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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 email@example.com. 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.
Source: NZ Herald
Twelve MPs changed their votes between the first and second reading of the End of Life Choice Bill which passed its second reading by 70 votes to 50.
The next debate will be the committee stages, at which many amendments will be proposed, before a final vote is taken on the third reading.
* Denotes MPs who have changed their vote since the first reading
SUPPORT - 70
Amy Adams – National - Selwyn
Ginny Andersen – Labour – List
Jacinda Ardern – Labour – Mt Albert
Darroch Ball – NZ First – List
Paula Bennett - National - Upper Harbour
Chris Bishop - National - Hutt South
Tamati Coffey – Labour – Waiariki
Judith Collins* – National – Papakura
Liz Craig – Labour – List
Clare Curran – Labour – Dunedin South
Marama Davidson – Green – List
Kelvin Davis - Labour – Te Tai Tokerau
Matt Doocey – National – Waimakariri
Ruth Dyson – Labour – Port Hills
Paul Eagle – Labour – Rongotai
Kris Faafoi – Labour – Mana
Andrew Falloon – National – Rangitata
Julie Anne Genter - Green – List
Golriz Ghahraman – Green –List
Peeni Henare – Labour – Tamaki Makaurau
Chris Hipkins – Labour – Rimutaka
Brett Hudson – National – List
Gareth Hughes – Green – List
Raymod Huo – Labour – List
Willie Jackson – Labour – List
Shane Jones – NZ First – List
Nikki Kaye – National – Auckland Central
Matt King – National – Northland
Barbara Kuriger – National - Taranaki-King Country
Iain Lees-Galloway – Labour – Palmerston North
Andrew Little – Labour – List
Jan Logie – Green – List
Marja Lubeck – Labour – List
Jo Luxton – Labour – List
Nanaia Mahuta – Labour – Hauraki-Waikato
Trevor Mallard – Labour – List
Jenny Marcroft – NZ First – List
Ron Mark – NZ First – List
Tracey Martin – NZ First – List
Kieran McAnulty – Labour – List
Clayton Mitchell – NZ First - List
Mark Mitchell – National – Rodney
Stuart Nash – Labour – Napier
Greg O'Connor – Labour – Ohariu
David Parker – Labour – List
Mark Patterson – NZ First – List
Winston Peters - NZ First – List
Willow-Jean Prime – Labour – List
Priyanca Radhakrishnan – Labour – List
Grant Robertson – Labour – Wellington Central
Jami-Lee Ross – Independent – Botany
Eugenie Sage – Green – List
Carmel Sepuloni – Labour – Kelston
David Seymour – Act – Epsom
James Shaw – Green – List
Scott Simpson – National – Coromandel
Stuart Smith – National – Kaikoura
Erica Stanford – National – East Coast Bays
Chloe Swarbrick – Green – List
Fletcher Tabuteau – NZ First – List
Jan Tinetti – Labour – List
Tim van de Molen – National – Waikato
Louisa Wall – Labour – Manurewa
Angie Warren-Clark – Labour – List
Duncan Webb – Labour – Christchurch Central
Poto Williams* – Labour – Christchurch East
Nicola Willis – National – List
Megan Woods – Labour - Wigram
Jian Yang – National – List
Lawrence Yule* - National- Tukituki
Kiritapu Allan*- Labour - List
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi - National – List
Maggie Barry – National – North Shore
Andrew Bayly – National – Hunua
David Bennett - National – Hamilton East
Dan Bidois – National - Northcote
Simon Bridges – National – Tauranga
Simeon Brown – National – Pakuranga
Gerry Brownlee – National – Ilam
David Carter – National – List
David Clark – Labour – Dunedin North
Jacquie Dean – National – Waitaki
Sarah Dowie – National – Invercargill
Paulo Garcia – National - List
Paul Goldsmith – National – List
Nathan Guy* - National - Otaki
Joanne Hayes – National – List
Harete Hipango* - National - Whanganui
Anahila Kanongata'aSuisuiki – Labour – List
Denise Lee – National – Maungakiekie
Melissa Lee – National – List
Agnes Loheni – National - List
Tim Macindoe – National – Hamilton West
Todd McClay – National – Rotorua
Ian McKelvie – National – Rangitikei
Todd Muller – National – Bay of Plenty
Alfred Ngaro – National – List
Damien O'Connor – Labour – West Coast
Simon O'Connor – National – Tamaki
Parmjeet Parmar – National – List
Chris Penk – National – Helensville
Maureen Pugh – National - List
Shane Reti – National – Whangarei
Adrian Rurawhe* - Labour – Te Tai Hauauru
Deborah Russell* - Labour – New Lynn
Jenny Salesa – Labour – Manukau East
Alastair Scott – National – Wairarapa
Aupito William Sio – Labour – Mangere
Nick Smith – National – Nelson
Jamie Strange – Labour – List
Rino Tirakatene – Labour – Te Tai Tonga
Anne Tolley* - National - East Coast
Phil Twyford – Labour – Te Atatu
Louise Upston – National – Taupo
Nicky Wagner – National – List
Hamish Walker* - National – Clutha-Southland
Meka Whaitiri* - Labour – Ikaroa Rawhiti
Michael Wood* - Labour – Mt Roskill
Michael Woodhouse – National – List
Jonathan Young – National – New Plymouth
by Graham Adams / 27 June, 2019
Opinion | Source: Noted
Last night, David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill took a step closer to becoming law. Photo/Getty.
The healthy majority for the End of Life Choice Bill coming so soon after Victoria’s law passed will ring alarm bells for opponents on both sides of the Tasman.
Last week, a quarter of Australia’s population became eligible for an assisted death if they are terminally ill after the implementation of Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act. And last night, on this side of the Tasman, David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill took a step closer to becoming law.
The bill passed its second reading with a clear margin — 70-50. It was a slimmer majority than at the first reading in December 2017 — which passed 76-44 — but it is an extraordinary result given the extensive campaign mounted against it over the past 18 months.
The loose coalition of religious and quasi-religious groups which spearheaded the offensive to kill the bill has good reason to be worried about the outcome. There is a real prospect of a domino effect across Australia and New Zealand.
Opponents fear that now Victoria’s act is in operation and many of the practical details of how it will be implemented have been worked out, advocates and voters across Australia and New Zealand will be emboldened and push even more strongly for changes in their jurisdictions.
Assisted dying campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke described the knock-on effect of Victoria’s law change in Australia: “It will put a lot of pressure on the other state Parliaments to pass legislation. You can’t have people in NSW pressing their noses against the glass saying, ‘How come Victorians have got this choice and we don’t?’.”
The effect will reverberate across the Tasman too as the debate continues in New Zealand in the lead-up to the third reading. Many New Zealanders will also think: “If Victorians have this choice, why not us?”
Opponents often try to illustrate the dangers of assisted dying by using examples from faraway countries like Belgium and The Netherlands with very different cultures to our own, but Victoria is very close to home. And more than 80,000 New Zealand-born expats live there. Those who have Australian citizenship or permanent residency, and who have lived in the state for a year, are now eligible for an assisted death if they are terminally ill.
Opponents — particularly the Catholic church — can’t afford to allow another defeat in New Zealand or Australia, and Seymour’s bill passing its second reading means their alarm bells will be jangling very loudly.
That rising level of alarm was evident in Maggie Barry’s advance warning a few days ago that she intends to introduce around 120 amendments when the bill is debated in the Committee of the Whole House. She had obviously counted heads and knew it would easily pass at its second reading — even though she asserted: “What I can say with certainty is that the gap is extremely narrow.”
Her proposed avalanche of amendments is widely viewed as an attempt to filibuster as much as she can — perhaps in the hope that the bill won’t get through Parliament in time for it to be put to a binding referendum at next year’s election.
David Seymour told NOTED he recognises that as a possible “danger” but he doesn’t believe it will be a viable strategy in practice: “Opponents will find it much more difficult than they think to keep it going that long.”
However, even if Barry’s tactics don’t succeed in warding off a referendum next year, or killing it at the third reading, she will be hoping to make the bill so restrictive that it will be very difficult for the dying to access its provisions — which is a criticism that has already been made of Victoria’s legislation, which has 68 safeguards.
Now that advocates are wise to that tactic, however, they are less likely to settle for the same in New Zealand, or in the Australian states where activists are pushing hard for a law change.
Western Australia isn’t far behind New Zealand. A government bill is scheduled to be introduced in August after a cross-party parliamentary inquiry strongly recommended in 2018 that one be introduced — and the eligibility criteria and conditions the MPs proposed in their report look very much like those of the bill Seymour placed in Parliament’s biscuit tin in 2015.
A bill similar to Western Australia’s will be tabled in New South Wales, probably by year’s end. Tasmania’s Parliament will also vote on the issue in 2019 with the legislation having support in principle from both Houses.
Queensland and South Australia are both running inquiries into end-of-life choices and there is a renewed push to allow the territories of ACT and NT to determine their own assisted dying laws (after that right was removed from the Northern Territory in 1997 to quash its pioneering law three years earlier).
While public support in New Zealand has run for years at more than 70 per cent, in Australia support in polls has recently come close to 90 per cent, according to an ABC Vote Compass poll of 450,479 respondents taken before the federal elections in May — which makes opposition by Australian MPs look completely out of touch with their electors.
In the wake of Seymour’s parliamentary success, New Zealanders can expect to see a lot more of the kind of tactics opponents used in the long run-up to Wednesday’s vote — including slick video campaigns, newspaper ads and plain old-fashioned scaremongering — but at an even higher pitch.
Opponents are going to be in a bind, however. Much of their opposition to Seymour’s bill over the two years since it was plucked from the ballot in June 2017 has centred around the clauses allowing eligibility to those with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” who suffer from “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability”.
The Catholic church claimed last year that these clauses could include those with chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma and gluten intolerance as well as the disabled. It was an outrageous and completely erroneous interpretation of the bill but such scare tactics were deployed so relentlessly that last December Seymour proposed — albeit reluctantly — that the “grievous and irremediable” clause be removed.
He recommended restricting eligibility to the terminally ill with six months or less to live (or 12 months for those with a neuro-degenerative disease) as well as adding the express rider that disability or mental illness alone would not qualify anyone for an assisted death.
Seymour’s unexpected move to restrict the terms of eligibility put arch-opponent Maggie Barry into an obvious flap. It was immediately clear to her that in one fell swoop the Act MP had dramatically shifted the goal-posts and the wind could easily turn sharply against her and other prominent opponents — including Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero, who has argued that the disabled are at risk of being forced into an assisted death.
Consequently, Barry was quick to point out that the bill was no longer Seymour’s property, and any changes he might suggest are only recommendations. It is true that he is technically now only a passenger watching his own bill’s progress but, unfortunately for Barry, as its sponsor he has a lot of moral authority over how it is framed.
The other obvious bind that opponents will find themselves in now the bill has passed its second reading is Seymour’s proposed amendment for a referendum at the next election before it becomes law — a condition that NZ First has placed on its continued support.
Any MP who doesn’t vote for that amendment risks looking very undemocratic, to say the least, given that a substantial and consistent majority of New Zealanders have wanted a law change to allow some form of assisted dying for more than 20 years.
Politicians might well find that the public are increasingly intolerant of MPs who won’t agree to a referendum — especially once its scope is restricted to only the terminally ill, and disability and mental illness are explicitly ruled out as grounds for eligibility, as seems likely.
If opponents’ major objections are answered — in particular by removing the “grievous and irremediable” clause — why would they go on thwarting what the public have so clearly demanded for a very long time?
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