End of Life Choice Bill: MPs debate who should be eligible under proposed euthanasia law

The panel beating stage of the End of Life Choice Bill has just begun with MPs thrashing out the changes they want made to the legislation.

One of the big changes being debated is whether to narrow the scope so that only people with six months to live can access assisted dying. 

The proposed law could affect David Seymour - not the ACT leader and architect of the Bill - but a Whangarei man who has motor neuron disease.

"We're not related - he's just lucky enough to have the same name as me," the Kiwi man tells Newshub.

Seymour's disease has his muscles wasting away, resulting in him being restricted to a wheelchair - the implications of a terminal illness.

"In due course, I'll be lying in bed, depending on somebody to everything, and I mean everything... so that's why I support the End of Life Choice Bill," he said.

"There is only one way that this is going to end and I should have the choice as to how that happens."

A group of 10 National MPs who oppose the Bill say limiting the availability of euthanasia to only those who have six months left to live doesn't make it any safer.

The MPs - including Maggie Barry who has strongly opposed the Bill - prepared more than 120 amendments to it, and denied that they're trying to filibuster and stall the Bill from passing.

"How many unintended deaths are too many? For me it is one," Barry said in Parliament on Wednesday.

"It's on us. We're the ones lying awake at 2 o'clock in the morning worrying about the unintended consequences and bad legislation."

Seymour’s political namesake, ACT leader David Seymour, accused the opposing MPs - "who he described as "playing silly buggers" - of testing New Zealanders' patience.

Barry responded, "We are standing here representing tens of thousands of New Zealanders who are very concerned that their voices have not been heard, so to trivialize it, and to say it's silly, is really quite wrong."

Seymour said there are still a large number of people in New Zealand with illnesses that make them suffer at the end of their lives and are terminal, and for that reason, "it's truly worth it putting this Bill into law".

The debate follows the Bill passing its second reading in Parliament late last month with 70 votes against 50. It's now at the stage where amendments will be proposed and debated before it faces its third and final reading.

The debate around the Bill is going to get very technical. MPs will scrutinise every single section of it.

The reason so many changes could be made is that the longest select committee process in history actually failed to whip the Bill into shape, so now Parliament has to do it.

Seymour's proposed changes - about 30 of them - are up for debate first. Even though it’s his Bill, there's no guarantee he'll get his way - that's up to the 120 MPs voting with their conscience on every single bit.

This is a major milestone - the Bill's been four years in the making, but we are a long, long way from the finish line.