End of Life Choice Bill: Euthanasia put to public vote in 2020

It is war - the battle lines drawn by Maggie Barry, who has promised to use every ounce of her energy to stop euthanasia being legalised in New Zealand. 

On Wednesday night, Parliament voted through David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill, meaning the public will get to vote on whether to legalise assisted dying. 

The Bill passed its final reading in a conscience vote, with 69 votes for it and 51 against.

"The battle tonight was lost but we are involved now in a major war," said National MP Maggie Barry.

"I will certainly be focusing my not-inconsiderable energies on making sure that people are aware of the risks."

The Bill legalises euthanasia for those who are terminally ill with six months to live. It must be signed off by two doctors.

Yet it won't become law unless the public vote to pass it in the 2020 general election. Next year, New Zealanders will be asked: "Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force?"

A number of changes were made as ACT leader David Seymour shepherded the Bill through Parliament. The referendum was insisted on by New Zealand First to secure their support - without them, the Bill would not have passed. 

"I feel like this is the start of the referendum campaign," said Seymour.

"There was overwhelming support and it should easily pass the referendum."

The family of Lecretia Seales hugged in the public gallery as the Bill passed.

Seales' death from a brain tumour - and her unsuccessful battle to be euthanised - inspired Seymour to put the Bill in the biscuit tin.

"She'd be so chuffed, she'd be so happy," said Seales' family.

It has been an emotional rollercoaster for MPs, many of them saying it is the hardest call they've made - and they still each get one more vote.

In 2020, the public's votes will count just as much as theirs.