MPs to decide on euthanasia
MPs will be forced to vote on whether or not euthanasia should be legal, after the End of Life Choice bill was drawn from Parliament’s ballot.
A bill to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis if prescribed by a medical practitioner, was also pulled for debate.
The euthanasia bill, by ACT leader and Epsom MP David Seymour, has laid dormant in the House’s infamous biscuit tin since 2015. Since then, the Government has batted away a number of calls to put the issue on its own work programme.
Early last year, former Prime Minister John Key announced a Parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia, by the Health Select Committee.
However, the committee is yet to report back on its deliberations, and its recommendations would be nonbinding.
Key went so far as to confirm at the outset, that the findings of the committee would not lead to the Government adopting the issue.
While euthanasia would be a conscience vote - meaning MPs would vote individually, rather than along party lines - it was a political landmine both Key and Opposition leader Andrew Little had gone to lengths in the past to avoid.
Now the bill has been drawn from ballot box, it was out of the Government’s hands.
Seymour said he was delighted, and the campaign started immediately.
‘‘This is morally, democratically and legally the right thing for Parliament to do. It is morally right to give people choices over suffering at the end of their life.
‘‘And it is legally right, because in the Lecretia Seales case the Court said only Parliament can make this change that so many New Zealanders want,’’ Seymour said.
Wellington lawyer and terminal cancer patient Seales spent her last days battling for the right to die with the help of her doctor, in 2015. Her case ultimately failed but sparked a major petition which led to the parliamentary inquiry into the issue.
Her widower, Matt Vickers said it was ‘‘great news’’ Seymour’s bill had been pulled.
Four months out from an election, the bill could get its first reading before the Parliamentary term ended, and could well pass the first hurdle into select committee, but was unlikely to get much further before the September election.