Ann David reports that, if successful, ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill would allow a doctor to hasten a patient’s death under strictly controlled conditions and only at the specific request of the patient. The Bill uses the term “assisted dying” to describe this process.
The Bill has passed First Reading, Justice Select Committee, Second Reading and Committee of the Whole House stages. This has been a two-year process.
On 23 October the NZ Parliament debated the Referendum Amendment proposed by New Zealand First: their Party policy is always to have significant social changes endorsed by the public before passing into law.
The Referendum Amendment passed 63:57 meaning that Parliament agreed to hold a binding referendum if the Bill passes Third Reading.
What lies ahead?
So what’s next? The Third Reading will probably be on 13 November 2019. The Bill needs at least 61 YES votes to pass. If it passes, the referendum will probably be held at the next general election – around September/October 2020.
The referendum question will be: “Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force?” Yes/No.
Voters will be able to read the Act in its final form online at www.parliament.nz
Changes to the original bill
What changes have been made to the Bill as originally proposed? Here are the most significant:
- Eligibility is now restricted to those with a terminal illness and 6 months or less to live. This means that those with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” will no longer qualify. Neuro-degenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, MND and MS are among those that do not meet the medical definition of “terminal”.
- Nurse practitioners may participate in assisted dying (previously doctors only).
- Doctors may not initiate a discussion on assisted dying with a patient.
- An employer cannot discriminate against a doctor who exercises the right of conscientious objection not to participate.
- If coercion is suspected, doctors and/or nurse practitioners must immediately discontinue the process.
- No-one can access assisted dying by virtue of disability alone, or by virtue of a mental health disorder alone.
Follow the progress of this Bill by watching Parliamentary proceedings on TV: Freeview channel 31, Sky 86 or Vodafone 86. Or you can watch on your device: www.parliament.nz
The worldwide movement includes Waikanae
The Dying with Dignity movement is sweeping the Western world. Country by country, state by state, jurisdictions are adopting assisted dying laws.
Our Parliament is inevitably influenced by liberal social trends that take place in countries with which we traditionally compare ourselves.
Yes, you guessed it: I’m in favour of legalisation as a way of ending unwanted, extreme and hopeless deathbed suffering.
( Ann David is a Waikanae resident who is actively involved in the The End of Life Choice Society. She co-ordinated the petition for the Otaki electorate last year in support of the right to die with dignity and David Seymour’s bill.)