Ta­maki MP faces back­lash over on­line com­ment

East and Bays Courier - - OUT & ABOUT - HENRY COOKE

Prime Min­is­ter Bill English texted his back­bench MP Si­mon O’con­nor to tell him he was wrong to link Jacinda Ardern’s stance on eu­thana­sia to her youth sui­cide pol­icy.

The Na­tional back­bencher is fac­ing out­rage for sug­gest­ing Ardern is en­cour­ag­ing sui­cide by sup­port­ing eu­thana­sia.

O’con­nor posted the com­ments on World Sui­cide Preven­tion Day, hours af­ter Jacinda Ardern made a teary-eyed speech at Par­lia­ment, where 606 pairs of shoes rep­re­sent­ing a per­son who died by sui­cide in the last year were de­liv­ered.

‘‘It’s strange that Jacinda is so con­cerned about youth sui­cide but is happy to en­cour­age the sui­cide of the el­derly, dis­abled, and sick. Per­haps she just val­ues one group more than the oth­ers? Just say­ing,’’ O’con­nor wrote on his Face­book on Sun­day night.

But his leader says O’con­nor was wrong to do so.

‘‘We don’t link eu­thana­sia and sui­cide,’’ English said, adding that he had texted O’con­nor say­ing this.

‘‘In both cases what’s im­por­tant here is com­pas­sion for peo­ple who are vul­ner­a­ble.’’

Ardern told Stuff she re­spects O’con­nor’s right to his opin­ion on eu­thana­sia, but he shouldn’t con­flate it with sui­cide.

‘‘I ab­so­lutely re­spect Si­mon’s right to hold the view he has on eu­thana­sia, but to im­ply that it is the same is­sue as our ter­ri­ble sui­cide rates in New Zealand is just wrong.’’

O’con­nor is the mem­ber for Ta¯ maki and chaired Par­lia­ment’s health com­mit­tee when it pub­lished a di­vi­sive re­port on the is­sue of as­sisted dy­ing ear­lier this year, stat­ing no changes to cur­rent New Zealand law.

Ardern had in­di­cated sup­port for David Sey­mour’s End of Life Choice Bill which would give ter­mi­nally ill peo­ple with six months to live or those with a ‘‘griev­ous and ir­re­me­di­a­ble’’ con­di­tion the abil­ity to ask a doc­tor to

‘‘We don't link eu­thana­sia and sui­cide’’

help end their lives.

‘‘Sorry Si­mon, but you’re con­fused,’’ Sey­mour wrote on Face­book.

Labour can­di­date Sam Mc­don­ald wrote: ‘‘Mate I re­spect you, but you’ve crossed the line by de­mean­ing Jacinda’s sin­cere re­sponse to sui­cide.’’

O’con­nor re­sponded: ‘‘I am not de­mean­ing her sin­cer­ity, I am ques­tion­ing it. You can­not be op­posed to sui­cide for some in so­ci­ety, while hap­pily ad­vo­cat­ing sui­cide for oth­ers.’’

SUPPLIED

Ta­maki MP Si­mon O’con­nor’s Face­book com­ments have sparked out­rage.

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