Support for euthanasia gathers momentum

  • 07/06/2015

ACT MP David Seymour isn't waiting for the Government to tackle the euthanasia issue, following the death of right-to-die campaigner Lecretia Seales.

Ms Seales succumbed to cancer early on Friday morning. It was revealed that afternoon her battle for the right to have a doctor help end her life had failed, with Justice David Collins concluding it wasn't in the court's jurisdiction to rule on the matter

"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," said Justice Collins.

In the wake of the decision, Mr Seymour says now is the time to have a proper public debate on euthanasia.

"It's critical we give choice to people who are intolerably suffering from irreversible conditions, but that we also ensure that there are sufficient safeguards," he told RadioLIVE this morning.

"There's a lot to work through, people to consult in the medical profession… of course, some say it would be better for the Government to introduce a Bill. I agree with that, but if they won't, I will."

Mr Seymour plans to submit a private member's Bill to the ballot in the next few weeks. Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway also has a Bill that would legalise euthanasia, but dropped plans to submit it last year at the request of leader Andrew Little, who said it wasn't a priority.

He's now planning to present a petition to Parliament. It currently has only 3000 signatures, but he's hoping for more in the next couple of weeks following the publicity surrounding Ms Seales' death, before presenting it on June 20. Unlike the private member's Bill, the petition has Mr Little's backing.

"Andrew and I had a good conversation about this, and we see this as a way forward because what we're looking for is a cross-party approach," he said on TV3's Paul Henry programme this morning.

"I think on an issue as sensitive as this, people don't want us to play politics, they don't want it to be a political football. We want it to be something that Parliament works on together, and taking it to select committee - if we are to get the inquiry - will mean that the National MPs on the select committee will have to support it as well."

Two previous Bills that would have legalised euthanasia failed at the first vote, so the topic has never been to select committee.

"We see it as a real opportunity to trigger the wide-ranging debate that the public clearly wants us to have," says Mr Lees-Galloway. "It's an opportunity for us to hear all the evidence, to hear people on both sides of the debate."

Prime Minister John Key voted in favour of New Zealand First MP Peter Brown's Death with Dignity Bill in 2003, but it was defeated 59-58. But with some of his caucus staunchly opposed – such as Finance Minister Bill English – Mr Key says the Government won't be drafting a Bill anytime soon.

"The Government won't put it on the agenda as a Bill in its own right, because it's a conscience issue – always has been and frankly, always will be. I think you won't just get some people who feel very strongly the other way to vote for that in any other way than with their conscience."

Whether or not he votes in favour again depends on how the Bill is worded.

"I would vote for assisted euthanasia in the way that Lecretia Seales was describing it, which was in the very final bits of her life, with her loved one making that call, even though she didn't specify under what basis he would make that call," says Mr Key.

"For instance, there was a Bill drafted some time ago that Labour had in the ballot that I wouldn't have voted for – it was much broader."

Ms Seales' husband Matt Vickers said on Friday although the ruling didn't go their way, at least now it's clear the law is "rooted in the past".

"I'm calling on our elected representatives to debate this issue, to show a quantum of the courage my wife has shown these past months."

3 News

source: newshub archive