MPs to de­cide on eu­thana­sia

Central Leader - - HEALTH & BEAUTY - STACEY KIRK

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.

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