John Key: Euthanasia debate requires member's bill

  • 08/06/2015

By 3 News online staff

The Prime Minister has agreed with a court's decision only Parliament can address legalities surrounding voluntary euthanasia, but says it comes down to a conscience vote.

Speaking at a post Cabinet press conference today, John Key said the case of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales had made euthanasia an issue for public debate.

Ms Seales, 42, fought for the right to allow her GP to help her die without fear of being prosecuted, should her inoperable brain tumour get worse.

A New Zealand-first three-day civil hearing into the issue took place before Justice David Collins at the High Court in Wellington two weeks ago.

However, Ms Seales died of natural causes at 12:35am on Thursday morning – before the High Court on Friday afternoon said it was not in the court's jurisdiction to rule on the matter.      

In his decision, Justice Collins said "only Parliament can change the law to reflect Ms Seales' wishes and that the Courts cannot trespass on the role of Parliament". 

"The complex legal, philosophical, moral and clinical issues raised by Ms Seales' proceedings can only be addressed by Parliament passing legislation to amend the effect of the Crimes Act."

Ms Seales' husband Matt Vickers made a heartfelt plea last week for the Government to show the courage his wife had done, and change the law to allow people to choose how they died.

But Mr Key said each caucus and party would need to have their own discussions on the issue.

"The Government's starting position is that euthanasia, or assisted death, is a conscience issue that is a matter for each individual."

A petition had been raised to request the Justice and Electoral Select Committee undertake an enquiry into the matter, and the Government was open to that idea, he said.

"However I would caution that while this would facilitate a debate, allowing the public a forum in which to participate, it would not satisfy Lecretia's ultimate wish for the law to be changed.

"That can only be done by specific legislation being put before the house.

"Any MP is free to do just that, and if drawn from the ballot, parliament will debate it.

The Government would not sponsor a bill, because euthanasia was "a conscience issue and the process needs to reflect that."

3 News

source: newshub archive