End of Life Choice Bill: MPs debate concerns over coercion

The heated euthanasia debate has begun again in Parliament, with MPs working through concerns raised over the End of Life Choice Bill.

MPs will be debating concerns about whether people could be pressured into assisted dying as well as the new safeguards in the legislation to ensure coerced euthanasia doesn't happen.

There are fears that disabled people could be coerced into assisted dying.

Philip Patston, who founded Diversity New Zealand, says he supports voluntary euthanasia and thinks the debate has been railroaded by emotion at the expense of facts.

"The coercion argument is about tapping into people's fears," he told Newshub.

The Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero believes the fear is real. She said she's spoken to people with disabilities who feel like they're a burden.

"Disabled people often talk to me about feeling a burden on their family, and some of those wider societal messages can be seen as coercion," she said.

A new clause to guard against coercion is being debated by MPs in Parliament.

It currently says if at any time, pressure from another person is suspected, the medical practitioner "must take no further action".

Tesoriero argues that while that could be seen as a safeguard, coercion "can be very difficult to detect".

Patston says she's undermining people with disabilities.

"By saying these poor people are vulnerable, they're going to be coerced, and their lives are so terrible that they're going to feel a burden, I mean that's not true," he said.

Tesoriero says given the consequences of the legislation, "it's crucial it's absolutely watertight".

The Bill's sponsor, ACT leader David Seymour, has put forward other changes to his legislation to be voted on. The vote will take place on Wednesday night.

Changes include:

  • Allowing all health practitioners to conscientiously object,
  • Stopping doctors from initiating discussions or suggesting euthanasia

The Bill also says that when a euthanasia request is made, the medical practitioner must "do their best" to ensure the person is acting free from pressure.

"That could differ from doctor to doctor," Tesoriero said.

Seymour said doctors have to make judgments like that "every day of the week".

The judgement call is now up to MPs.