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Euthanasia Bill passes second hurdle in Parliament

Euthanasia is one step closer to becoming legal in New Zealand after MPs voted 70 to 50 in support for the second reading of the End of Life Choice Bill.

It will move the proposed law to the next stage, where it would be debated in detail by all of Parliament, before a final vote. 

The End of Life Choice Bill passed its first reading 76-44 in 2017.

Tonight's second reading saw MPs both for and against deliver emotional and heated speeches.

Many MPs recalled the deaths of family members and friends, illustrating how those experiences shaped their decision on legalising euthanasia. Coersion, youth suicide, the message sent to those in vulnerable states were issues raised by MPs during the second reading. 

Amy Adams (National) - Support

"It was watching my mother die a gruesome, painful, and dehumanising death, and it wasn't because there was a lack of palliative care. It wasn't because there wasn't every opportunity and every drug available, and if she'd wanted to spend her last days drugged to the eyeballs, feeling nothing, I'm sure that was possible, but that isn't what she wanted.

"What she wanted was to be able to choose exactly when that end would come in the last few days, and that's really all we were talking about.

"This was a woman who was proud, independent, intelligent, who knew what she wanted, and the last thing she wanted was to be able to have the ability to choose the time of her death. Instead, we watched her literally get eaten alive from a vicious melanoma and suffer, as I say, in immeasurable ways."

Agnes Loheni (National) Against

"This is a conscience vote, and it is unconscionable to me that we could allow State-sanctioned killing."

"We are a Pacific community who holds strong to our faith and we hold the value that life is sacred. This bill is in conflict with those values and our Pacific culture of care."

Judith Collins (National) Support

Ms Collins spoke about her father's last weeks of life with terminal bone cancer, 25-years-ago.

"He knew to say, 'I have terrible pain and I need morphine.' And he got morphine. And he got morphine and he got morphine. And one day later he was dead. He died without losing his dignity."

"I have always been opposed to euthanasia as of right, on the basis that people like my Dad got to essentially tell everybody when they wanted to go. And I thought that was available to everybody. It's not available to everybody. It's not available for people like my Dad who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and without a family saying, 'you give my dad everything he needs'."

Nikki Kaye (National) Support 

"What this is about is the overwhelming evidence shows is there a group of people who suffer. I do not agree with the opponents of this bill there is no safeguards. This has been one of the most considered pieces of legisation. 

"I realised what this Parliament is passing a very narrow law that will affect a very small group of people.

"A small group of people will not be in pain or suffering."

Willie Jackson (Labour, Employment Minister) Support

"Our people are nervous, our people are scared… I always though I'd vote against this bill, but then we have personal experiences.

"My mother is dying…. She led our marae, mum was at the forefront, vibrant, passionate, a leader, no one would shut her up. But mum's not this person before…. But then I think if she saw herself today, she may well change her view. This kaupapa, deserves another kōrero."

Gerry Brownlee (National) Against

"The other issue is on the coercive power that a bill like this could see exercised over elderly and vulnerable New Zealanders.

"We have an ageing population, we know what the New Zealand population profile starts to look like and we know that the cost of healthcare for all New Zealanders in the later stages of their life can be a huge fraction of the total health bill. It would be unfortunate if we were to see people starting to think, 'Well, I've had a good innings, so now maybe I should perhaps opt to make the choice that makes it easy for so many others'."

Deborah Russell (Labour) Against

"It worries me intensely in terms of youth suicide."

Greg O'Connor (Labour) Support

"Don't come in here with what your Pope wants you to do. Don't come in here with what your vicar or anyone else wants you to do. Come in here and do the job that you have been tasked to do. Do the right thing," he told MPs.