Kiwis' opposition to euthanasia outweighs support in select committee report

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1 NEWS | NZN

After spending more than two years hearing submissions and public opinions on assisted dying, parliament's health select committee has released its findings without a single recommendation.

The ACT leader says it's good Parliament's health select committee has scotched conspiracy theories about euthanasia.
Source: 1 NEWS

Four in five people who contacted the committee during an investigation of public attitudes toward euthanasia legislation were opposed to the idea.

The committee received more than 21,000 submissions while investigating public views toward assisted dying for the terminally ill and those with irreversible conditions, based on a petition by former Labour MP Maryan Street.

In a report released today, the committee chaired by Simon O'Connor, concluded no recommendations would be made and any decision on the issue would generally be a conscience vote.

"This issue is clearly very complicated, very divisive, and extremely contentious," they said.

The report comes as Act leader David Seymour's End of Life Choices Bill is expected to come before parliament, though it's unlikely to have its first reading before parliament rises in three weeks ahead of next month's election.

Mr Seymour is disappointed the committee made no recommendations in light of "20,000 submissions, two years of MPs' time and the memory of Lecretia Seales". 

The Wellington lawyer went to the High Court for the right to die at a time of her choosing. She passed away with brain cancer in 2015 as her application was declined.

Mr Seymour said the lack of recommendations is a weak outcome, but the good thing the committee has done is "scotch some of the ridiculous conspiracy theories that the anti-euthanasia crowd like to pedal".  

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he would have preferred the committee made a recommendation, but said their report would be useful in debating Mr Seymour's bill.

The controversial issue of euthanasia is going to be debated in Parliament again.
Source: 1 NEWS

Of the 80 per cent of submitters opposed, most were primarily concerned about legislation endangering the public, particularly noting the elderly and disabled, those with mental illness and others susceptible to coercion.

Others believed it would undermine the value of life or that those not meeting criteria would find alternative ways to end their lives.

Around 500 people a year die from suicide annually in New Zealand, and a further 20,000 make attempts.

"Many submitters were concerned that if assisted dying was legalised, people would see death as an acceptable response to suffering," the committee said.

"It would be difficult to say that some situations warranted ending one's life while others do not."

According to the Ministry of Health there doesn't appear to be a connection between assisted dying and suicide rates.

While the committee made no recommendations on euthanasia legislation, the group of nine did suggest the government consider improved communication of palliative care services, funding and workforce shortages.

The latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll showed 74 per cent agreed with euthanasia.
Source: 1 NEWS

But they refuted suggestions euthanasia legislation would lead to reduced support for palliative services, saying a 2015 study did not support that assertion.

Despite the opposition more than 4000 told the committee they backed legalising euthanasia for the terminally ill and those with irreversible conditions.

Some thought those criteria should even be broadened.

They spoke of fearing a loss of dignity and independence, and the fear of pain and watching loved ones suffering a painful death.

"Supporters stressed their personal autonomy and that they should have the choice as to when to end their life," they said.

Only New Zealand First took a minority view from the overall conclusion, urging a binding referendum on the issue following a period of informed debate.

The party, represented by Barbara Stewart and Ria Bond, said it was a serious matter not to be decided by "temporarily empowered politicians".

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