Seymour keeping up the fight for euthanasia

  • Updated
  • 07/04/2017

The MP behind a Bill that would legalise assisted dying thinks he's got the numbers to get it through at least the first reading.

ACT leader David Seymour's Bill has been in the ballot almost 18 months, but is yet to be drawn. A select committee inquiry into assisted dying is drawing to a close, having received more than 20,000 submissions and heard evidence from hundreds over the last year.

"I hope [the committee's report will] put some sunlight on some of the mythology around assisted dying," Mr Seymour told The AM Show on Friday.

"However in order to change the law we need to have a Bill on the floor of the House that will force members of Parliament to say whether or not they agree with the overwhelming majority."

Despite polls showing strong support for euthanasia when it comes to terminal illness, Mr Seymour believes no government is ever going to take the initiative and make it legal.

"Most controversial conscious issues are put up by Private Member's Bills. I have a Bill in the ballot. I even turned down being a minister when I was offered a promotion because then I wouldn't be able to have a Bill in the ballot."

His comments come the same day a woman is due in court on charges of importing pentobarbitone, a drug police suspect has been used in a number of suicides and/or assisted deaths.

A poll last year found two-thirds of Kiwi adults support assisted dying, with another 21 percent on the fence. Support in The AM Show's [unscientific] poll on Friday was even stronger - 89 percent in favour at the time of writing.

But Mr Seymour says in Parliament, it's a different story.

"I think at least a third are definitely on for it. Maybe a fifth are hardcore opposed for personal or spiritual or whatever reasons. There's a mushy middle in there I think we would get. We would get it through the first reading."

He'd have Paula Bennett's vote, the Deputy Prime Minister telling The AM Show she's leaning in favour - but would like to analyse the details, to ensure no one would be "coerced" into it.

Labour deputy Jacinda Ardern, also on The AM Show, said she would vote for it.

"The select committee was a good way to try and get MPs from across the House to work up some ideas and ways forward."

Mr Seymour's Bill wouldn't be the first on euthanasia Parliament has debated. In 1995, then-National Party MP Michael Laws had his Death with Dignity Bill drawn. It failed 29-61. In 2003, a similar Bill submitted by a New Zealand First MP failed 58-59.

Former Labour MP Maryan Street's End of Life Choice Bill was withdrawn from the ballot before it was drawn. Mr Seymour praised her efforts, and said he won't be backing down.

"I'm gonna keep my Bill in there as long as I'm a Member of Parliament because you can't lose forever."

The advantage he thinks his Bill has over what's come before is that it is very tight - patients need, among other things, two doctors' sign-off, be over 18, have a terminal illness or degenerative condition, and jump through various bureaucratic hoops. All cases are also reported back to Parliament.

"You can't walk into a hospital and do this by accident," he says.