End of Life Choice: Get Involved!

A real bill this time!

By Ann David

No, you’re not seeing double nor are you having a déjà vu experience.

The issue is back again and this time there’s a real bill to comment on.

This is unlike in 2015/2016 when Parliament was merely canvassing our opinions on assisted dying.

Here’s the story.

A tsunami of petitions

The brave Lecretia Seales who was denied the right to die with dignity in 2015

In June 2015, former MP Maryan Street brought a petition to Parliament requesting it to investigate New Zealanders’ attitudes to changing the law.

This would be to allow a person with a terminal illness or a person suffering acutely and irreversibly from a medical condition to request medical assistance to die at a time of their choosing.  

That petition brought in an avalanche of over 22,000 submissions from organisations, representative bodies, experts local and foreign, but mostly from ordinary citizens.   Some of these were ours.

It took until August 2017 for the Health Select Committee to sift through the mail, the hearings, the visits and draw up a report.

A disappointing summary report

For those like myself who support the Right to Die movement, the report was exceptionally disappointing. It did little more than summarise the views of those in favour and those against.

There was nothing we didn’t already know and, contrary to expectation, no recommendations were made.

At the same time as the Health Select Committee was working through submissions, MP David Seymour drafted his End of Life Choice bill and put it into the ballot.

It can take years for a Member’s bill to be drawn from the ballot and many never are.   Miraculously, this one was drawn in June 2017.

The legislative process gets underway

The next step was for the bill to be read a first time in Parliament.  This is an “in-House” affair where MPs debate the pros and cons of the draft.

Hansard reports record all speeches on the Parliamentary website at www.parliament.nz

After speeches, votes were taken and the result was 76 in favour of moving to select committee (the next step) and 44 against (quash the bill).

Local Kapiti MPs, Hon Nathan Guy and Minister Kris Faafoi, both voted “Yes”.  We thank them for enabling the debate to continue.

Not wise to make assumptions

It would be foolish to assume, though, that just because an MP votes in favour of moving a bill to the next step, he/she is guaranteed to support it to second and third reading.  Some change their minds during the course of the debate.

Others have the intention from the outset to quash the bill at second or third reading, but use this tactic as a sop to those of their constituents who have pestered them to look favourably on it; they can then claim to have done the right thing by both advocate and opponent groups.

 Undoubtedly, among those 76 who voted favourably at first reading many are simply playing the game of having a bet each way with their electors. 

David Seymour’s bill is moving through the legislative process

There can be no room for complacency if this bill is important to you.   We often hear of the 70+% of citizens who want the law changed to permit assisted dying in certain circumstances, but we don’t see them in print at Parliament where it counts or in the offices of their MPs.   They are a silent, inactive majority.

By contrast, the vocal minority is energetically active and theirs is the strident voice the MPs hear.

Neither is it certain that the public referendum proposal will sweep in to show the truth at the end.  Although NZ First wants a publicly binding referendum to be the final decider and although MP

David Seymour has written it into his bill as an addendum, but it is not certain that the rest of Parliament will agree to any referendum at all, let alone a binding one.

It’s up to us!

So now it’s up to you and me.  If you think you don’t need to submit again because you submitted 2/3 years ago to the Health Select Committee on the petition, then sadly, you’d be wrong.

Your old submission will not carry over to the Justice Select Committee because the issue is slightly different.

We’re no longer being asked if we think the law needs to change; this time we’re being asked to comment on a piece of draft legislation that, if successful, will change the law. 

You/we/all of us who are interested need to make a new submission and we need to deliver it by 20 February.

Your submission: as long or short as you like

Submitting to Parliament sounds a lot grander than it is.  No-one needs specialised legal knowledge or brilliant writing skills to do it.   It needn’t take long.

A submission can be any length – even a paragraph.  It’s just you telling the select committee how you feel on the issue and why. 

Your submission can be posted in, emailed in or completed online in Parliament’s website.

For more information and to read the actual wording of the bill, go to www.yestodignity.org.nz  where there are direct links to the bill and to the submission page (easy one-stop shop).  Alternatively, you could go to www.parliament.nz and navigate from there.

If you want to post your viewpoint, send to: Andy Gardner Committee Secretariat, Justice Committee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160

If you miss this bill, the next opportunity can’t come until the following parliamentary term and then only if some brave MP decides to draft new legislation.

So get involved now!



Can Renee Joubert tell us how she would change the wording of the bill to tighten it to her satisfaction? Of course she can’t and won’t because there is no wording that would satisfy her deeply religious opposition to assisted dying in any shape or form. She has no intention of accepting that the vast majority of NZers want a law change (and have done so for decades). Consequently, she has no intention of working to improve this bill or any other that may arise to legalise assisted dying. She simply wants to stop any bill in its tracks, no matter how it is worded. Please let us know, Renee, what you would do to improve the bill. We’ll be all fascinated to hear.

Thanks to all for your positive comments – I know that most New Zealanders want a change to the law. Thanks also to Renee for copying and pasting relevant sections of the bill. As readers can see, it looks more than reasonable with plenty of eligibility criteria and the process well spelled out.

Yes, this is not about the kind of slow, passive euthanasia that is currently practiced in palliative care or when morphine is increased beyond the recommended dose. It’s about an active process that culminates in the swift, painless death of the patient if they meet the eligibility criteria and if that is their un-coerced, coherent and sustained wish.

The article omits the definition of what “medical assistance to die” actually means.

It’s NOT about turning off life support, or about making a ‘do-not-resuscitate’ (no CPR) request. It’s NOT about stopping or refusing medical treatment. It’s NOT about choosing to die instead of being kept alive. It’s NOT about a person receiving as much or as little pain medication as they want or need.

The End of Life Choice Bill proposes only two options: to receive lethal drugs from a doctor to self-administer or to have the drugs administered. The Bill seeks to make it legal for a doctor to intentionally end the life of a patient so the person wouldn’t die of their underlying medical condition but of being poisoned.

From Clause 15 of the Bill:

“The attending medical practitioner must—
(a) tell the person about the following methods for the administration of a lethal dose of medication:
(i) ingestion, triggered by the person:
(ii) intravenous delivery, triggered by the person:
(iii) ingestion through a tube:
(iv) injection; and
(b) ask the person to choose one of the methods; …”

People may also be interested in Clause 4 which outlines the eligibility criteria. It’s NOT only for dying or terminally ill people, but wide enough to include people with disabilities, ageing-related conditions and mental illness who may still have decades to live.

“4 Meaning of person who is eligible for assisted dying
In this Act, person who is eligible for assisted dying means a person who—
(a) is aged 18 years or over; and
(b) is—
(i) a person who has New Zealand citizenship as provided in the Citizenship Act 1977; or
(ii) a permanent resident as defined in section 4 of the Immigration Act 2009; and
(c) suffers from—
(i) a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within 6 months; or
(ii) a grievous and irremediable medical condition; and
(d) is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and
(e) experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable; and
(f) has the ability to understand—
(i) the nature of assisted dying; and
(ii) the consequences for him or her of assisted dying.”

As anyone reading the End of Life Choice Bill will see, Ann David’s article demonstrates the need for supportive submissions to be sent to the Justice Select Committee.
The proposed legislation allows those with unbearable suffering their own choice about how that suffering is relieved. To read the EOLC Bill see yestodignity.org.nz
For some people the option of more treatment, including palliative care, is no longer acceptable. They’ll be offered those options but the choice will be that of the person rather than their being subject to the beliefs and values of others.
Rene Joubert and her like would have people believe either
1/ they won’t have choice whereas, in fact, the choice will be theirs alone compared to now when the choice can actually lie with medical staff and family. This is what the End of Life Choice Bill is all about, or
2/ they’ll have too much choice i.e. almost anyone could choose assistance in dying. The criteria restrict the eligibility to protect those who may not have explored the options. Unless these criteria are met, the procedure cannot go ahead.

The only person who knows if they have unbearable suffering is the person. It’s difficult to understand what objection there can be to listening to someone who is suffering, has finally had enough and chooses assistance to die quickly in the presence of friends and family. The criteria for eligibility protects a person from others who may want to make that decision.
Submissions are due in to the Justice Select Committee by 20 February. The time for real choice has arrived, you can be part of the change.

When I read the End of Life Choice Bill, I don’t see legislation which allows almost anyone to choose assistance in dying. I see very careful definition of those eligible to APPLY and after applying, have to go through another very comprehensive set of steps before they get to the point that Renée Joubert chose to emphasise: clause 15. Read the Bill at yestodignity.org.nz. Read clause 4 – Eligibility. Note the word “and”. It means that disability alone does not qualify. Nor does mental illness -alone. Nor would any age-related condition, alone, be acceptable. Finally, they have to be able to understand the nature and consequences of assisted dying. That alone rules out anyone who lacks mental capacity. When assisted dying becomes a legal choice, I think we will find that New Zealand is no different from the other countries that have it: only a tiny proportion of people are unfortunate enough to be suffering unbearably and want assistance. Failure to pass this Bill condemns them to their suffering. Let’s allow those few to die with dignity.

This is an excellent article on the End of Life Choice Bill, explaining how members of the public can express their views, and why it is so important to get involved and act now to support this Bill.

Over the past 50 years, we have seen some amazing developments in medicine that have both extended life, and greatly improved our quality of life. Despite all that, death still comes to us all one day, and the End of Life Choice Bill simply provides the option for those who are nearing the end of their lives, or who are in steady decline and suffering unbearably, to say: “Enough is enough”.

Other countries and states with similar legislation, for example, Oregon and most recently, Victoria, provide excellent models of effective legislation with stringent guidelines. In NZ, we as a people now have the opportunity, and I believe, the compassion, to support this Bill through the Select Committee process to its second reading.

For more information, go to http://www.yestodignity.org.nz where there are direct links to the bill. On the submission page where the public can make their views known to the Select Committee.

An excellent article. Made it clear that this Justice Committee submission is different from the one to 5he Health Select Committee last year. Not much time to get it done before 20th Feb !,

Hi there,
Excellent write up.
Makes me realise that we MUST act NOW and write if we want to give the justice select committee any other feedback than the feedback of “the care alliance”…..( the Roman Catholic Church. ) Before 20/2 as well, not much time….

I have just written my, extensive, submission and posted it by snail mail, inclusive the stamp which is required.

Please please KIN readers, we need your submissions to the Justice Select Committee to change our rusty old laws please support David Seymour, s end of life choice bill, so we all have a choice at the end of our lives…..
Please act now. With kindness, Alida VanderVelde