complain during the votes that the teller for the "noes" (the person counting their votes), Maggie Barry, was taking too long to count and criticising her for taking to Twitter in the middle of one vote.
In Barry's tweet, she argued the debate had been shut down for a vote too early in the night without all amendments being given proper time, describing it as a "terrible injustice".
The person chairing the committee - on this occasion Assistant Speaker and Labour MP Ruth Dyson - effectively gets to end the debate when they think there's been enough argument, as long as the majority of MPs agree.
What's already been changed?
The previous two debates saw a raft of major changes introduced by the Act leader, including:
• Limiting the bill to only apply to those with six months to live, whereas it previously covered people with "grievous and irremediable" conditions
• Prohibiting a health practitioner from initiating any discussion about assisted dying
• Giving employment protections for any doctor, nurse, or psychiatrist who objects to taking part in the process on any ground
• Explicitly stating that if any pressure is suspected on a person applying for assisted dying, doctors and nurses must stop the process
What happens next?
The bill will return to the House on September 25 for a fourth debate. But it's the fifth that will be the most contentious.
During that final session, MPs will have to consider whether to put the legislation to a referendum.
New Zealand First has demanded a plebiscite as a condition of its support and vowed to vote "no" if it doesn't get it.
Without NZ First's nine votes, Seymour could not afford to lose another single vote from the second reading - a difficult ask.
That's why he's promised to support the referendum. But with plenty of MPs taking a wait-and-see approach, it's not yet clear whether there's enough support in the House for him to get one.
Source: Letters, Herald Scotland
THE topic of assisted dying has been back on the discussion agenda recently, but I wonder if the subject is too polarised, and whether a more nuanced approach is necessary.
A relative of mine recently died in hospital, having existed, for several days, in excruciating pain on which the legal maximum palliative relief had no effect, while his wife and family had to sit by his bedside and watch as he kept pleading for release from the torture. Since this level of suffering is such as we would not allow an animal to endure, I cannot understand how it can be considered acceptable to inflict it on a human being, and I can only imagine the nightmare for the family at the bedside, let alone the trauma they will now have to live with for the rest of their days.
I once heard an Australian doctor suggest that this was not a matter of obeying the Hippocratic oath to prolong life but was simply prolonging death. Some say it is allowing nature to take its course, not deliberately ending a life, but if letting nature take its course is the correct approach, why treat other life-threatening illnesses and diseases? Is the reason in these other instances not to end suffering? Granted that the end result is hopefully to restore a viable life, does that mean that suffering should continue, no matter how unbearable, simply because death is the inevitable end?
I believe that relieving suffering is a duty under the Hippocractic oath that takes precedence over preserving life. For that reason, if at the end a patient is suffering ongoing excruciating pain, the prime consideration should be to alleviate that, even if the treatment may possibly, or even certainly, hasten the inevitable death. At least then there can be a dignified, peaceful and pain-free end to life. Where is the dignity or peace in a long-drawn-out death in agony?
Can we not stop regarding this as a question of “assisted dying” and instead regard it as a humanitarian process of alleviating suffering? Should we not allow whatever level of palliative treatment the degree of suffering requires, and regard the possible hastening of death as a compassionate side-effect? At the very least, we should allow people to put their wish for this in writing and guarantee to honour that wish. At the very least, can we not accept that concession?
This is exactly what I would wish for myself.
P Davidson, Falkirk.
Source: Letters, Herald Scotland
WHAT a sad set of circumstances that have led to Richard Selley ending his life, yes, in the way he would have wished but not at the time nor in the place that he would have preferred ("‘The end was dignified and calm... he had taken control’", The Herald, September 7).
Any pet owner has the right to end the suffering of a well-loved cat, dog or other animal.
It defies logic that under similar circumstances, with appropriate safeguards, a sentient human cannot terminate his or her own life, at the appropriate time and in a dignified manner.
Condolences to his family and friends and may this brave man rest in peace.
David Chadwick, Carluke.
GORDON MacDonald concludes his article against voluntary assisted suicide for the terminally suffering by quoting Leo Alexander, Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials: “It started with the acceptance by doctors of the idea, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived” ("Change to law would send a message some lives are worth less than others", The Herald, September 8).
Since what the Nazis were doing was killing people who very much wanted to live and since the present campaign is for terminally ill people in great distress to be able to choose to have their death hastened, the comparison is misleading in the extreme and comes very close to a smear. Opponents of assisted suicide often play down or ignore the fact that it would be entirely voluntary, with safeguards in place to ensure that the dying patient is making a considered choice and is not under the influence of a passing mood. Instead, such opponents spread a false impression that it would mean jackbooted doctors inflicting death on those who very much want to live. Dr MacDonald here shows himself to be of that number.
Paul Brownsey, Bearsden.
The experiences shared in this report are as harrowing as anything I have encountered as a Member of Parliament. I have had two bouts of cancer and am no stranger to the nastiness of the disease and its treatments, but nothing prepared me for the horror of what is described here.
In 2019 British people are being forced to endure unbelievable suffering at the end of life. Some will retch at the stench of their own body rotting. Some will vomit their own faeces. Some will suffocate, slowly, inexorably, over several days, their last moments of life disfigured by terror. Any one of us might suffer such a fate.
[This is also happening in New Zealand.]
Read more here »
This is a film about a film. Fatal Fraud is a case study about techniques used by opponents against evidence-based public policy initiatives. In this film, Andrew Denton explains with the help of leading experts how emotional manipulation, fear, framing and omission are deployed to sow Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the minds of legislators and the public.
Watch the film here »
by Maryan Street
On 21 August, the House debated Part 2 of the EOLC bill. This was the very substantial part of the bill which dealt with processes and procedures. It was a protracted debate, with supporting MPs deliberately sitting quietly and not taking calls in order not to prolong the debate, while the opposition exhausted their arguments, the Speaker's patience and the whole House in the end. By agreement between the parties, while it did get to voting before 10pm, the House suspended voting part way through in order to avoid another late night marathon as had occurred in the previous debate.
That means that the next Member's Day on 11 September will BEGIN with the EOLC bill and the interrupted voting straight after the General Debate at about 4pm. There are no other bills ahead of it currently. There are 15 SOPs left to be voted on which pertain to Part 2, but an educated guess says that at least 5 of those will be ruled out of order by the Associate Speaker because they contradict David's amendments to the Part which have already been passed. So that leaves 10 SOPs to be voted on. I imagine that will take until about 5pm or shortly after. Then the House will move on to Part 3 which should not take very long because it is more technical in nature and should be disposed of by 10pm. That leaves Part 4 and the Schedules to be debated on the next day (25 September), and then Clauses 1 and 2 remain.
Clause 1 is the title of the bill, and there are some SOPs in to change that ("Assisted Suicide Bill" etc.) and Clause 2 is the Date of Commencement. It is in Clause 2 where NZFirst's SOP about a referendum will be debated, obviously because it will alter the date of enactment. That will be the last debate at the Committee stage. Thereafter, it moves on to its third and final reading which is a time-limited debate and will only take two hours (or a little more if the Business Committee decides to be generous and extend the time a little, as it did before). This will occur in October, all going well.
So there is not much longer to go!
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.
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.
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