2019-11-14 by Daisy I.
New Zealand MPs approve ‘End of Life Choice’ bill, paving way for referendum : International de
New Zealanders are bound for a referendum on euthanasia next year after a tight conscience vote in Wellington.
- NZ MPs voted 69 to 51 in favour of the bill after a four-year process
- Protesters gathered on the lawn outside Parliament and many watched the debate in the chamber
- A referendum on the matter will be held at the same time as the 2020 NZ election
Kiwi MPs voted 69 to 51 on Wednesday night to pass the End of Life Choice bill, ending the issue’s four-year journey through the Parliament but failing to resolve it.
The bill appeared likely to pass in October, when amendments forced its proponents to swing behind a referendum rather than legalise it outright.
But undecided members were lobbied by both sides until the very last hours, when almost a quarter of MPs gave speeches, often passionate and personal, during a marathon debate.
Many addressed their own faith, ethnicities and experiences with death.
Labour MP Willie Jackson, one of the few not to reveal his hand, finally declared himself a supporter with a touching address centred on his mother’s deteriorating health.
“My mother changed dramatically from the passionate, strong Maori leader she was,” he said.
“Last night I spoke with three of the most high-profile Maori leaders in this country.
“They all said they were tired of hearing that this was against our culture [tikanga]. Tikanga evolves and there is no one tikanga.
“None of them thought that euthanasia was suicide. All of them thought that euthanasia was dying with dignity.
“Dignity is everything … and death doesn’t mean dying anyway.”
Still a hotly contested issue
Hundreds of people opposed to the bill spent the afternoon protesting on the lawns outside Parliament, with many filing into the public gallery for the debate.
The bill attracted the highest number of public submissions in New Zealand’s parliamentary history.
More than 39,000 submissions were received, with public hearings in 14 cities hearing about 1,350 people.
National MP Alfred Ngato said about 90 per cent of those submissions, and about 90 per cent of medical practitioners, were against the bill.
“Many organisations at the coalface of providing end-of-life care, like hospices, are opposed to this bill because it is unsafe,” he said.
“The over 90 per cent that opposed this bill cannot be made to remain silent in this House.”
Those figures are at odds with public polling, which has consistently recorded strong majorities in favour of legalisation.
Should public support hold, euthanasia will be legalised in the public poll next year.
The referendum will be held at the same time as New Zealand’s 2020 election, and another referendum to legalise cannabis, as previously agreed by the Government.
That poll is expected next autumn.
Many, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have expressed fears that debate could turn nasty in the build-up to the public vote.
However, if campaigning on the referendum is as well intentioned as the public debate, that will not come to pass.
National MP Chris Bishop, a euthanasia supporter, paid tribute to the bill’s sponsor, David Seymour, despite his membership of the ACT party.
“David, if this bill passes tonight, and the referendum succeeds, and I believe both will, then you will have made an enormous contribution to New Zealand. You will have helped make New Zealand a more compassionate society, a more decent society, a more humane society,” he said.
Topics: euthanasia, world-politics, social-policy, health-policy, new-zealand