'In this bill there are no consequences' - Sir Bill English speaks out against proposed euthanasia legislation, supporter Matt Vickers wants restrictions

Submissions were heard today from Sir Bill English, Dr Mary English and advocate Matt Vickers, on the opposing views of the proposed euthanasia legalisation.

Sir Bill spoke on his opposition to the bill, saying legalising euthanasia could allow, in some circumstances, people to "be able to kill and be exempt from the law". 

Matt Vickers described how for a person who was experiencing "extreme pain, despite their doctor's best efforts, it might offer a true respite". 

ACT leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill is currently sitting in the Select Committee stage, after passing its first reading last year. 

The Bill "gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying". 

Sir Bill English

Sir Bill said the test for consent "was far too low", and that "safeguards mean nothing if there are no consequences for breaking them". 

"In this bill there are no consequences. That is the track record of the jurisdictions around the world."

"In effect the law asks us to look the other way. This bill is about all of us, not just those who choose euthanasia," he told the Justice Select Committee. 

He said the criteria as it stands, "are broad and subjective".

"That creates uncertainly, and it also means large groups of our society... will be defined by the parliament as people who are considered eligible to choose to shorten their life."

He said the conscientious objection provisions were "repugnant and must be changed". 

"They oblige a doctor who has requested to put a person on the euthanasia conveyor belt, when their conscience says they're absolutely opposed to it. 

Sir Bill also spoke about youth suicide and the "hypocrisy" the bill could create. 

"I've seen youth suicide upfront. Young people have a nose for adult hypocrisy. How can we say to them, it's a bad thing for a young person to think about taking their life, but a great, progressive thing for a sick old person to think about taking their lives?"

Dr Mary English

Dr English presented to the Justice Select Committee alongside husband Sir Bill. She said she sees "at first hand, my patient's concern about being a burden".

"It is my strong opinion, that legally sanctioning euthanasia will tip the balance of presumption by the patient that we're here to assist and help..."

Matt Vickers

Euthanasia advocate Matt Vickers, the husband of the late Lecretia Seales, then presented to the Select Committee about why he supported the bill. 

"There is some suffering beyond the reach of medicine.

"Imagine wanting that choice so much that you're willing, in the grip of terminal decline to go public and sue the New Zealand Government to get it. My late wife Lecretia Seales was willing to go to those lengths. 

Lecretia Seales campaigned for voluntary euthanasia to be made legal. In the week before she died of brain cancer in June 2015, a High Court judgment ruled against Ms Seales allowing a doctor to euthanise her without fear of prosecution.

"She believed not having that choice denied her humanity and not having that choice was fundamentally unjust," Mr Vickers said. 

Mr Vickers said there was "no evidence" in comparable countries of situations of elder abuse, opportunistic relatives' coercion or devaluing the lives of people with disabilities caused by legalising euthanasia. 

He said the bill also "does not provide a doctor with the power to incite or counsel someone to suicide". 

"We can support the End of Life Choice Bill and be tougher on elder abuse and discrimination and do more to prevent suicide."

Mr Vickers recommended the bill be restricted to people with terminal illnesses who were expected to live less than six months, that the legislation made clear physical disability and mental illness "alone is not sufficient criteria for accessing assisted dying" and that doctors who raises the notion of euthanasia with patients "un-prompted" be subject to sanctions. 

"This bill is not forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to do. This bill opens up a carefully constrained choice."

Both parties lay out the reasons why they were for or against legalising euthanasia. Source: 1 NEWS

Versions of synthetic cannabis in New Zealand up to 10 times stronger than strain that saw US 'zombie outbreak'

Experts are warning there are deadlier versions of synthetic cannabis available in New Zealand which are much more potent than the one which caused the so-called zombie outbreaks in the US.

The Government's been told two deadly types of synthetic cannabis are so potent they should be classified as class A drugs.

One of these drugs has been linked to a well-known case that rocked the United States in 2016.

"The concentrations we're seeing in New Zealand are much more potent than what we saw in the Zombie outbreak in New York," Health Minister David Clark says.

In some instances, the drugs found here were 10 times stronger.

The news comes after synthetic cannabis was linked to the deaths of at least 45 people since June 2017.

"I don't think we ever anticipated we'd get new synthetic drugs that would lead to so much harm," Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell told 1 NEWS.

Synthetic cannabis is already illegal - but the maximum punishment for dealers is two years in prison.

Making synthetic cannabis a class A drug would put it alongside methamphetamine, cocaine, magic mushrooms and lsd.

This would mean the police would have more power and the penalties would be significantly tougher for dealers and users.

The Government says it will make a decision on synthetic drugs in the coming weeks.

They're calling for the drug to be classified as Class A – the most harmful and dangerous. Source: 1 NEWS

Rihanna asks for Jacinda Ardern's help in tweet - 'Its been a big year for you'

Popstar and fashionista Rihanna has reached out on Twitter to try and enlist the help of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for one of the singer's charitable causes.

Rihanna started out by congratulating the PM before asking for help. 

"Kia ora @jacindaardern! It's been a big year for you & NZ - congrats!

"I hope you & @MFATgovtNZ agree that educating every child can change the world!" the singer wrote before linking to the Clara Lionel Foundation which she started in 2012.

The tweet also contained a link to a piece Rihanna wrote for The Guardian yesterday, calling for more support for young students in developing countries. 

Rihanna and Jacinda Ardern. Source: Associated Press


Wellington bus network changes to be reviewed after council bombarded with complaints

Wellington's new bus network will be independently reviewed after ongoing complaints of buses being late, too full to board or not showing up at all.

The regional council today voted today to have the system reviewed and the results reported back by December.

Since the system was changed in July the council has been bombarded with complaints.

Councillors have also asked officers to change a route so that it began and ended in Kilbirnie, as it previously did, and for feedback on whether some other routes can be changed.

Regional council chief executive Greg Campbell said he took full responsibility for fixing the network's problems.

He said the review needed to be done quickly.

"Any commuter that is left stranded, or a bus that is late, that is of extreme concern. We have to get a clear view of what is happening. What an independent review can really do - particularly for management and council - is give a view of what has happened and articulate that well."

At the beginning of the meeting several Wellington residents addressed the council to let it know they were still unhappy with the new bus routes.

A Wellington principal said the recent re-jig of the routes was making his students late for class and putting them in danger.

St Patrick's College, Kilbirnie's rector Neal Swindells told this morning's meeting about 100-150 boys were using the new service.

"Currently our two 753 buses from the station in the afternoon are significantly overloaded and are unsafe. On Monday this week, they were both loaded to the gunnels and there were 30-odd students who couldn't get on. So what they do is they cross the road to catch the new 24 bus, which by the time it leaves St Pat's now is also overfull."


Commuters at a bus stop in Newtown. Source: rnz.co.nz

Serious crash leaves one person in critical condition, closes section of SH2 near Upper Hutt

A serious crash has left one person in critical condition and a section of State Highway 2 closed in both directions near Kaitoke, Upper Hutt.

Police say there are likely to be lengthy delays and motorists are asked to avoid the area if possible.

A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle
A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle. Source: 1 NEWS