Euthanasia battle lines drawn

Euthanasia battle lines drawn

A visiting pro-euthanasia campaigner told a public meeting in Wellington today it's time New Zealand made voluntary assisted death legal.

Australian Andrew Denton says two-thirds of the public wants to legalise assisted dying here. However, not everyone is in favour of legalising so-called mercy killings.

Pat Hubbard lost her 54-year-old son to pancreatic cancer in May.

"There isn't any escape. He just has to die however he's going to die, and it was pretty unpleasant," she says.

He suffered so much, she says he would have liked the option to die early.

"Is it worth being brought back to life when the quality of life you've got is so restricted? The best that one can hope for people who have that sort of disease is that they can choose when they've had enough. "

Euthanasia -- or assisted death for the terminally ill -- is not allowed in New Zealand, despite vocal support to make the practice legal. Mr Denton is one of those voices.

"You have very strong public support; there is a very strong argument as to why there should be a change in the law. It requires the politicians to seriously engage with it," he says.

A member's bill to make voluntary euthanasia legal was submitted by ACT leader David Seymour late last year, but the Voluntary Euthanasia Society doesn't want to wait for it to be drawn before political debate on the issue starts.

It says a petition calling for an inquiry into public opinion on the issue has received 22,000 submissions -- more than the marriage equality legislation received.

Not all those submissions will be in favour of the bill, and anti-euthanasia campaigners say we should keep the status quo.

"The message that would be underpinning this law would be that death is an appropriate response to suffering, and such a message would undermine suicide prevention," says Euthanasia-Free NZ executive officer Renee Joubert.

The Vountary Euthanasia Society says a select committee looking into the petition will soon travel the country to hear submissions.