Euthanasia referendum: Anti-euthanasia doctor slams David Seymour's 'disgraceful' questioning of her motives

A televised debate on the upcoming euthanasia referendum turned nasty, when one participant accused the other of basing her objections on religion, not facts.

Voters next month will decide whether to make ACT leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Act the law in a binding referendum. 

Seymour appeared on Newshub Nation on Saturday morning with Sinead Donnelly, a palliative care doctor and strong advocate against making assisted dying legal. 

Dr Donnelly says the End of Life Choice Act is a "dangerous law" that will put the lives of 25,000 vulnerable people at risk, whilst Seymour says it will give people a choice to die with dignity, and there are numerous checks and balances to prevent it being abused.

"I've travelled literally from Kerikeri to Gore campaigning for this law," Seymour explained."I've heard the stories of New Zealanders who have seen bad death. No matter how much people try to say 'just a bit more palliative care, it's going to be okay' they know what they've seen. They want to have that choice of dignity and control. 

"It's their life - it should be their choice. It's not up to others to tell them that they should stick around a bit more to fit someone else's morality." 

Dr Donnelly went over some of the common objections to the proposed law, including fears people will be coerced into ending their own lives and that some people make miraculous recoveries after being close to death. 

"Prognostication is an estimate... we get it wrong most of the time. Even within a few days of death. Families often ask 'how long have they got to live?' We generally say we're not sure, we don't know... It's not as if we plug in the patients details into a computer and out pops a date of death."

Seymour fired back with the usual defences of his Act - it has checks and balances, is a long process that gives people time to get better or change their minds, for example - before accusing Dr Donnelly of being dishonest about the real motive for her objections.

"I think that it would be a lot more respectable if instead of making up these kinds of what I call 'false objections' if Dr Donnelly came here and said 'this choice is against my religion, and I don't want other people to be able to make that choice'. It would be a lot more respectable if she would say that." 

Dr Donnelly was visibly shocked.

"That's a disgraceful, sectarian comment. I have 25 years of experience in palliative medicine, I speak from a professional point of view, I'm an associate professor of palliative medicine, research and education, I've worked in four different countries - so I speak from that platform and that experience. 

"I deeply care for people - that's all I care about. Four generations of doctors in my family... I know we can relieve their suffering through palliative care. Palliative care works."

She said Seymour's comments were "bigotry at its utmost". 

Watch the full debate.