Euthanasia: Lobbyists say David Seymour's backing down, but is he?

Despite lobby groups claiming David Seymour is backing down from his euthanasia bill, he told Newshub he's more determined than ever to see it become law. 

"I'm more in favour of it than ever. I've championed this for three years," he said. 

That's despite National Director of Family First New Zealand Bob McCoskrie claiming Mr Seymour has conceded to his opponents and is backing down from his bill. 

"Family First NZ is welcoming ACT MP David Seymour's significant backdowns on his assisted suicide bill, and says that this indicates just how weak and flawed the bill is," Mr McCoskrie said on Friday. 

Even pro-life group Right to Life New Zealand said it was "delighted that David Seymour has now recognised that the majority of Members of Parliament are opposed to his [bill]". 

But that's rubbish, according to Mr Seymour, who told Newshub it's an "absolutely bizarre reaction" from both lobby groups.  

He said anyone who's questioning his commitment to his End of Life Choice Bill is "clearly not really involved in politics because they don't know much about it - or they may have nefarious motivations."

The aim of his bill is to legalise voluntary euthanasia in certain circumstances. The explanatory notes say the bill gives "people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying". 

Mr McCoskrie says there's been "overwhelming opposition to David Seymour's assisted suicide bill by submitters to the Select Committee". 

According to an analysis of a number of the submissions by the Care Alliance, 92 percent of submissions are against Mr Seymour's bill.

But the bill has to pass through three readings in Parliament and the first one was won by Mr Seymour, with 76-44 "which is a pretty good margin", he says. 

"I'm still quietly confident that I can persuade a majority of my Parliamentary colleagues to vote for this through second and third readings."

Around the world, he said, there have been lots of counties and jurisdictions that have introduced a similar euthanasia bill, only to have it defeated because of an opposition campaign that's driven by "fear, uncertainty and doubt". 

"A lot of open-minded people hear all this stuff and it creates fear and it creates uncertainty and it creates doubt. There are a lot of countries that have tried to legalise [euthanasia] and failed for that reason.

"However, it's also true that no country that has legalised assisted dying - and I'm talking about Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and the US states of Colorado, California and Oregon and Victoria in Australia - has ever voted to go back."

Mr Seymour has indeed faced sharp opposition for his bill. Former Prime Minister Sir Bill English and his wife Dr Mary returned to Parliament in August to argue against the proposed legislation. 

Sir Bill English said the criteria for who would be eligible to request assisted dying was too broad, the test for whether a person had consented to die was too low, and there were too few consequences in place for anyone who broke the safeguards of the legislation.

And Dr Mary English, who is a GP and runs a medical practice in Kelburn, said legalising euthanasia would put pressure on patients to not be a burden to their loved ones. 

Mr Seymour has proposed some last-minute changes to his bill in a bid to win over sceptical parliamentary colleagues, such as limiting access to only the terminally ill, instead of including people with mental health conditions. 

But Right to Life says there is "no amendment that can be made to this bill that will make it acceptable", and called the bill "poorly drafted".

"David Seymour should also recognise that the majority of New Zealanders are fiercely opposed to his contentious bill," the group said on Friday. 

Mr Seymour told Newshub he welcomes other views on euthanasia, but asked lobby groups to tell the truth, and not claim that he is stepping down from his bill.  

"In the spirit of Christmas, I would say to my opponents on this issue: read the Bible very carefully, be sure to tell the truth, and debate honestly," he said.  

The bill wouldn't make euthanasia compulsory, he added, noting that it's an "option for some people who are suffering badly at the end of their lives and those people should have the ability to choose - it's not going to affect anyone else."

"I wouldn't dream of imposing my moral views on Bob McCoskrie."

Politicians aren't scheduled to vote on the bill again until early next year. 

A Newshub Reid Research poll in February found that the majority (7 percent) of New Zealanders supported euthanasia at the time.