With the last parliamentary vote on David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill ahead of him, the ACT leader has put up what he’s hoping will be the finishing touches on the euthanasia law. So what does it all mean? Alex Braae explains.
What’s all this then?
ACT leader David Seymour has announced a series of amendments to the End of Life Choice bill. As an issue being decided by a conscience vote, many MPs who supported it had criticisms they wanted addressed if they were going to vote for it at the third and final reading. For David Seymour, who has devoted literally years of his life and political career to the bill, this is basically the final push.
A lot riding on it then. What is being proposed?
In general terms, there were many situations pointed out by critics in which a person might be coerced into dying, or choose to end their lives well before a terminal illness would take them. The proposals are aimed at ironing them all out. The end result, as Seymour puts it, is “one of the most conservative assisted dying regimes in the world.”
One seriously good argument against the bill as it previously stood was that it raised the possibility of people with disabilities being coerced. It might have been an unlikely possibility, but any potential for it at all is obviously intolerable. There’s a phrase used repeatedly by Seymour in his press release – “for the avoidance of all doubt.” In this case, it is explicitly stating “that a person is not eligible for assisted dying by reason only that the person has a disability of any kind, is suffering from any form of mental illness or mental disorder or is of an advanced age.”
What else is ruled out like that?
Doctors raising the option with patients is out. And it also rules out assisted dying being carried out on the instructions of an advanced directive, or through a guardian. Those who are mentally incapacitated aren’t eligible either. The overall effect it creates is to strengthen the legislative web against someone legally having their life taken, without their consent.
Will it be enough to ensure it will pass?
The top clause in the release is very clearly aimed at eight specific votes. “To restrict the Bill only to those with a terminal illness, judged by two doctors independent of each other, to be likely to end the person’s life within six months.” That is a move towards an argument from the Green Party, who have voted as a bloc and made their support conditional on narrowing the rules around terminal illnesses. At the second reading, it passed by 70 votes to 50.
So it’s definitely going to pass.
Ah, no. Because there was another amendment demanded by a nine MPs which Seymour’s doesn’t touch on. NZ First have also voted as a bloc, and they’re demanding a referendum on it. NZ First will put up an amendment on that, and David Seymour will vote for it, but they’ll still be seperate votes so other MPs may vote for one and not the other. There’s honestly no telling how a referendum would go, even though many polls have indicated a majority would be in favour. But either way it would create another delay. Other amendments from other MPs could also slow things down – notably from North Shore MP and fierce opponent Maggie Barry.
Even with both parties in support, it could be that other MPs who were wavering in favour might fall away. It becomes much less likely of course, because some in the against camp might cross over as well. But opposition from sections of the public who are flatly against euthanasia is bound to remain intense and vocal, right up to the final parliamentary vote and beyond to a possible referendum.
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