John Tamihere to vote against legalising euthanasia, dubs legislation the 'Kill the Māori Bill'

Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere won't be voting 'yes' in the euthanasia referendum, dubbing the proposed legislation the 'Kill the Māori Bill'.

The End of Life Choice Bill passed its third reading in November, and will become law 12 months after the result of the referendum is declared, if the 'yes' vote is victorious.

Supporters say it will allow those suffering without hope of survival to choose to end their lives with dignity, while opponents fear it lacks the safeguards to ensure it's not abused. 

The topic came up during an election debate hosted by Māori current affairs show The Hui on Tuesday night, featuring Labour's Peeni Henare, Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and Tamihere, who are all running for the seat of Tāmaki Makaurau.

"I've made my position clear- it's a yes," said Henare, not elaborating further. 

Davidson explained her support for the Bill, which was originally brought in by ACT leader David Seymour.

"I'm going to support, but I want to be really clear that we have got to make sure palliative care, ending systemic racism in our health system and no further stigmatising of our people who are disabled, and from the disability community."

Tamihere was the only dissenter. He said Davidson gave good reasons to oppose the Bill, rather than support it - saying Māori will be pressured into choosing to end their own lives. 

"For the reasons just expressed, it's actually the 'Kill the Māori Bill' if you don't watch it. There's not enough belts and braces around it," he told host Mihingarangi Forbes.

"Our people are unskilled, uninformed, and as soon as they get driven into it - right now, people are having non-resus [do-not-resuscitate] applications put before them under great stress, without whanau support. 

"Non-resus. If that's what they're doing to us now, can you imagine what they're going to do to us under this piece of legislation? So we need greater protections before this Bill goes through anywhere."

Tamihere, Davidson and Henare on The Hui's debate show.
Tamihere, Davidson and Henare on The Hui's debate show. Photo credit: The Hui

The End of Life Choice Bill has already been made an Act, meaning if the referendum passes a new Bill will have to be drafted and passed in order to change it. 

A previous attempt to legalise euthanasia in 2003 failed at its first reading 57-60. Tamihere was a Labour MP at the time, but didn't place a vote