by Chris Tobin
Last week The Courier published the views of local MPs on the cannabis legalisation and control referendum, which the public will vote on in September’s general election.
A second referendum will also be held as part of the election.
Voters will be given the opportunity to decide whether they support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.
The Act gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.
In the Act, “assisted dying”means:
- A person’s doctor or nurse practitioner giving them medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death.
- The taking of medication by the person to relieve their suffering by bringing on death.
In the Act, “medication” means a lethal dose of the medication used for assisted dying.
To be able to ask for assisted dying, a person must meet all of the following criteria:
- Be aged 18 years or over.
- Be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand.
- Suffer from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life within six months.
- Have significant and ongoing decline in physical capability.
- Experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased.
- Be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
Parliament passed the End of Life Choice Bill, but the Act has not come into force. If the Act does not receive 50% support in the referendum it will not come into effect.
Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon (National), Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean (National) and the Labour list MP based in Rangitata, Jo Luxton, give their views on the End of Life Choice referendum. (For more information on the referendum go to www.referendums.govt.nz/endoflifechoice.)
I supported the End of Life Choice Bill in Parliament, and voted in favour of a referendum on it.
Many changes were made to the legislation throughout its passage, including limiting it to only those suffering from a terminal illness within six months of dying.
I gave the Bill an enormous amount of thought, holding two public meetings, received and personally responded to nearly 6000 pieces of correspondence and read through around 7000 of the written submissions that were made to Parliament’s select committee.
I’ve had an open door to anyone who wished to discuss their views with me and 240 people locally have taken up that invitation.
I came to the view that I personally would not stand in the way of someone who was suffering from a terminal and painful condition from ending that suffering.
I appreciate that some will have a different view, but as an MP I should not be enforcing the moral or religious position of some on to others.
The referendum will give all New Zealanders, not just MPs, the opportunity to vote on what is an incredibly important and polarising issue.
Should New Zealand legalise voluntary euthanasia for those with a terminal illness and left with six months to live if approved by two doctors?
I will not be supporting any form of legalisation of euthanasia.
Last year I chaired Parliament’s justice committee in which we heard first hand the plight and pain of euthanasia advocate Lecretia Seales.
Lecretia was a vibrant, intelligent, strong Wellington lawyer who had a terminal brain tumour. In her final months she drove a massive campaign to change government legislation to allow people the right to die.
Throughout this time the justice committee listened to thousands of submissions from people telling stories of the end of lives of relatives, friends and children.
What I found through these heart-wrenching ordeals were that, despite the pain they were in, most found the end of life to be a profound experience, supporting life running its natural course.
One particular case which hit home with me was from a man in his 40s who had battled mental illness his entire life.
He was bipolar, had terrible episodes of depression and on many occasions thought of taking his own life. However, he fought to live, is now managing his mental illness and has a quality of life he had only dreamed of. He said very simply if legalised dying had been an option he would not be here today.
I fear legalising euthanasia, even with the conditions stated, could be enough to push others over the edge, when it simply isn’t their time.
After careful consideration, I will be voting in support of the End of Life Choice Bill at the referendum at the 2020 general election.