by JOHN KLEINSMAN
The long-awaited Justice Select Committee report on ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill was finally presented to Parliament on April 9. Critically, the committee, having heard more than 38,700 submissions, of which more than 90 per cent were opposed, “were unable to agree that the bill be passed” and did not recommend any substantial changes.
The committee has suggested some minor adjustments, described by them as being technical and consequential
amendments, should the bill to be passed into law.
Dr Peter Thirkell, secretary of the Care Alliance (of which The Nathaniel Centre is a member organisation), welcomed the select committee’s own statement that the End of Life Choice Bill “is not workable in its present state”, stating in his press release that “Mr Seymour should withdraw his bill immediately. It is simply not feasible for MPs to try to ‘fix’ the bill during the Committee of the whole House stage, as that would deny New Zealanders their right to have a say
on different proposals. This is simply too serious an issue for ad hoc amendments to be made on the floor of the House with no expert or wider consultation.”
Now that it has been returned to the House, the bill will face its second reading and second vote as early as May 1. Should it pass, the bill will then go to the Committee Stage of the whole House ,where it will be debated, clause by clause, by all MPs.
David Seymour, the bill’s sponsor, has made it clear that he will put forward further amendments should the bill get through its second reading, including restricting the bill to people with a “terminal illness”, a change which would
involve removing “grievous and irremediable medical condition” as a criterion for eligibility.
While this is an attempt to tighten the bill’s eligibility criteria, it ignores the overwhelming evidence from overseas which shows that there is, inevitably, a logical progression to widening the scope and criteria. It also fails to deal with the inherent risks to the most vulnerable
at the core of the bill.
Other organisations which are members of the Care Alliance include the Australia and NZ Society of Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Nurses NZ, Health Professionals Alliance, Hospice NZ, Not Dead Yet Aotearoa and the Salvation Army. The Care Alliance is currently circulating a nation-wide petition to remind MPs of the opposition to this bill that exists in the community.
Dr John Kleinsman is director of The Nathaniel Centre — the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre.