OPINION: Seeking your views on euthanasia

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By MP for Rangitata Andrew Falloon

Last month, Parliament began consideration of the End of Life Choice Bill.

If enacted, the Bill would give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.

There are a number of stages a Bill has to pass through before it can come into effect.

The first reading is the initial step.

Bills then progress to a select committee to be considered, before returning to the whole Parliament for two further votes.

I voted for the End of Life Choice Bill at first reading to let it to go to Select Committee, so that all New Zealanders, not just politicians, can have their say on the subject.

The Bill has been referred to the justice select committee, which I sit on with seven other MPs.

We’re undertaking a nine-month process to engage with the public. I’ll be pushing for the committee to travel around the country to let locals have their say.

I’ll be interested to hear from medical professionals about how the Bill might work in practice, because I do have some significant concerns.

Elder abuse is a huge problem in New Zealand, particularly younger family members putting financial pressure on their older family members. To support the Bill beyond first reading I would need to be satisfied there are sufficient safeguards to prevent family from putting pressure on an older person to prematurely end their life.

My second concern is the elderly feeling that they are a burden, which I’m sure my grandmother felt after having a major stroke several years ago. I would hate to rob someone of precious time at the end, simply because they felt that they were a burden on those around them.

I want to hear the stories of families who have had mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers, spend their last days or weeks in unbearable pain and suffering.

And I want to review the evidence which suggests people with degenerative conditions are taking their lives earlier than they need to, when they are still capable, because they fear they’ll lose the ability to do so later.

But more than anything, I want to hear what you think. It’s important that I reflect local views in our Parliament. I’ll be sending out a survey across Timaru seeking feedback.

You can also email me at any time, or call me at my office in Stafford St.

It’s a difficult issue, but I do think it’s a debate we as a country are mature enough to have. I encourage you to get in touch and have your say.