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Emotions high as Euthanasia Bill passes second reading in parliament

By Jo Moir for rnz.co.nz

Despite predictions it would go down to the wire, the End of Life Choice Bill passed its second reading last night.

Just 20 MPs had the opportunity to debate the bill and many shared personal stories of watching family members die in what was at times an emotional display in the House.

Read more: Teary-eyed Judith Collins recounts father's death, says she'll change vote to 'yes' for End of Life Choice Bill

Seventy MPs voted in favour of the bill, while 50 were opposed. It was initially called as 51 votes against, an error that Speaker Trevor Mallard had to correct.

Many MPs used their time in the debate to express disappointment the select committee process had failed to make the necessary changes, like narrowing the bill to only the terminally ill.

For many that was a reason to vote in favour of the second reading, in hope that the next stage - the Committee of the whole House - would allow for those changes to be made.

Read more: A look at Canada's experience with legal euthanasia as MPs face second vote on End of Life Choice Bill

The bill would allow for people in unbearable suffering or with an incurable, grievous condition to ask a doctor to help end their life.

National MP Judith Collins said she held her father's hand 25 years ago as he died with massive amounts of morphine in his system, which he had asked doctors for so he could die with dignity.

She had believed everyone could choose to die that way, and for that reason had previously voted against euthanasia.

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“They're generally quite beautiful and moving,” said Dr Stefanie Green. Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Collins struggled through tears as she explained she now realised that isn't the case.

"I've talked to many people about this issue, and it's troubled me for a long time.

"And this year I have been very troubled by it, because I've felt that having been opposed to it, I was on the wrong side, and I am on the wrong side of it in opposing it.

"I'm the right side now, to say that everybody deserves some dignity in their lives," she said.

National MP Gerry Brownlee shared how distressing it was having to tell his mother she had little time left to live. He went on to vote against the bill.

Labour's Greg O'Connor gave one of the most fiery speeches of the night, telling MPs to see beyond what he called downright lies about the bill and other conscience vote issues in the past. He voted in favour.

"How many times have issues been debated here that we hear if this goes through, it's going to be the end of it.

"I'll challenge people now what about homosexual law reform?, I was on the other side of that with a religious background, people were opposed to that, what would happen to the world if that passed? I think [in] Invercargill wasn't there an MP there who said there was going to be sodomy in the streets?", he said.

ACT Party leader David Seymour, the bill's sponsor said the vote was a good result, but only half way to getting the legislation across the line.

"I've always been confident that we can make it and getting a few more votes than expected certainly helps my confidence.

"But it's going to be a huge amount of work and then potentially a referendum campaign as well."

One of the bill's biggest critics, National MP Maggie Barry, was pleased the opposition side had picked up another six votes since the first reading.

She told reporters many MPs had been seduced by the idea they had to vote it through to the third reading to put more safeguards in place.

Ms Barry said when the Committee of the whole House considered the bill at the end of July "we will start a very big fight indeed".

National's Nick Smith is a vocal critic and said the bill was out of step with a core part of Kiwi culture - respect for human life.

"The cold, calculating clauses in this bill allowing the termination of life of someone who is unwell or disabled, contradicts those basic Kiwi values."

The proposed legislation will be debated part by part in the Committee of the whole House, before its final reading.

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National’s Judith Collins was among those to speak movingly about the issue, ahead of the 70-50 vote. Source: Breakfast


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