by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — Former broadcaster Maggie Barry, who is dead-set against any move to legalise euthanasia in New Zealand, has warned that a parliamentary vote on the subject would be very close.
Ms Barry, who is the National MP for North Shore, spoke at a conference of opponents of legalised euthanasia at Parnell in Auckland on June 30. She urged people to familiarise themselves with the issues and engage others on them.
“I have sought the counsel . . . of some of my parliamentary colleagues and I believe that there are people who are swaying . . . ” Ms Barry said.
“ . . . I know that when it comes through again, . . . [before Parliament] . . . there will be a lot of emotional and negative arguments, so I think we all need to be geared up to talk to people about the issue and really make them think about the sanctity and quality of life.”
Labour list MP Maryan Street is reportedly close to finalising an “End of Life Choices” bill that would go into the parliamentary ballot as a private members bill.
Ms Barry said Parliament was pretty much evenly split the last time it considered the issue. A 2003 bill, sponsored by then-New Zealand First MP Peter Brown, was defeated by only two votes at its first reading.
Ms Barry said that “my conscience . . .will absolutely determine that I will not vote in favour of any bill that would bring about legalised euthanasia”.
Raised as a Catholic, Ms Barry detailed how she accompanied both her father and mother in their journeys towards death.
“Being around people who are dying is a privilege. And it isn’t always pretty, it isn’t always an easy process, but neither is giving birth, frankly,” she said.
After her father’s death 17 years ago, Ms Barry became involved in the hospice movement, serving as patron of both Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington and Hospice New Zealand.
She was also a lay representative from the National Health Committee advising the Minister of Health in the 1990s and once chaired a multi-disciplinary working party on care for the dying.
At the Parnell conference, Ms Barry questioned the sort of signal that legalising euthanasia would send vulnerable youth and wider society. People should not be led to see themselves as “disposable”, she said.
She said lawmakers had to be very aware of and careful of the unforeseen consquences of the legislation they enact.
by MICHAEL OTTO