Euthanasia public meeting planned

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A South Canterbury woman whose parents died of cancer has spoken out in support of the campaign to legalise euthanasia.

Fran Moore, of Temuka, said losing both her parents to terminal illness had reinforced her belief assisted dying should be legalised.

Her father had died “in agony”.

“I think it’s terribly wrong that people should be forced to suffer.”

Mrs Moore, who is aged in her 70s, said while she hoped to live a long and fruitful life, she wanted to be able to die legally if she became terminally ill.

“[The] way my father died . . . has stayed with me forever.”

Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon will host a public meeting on the topic in Timaru next Thursday, as part of the ongoing debate on the End of Life Bill, which is before Parliament.

Bill sponsor and Act New Zealand Party leader David Seymour will speak in support of the law change.

National MP and former health minister Michael Woodhouse will say why he opposes it.

Mr Falloon said while public submissions to the Government’s eight-member justice select committee – of which he is a member – closed on Tuesday, the meeting would give South Canterbury residents another opportunity to have their voices heard.

Mr Falloon hoped to hear from all sides of the discussion, so he could best represent the Rangitata electorate on the select committee.

“I haven’t decided yet [how I will vote] . . . it’s up in the air.”

After the select committee had gone through the submissions, the Bill would go back to Parliament for a second reading in September, during which MPs could suggest amendments.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said she had voted against the Bill from the start due to listening to hundreds of submissions while on the health select committee debating the Lecretia Seales case in 2015.

She said Ms Seales’ high-profile case, which had involved the Wellington lawyer and her supporters petitioning the Government to allow the terminally ill patient to die legally with her GP’s support, prompted her to take an opposing view.

One of the most compelling submissions to the committee was from a man who had lived with severe bipolar disorder for most of his life and had had several suicidal episodes.

He said if euthanasia had been legal when he was wanting to take his life he would have felt more justified in doing so, Mrs Dean said.

She also had concerns around the effect on disabled or elderly residents who may feel they were becoming a burden to those around them.

“If we are going to protect those most vulnerable in our society we cannot support [this Bill].”

“I can never support euthanasia.”

Rangitata Labour list MP Jo Luxton said she voted for the Bill during its first reading so she could make an informed decision based on the information and community perspectives gathered by the committee.

She said she had been hearing mixed opinions from residents about the Bill.

“It is an issue that people have very strong feelings about.”

While Ms Luxton will be unable to make the March 15 meeting, an assistant would attend on her behalf.

Mr Falloon said although he had not yet made up his mind which way he would vote on the Bill, he had a few concerns about the document, particularly over safeguards for elderly, disabled or mentally ill New Zealanders.

The public meeting on the issue will be held in the conference room, Grosvenor Hotel, 29 Cains Tce, Timaru on March 15, from 5.30pm-7pm.