Mark Sainsbury: Why are we leaving the euthanasia debate in the hands of MPs?

OPINION: Our MPs face a decision that has life and death consequences for us all: whether you have the right to end your own life by euthanasia.

It was the agonising plight of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, who had a terminal brain tumour, which focussed a lot of attention on this issue.

Right up to the end she and her family fought for her right to choose to end her own life without compromising any doctor who might assist her. She lost her case in the High Court but now MPs will cast judgement on the issue after Act leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill was drawn from the parliamentary ballot.

This will be a conscience vote so each MP can decide which way to go without the pressure of a party position.

But is this really where this should be decided? Should something as significant and life changing as this be left to the vagaries of 119 individuals? Or should decisions of this magnitude be put to the whole country?

We had a referendum on the flag for god's sake - this is a much more important issue.

There is no doubt that any new law needs to be carefully considered and the safeguards required must be rigorous to ensure it is not abused.

But personally I cannot countenance the pain and distress inflicted on families like Lecretia Seales'. Euthanasia should be a decision for terminallly ill patients themselves with advice from their family and medical staff.

The alternative, to do nothing, is even more unpalatable.

But can we trust our MPs to make a decision that reflects how we feel? The very nature of a conscience vote means that's far from guaranteed. It's entirely possible you might have a particular view and your MP has the opposite.

A referendum would avoid that situation and give us all a voice on a subject so serious.

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.

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