In the musical and film Little Shop of Horrors, there is a song that is titled “Suddenly Seymour”. One of the lines goes: “Suddenly Seymour is here to provide me sweet understanding — Seymour’s my friend.”
ACT MP David Seymour has provided New Zealand with his own version of a Little Shop of Horrors in the form of his End of Life Choice Bill, drawn from 0Parliament’s ballot last month.
New Zealanders should understand, sweetly or otherwise, just what is at stake.
There are many flaws in the bill, and with the whole notion of state-sanctioned assisted dying altogether.
Problems with safeguarding, with imprecise language in statutes open to various interpretations in courts of law, and with the certainty that cases not envisaged as
being covered under the legislation will eventually be included — by medical sleight of hand, judicial interpretation or by future amendment.
There is the issue of what happens to the relationship between the medical profession and patients, to suicide prevention efforts, to the value placed on people with disabilities and to the value society affords life at its weakest and most vulnerable.
Parliament may get to consider the Seymour bill at first reading before the General Election. If it does, voters will get a clear picture of how their representatives f eel about the issue.
When it comes to the General Election, Catholics and others of good will should make sure that those contesting electorate seats in particular are canvassed about their views on assisted dying in general and the Seymour bill in particular, if Parliament
has not rejected it beforehand.
Parishes or deaneries should ensure that their flocks are in no doubt as to the positions of electorate candidates in this matter. These positions should be published in parish newsletters ahead of the election.
Organisations like Family First will no doubt ensure that the positions of sitting MPs and even party list members on this issue are known ahead of September 23.
But it is at electorate level that the rubber hits the road on this issue. The matter is a conscience vote.
Therefore the position of every electorate candidate matters. The party vote will decide the overall makeup of Parliament, so voters should have no fear that their electorate vote will distort the makeup of Parliament.
In engaging candidates on this issue, there will no doubt be several dodges raised by some seeking office.
Voters should be ready with responses.
If a candidate says he or she wants to send the Seymour bill to select committee and doesn’t have a position yet — that candidate should be asked if he or she believes in wasting the public’s money, and wasting the public’s time, given that more than
20,000 Kiwis already made submissions to the Health Select Committee’s Ending of Life in New Zealand inquiry.
If a candidate says he or she wants to put the matter to a referendum, that candidate should be asked if this indicates he or she has no judgement, or no intestinal fortitude or none of the above.
If a candidate says changing the law is progressive and therefore inevitable, it can be responded that in the last two years Parliaments in Tasmania, the United Kingdom and Scotland have rejected similar measures to Seymour’s by overwhelming margins.
If a candidate says it is purely a matter of personal choice, he or she can be asked there should be any safeguards at all. If he or she says there shouldn’t be, then
that position can be dismissed as ideological extremism and the culture of death.
As soon as candidates admit there should be safeguards, they can be confronted
with the words of Baroness Ilora Finlay, writing in The Economist in 2015. “Tick-box” safeguards “may sound plausible in theory, but they fall to pieces under the stresses of real-life terminal illness.”
In short, candidates must be left in no doubt that David Seymour’s Little Shop of Horrors would be a disaster for this country.