End of Life Choice Bill

it is not pleasant to talk about painful death, but when our country's laws do not work, it is incumbent upon us to have that discussion. Our laws surrounding end of life choice currently do not work and we must improve them. Let me... Read more
it is not pleasant to talk about painful death, but when our country's laws do not work, it is incumbent upon us to have that discussion. Our laws surrounding end of life choice currently do not work and we must improve them. Let me explain why that is, using the people in this room. There are 120 of us here, and we can reasonably hope that the vast majority of us will live long lives and die easy, painless deaths. Sadly, some of us will get ill. Our illnesses may well turn out to be terminal, but we will be helped by palliative care to die comfortably, none the less. That leaves maybe half a dozen of us here who will die badly. Those half a dozen represent the 3 percent or the 4 percent who might seek an assisted death under this bill based on experience in countries where such legislation is in place, and based on the choices that New Zealanders currently make. Any one of us in this Parliament could find ourselves facing that situation. I'm afraid to say that the options we would face in that situation are cruel. A person at the end of their life, suffering badly and unable to be helped by palliative care, can commit amateur violent suicide. We know from extensive studies of the coronial records of this country that 5 percent to 8 percent of New Zealand's suicides were by people who were dying and wanted to take control of the end of their life. They didn't want to die. They weren't depressed. They weren't suicidal, but they knew what was coming and they wanted control. One such person was Martin Hames. He was a staff member here in Parliament. He had Huntington's disease and he killed himself. The only mercy was that he botched it and lived on for several days because that way he got to say goodbye to loved ones that he was not allowed even to tell what he was going to do under our current laws. The tragedy is that he did it many years before he would've liked to because he knew his capability was declining, and our current laws require him not to be assisted. Read less
Wellington, Wellington ( )
August 28, 2019
Submitted by: David Seymour

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9.9

David Seymour

Member
5th/ 4,358 in Elected Officials
December 12, 2017

This bill gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying. 

This bill requires that a person be 18 or over, be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and have either a terminal illness or a prognosis of less than six months or a grievous and... Read more

December 12, 2017

This bill gives people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying. 

This bill requires that a person be 18 or over, be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and have either a terminal illness or a prognosis of less than six months or a grievous and irremediable condition. They must be "in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;". This wording is critical when it comes to concerns that some people have about disability. You have to be "in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;". It is not about your level of capability; it is about being in decline.

You have to be of sound mind—that is, you have to be able to understand the nature of the decision you're making. Again, this wording is important. People with depression, for instance, by definition have a distorted view of the value of life, and therefore would not qualify. All of this has to be signed off by two doctors, who must examine the patient. The doctor must seek to speak with the family members and others involved in the patient's care to ensure that they can satisfy themselves there is no coercion at play. The second doctor is selected randomly, independently from the first, and if either doubts the patient's mental state, they must refer the patient to a psychiatrist. Each case is then countersigned by a registrar at the Ministry of Health. The same registrar collects statistics and reports to this House.

There are those in this Parliament who say this is the worst bill that they've ever encountered. But I've challenged them privately, and they know they couldn't name a better one. This bill's been in the public domain since September 2015, and no critic has laid a glove on any aspect of it.

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David Seymour for ACT Party New Zealand

June 13, 2019

The State of Maine, US, has legalised assisted dying for its residents joining California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey, and Montana in providing choice for those suffering at the end of life. Governor Janet Mills signed bill L.D. 1313 or the 'death with dignity' bill into law on Wednesday which will... Read more

June 13, 2019

The State of Maine, US, has legalised assisted dying for its residents joining California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey, and Montana in providing choice for those suffering at the end of life. Governor Janet Mills signed bill L.D. 1313 or the 'death with dignity' bill into law on Wednesday which will allow people with a terminal prognosis of less than six months the ability to end their lives with prescribed medication under a very strict and safeguarded process.

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9.9

David Seymour

Member
5th/ 4,358 in Elected Officials
November 13, 2019

I move, That the End of Life Choice Bill be now read a third time.

I've listened to New Zealanders talk about their experiences, literally from Kerikeri to Gore. Overwhelmingly, they've said to me, 'I've seen bad death. If my time comes and I'm not doing well, then I want choice. And, by the... Read more

November 13, 2019

I move, That the End of Life Choice Bill be now read a third time.

I've listened to New Zealanders talk about their experiences, literally from Kerikeri to Gore. Overwhelmingly, they've said to me, 'I've seen bad death. If my time comes and I'm not doing well, then I want choice. And, by the way, it's nobody else's business but mine.' They've thought deeply about harrowing events in their own lives, and I caution members of Parliament that we should not underestimate or belittle the public's understanding of this issue.

I want to thank colleagues who supported amendments to this bill at committee. Those amendments have delivered on promises I made to fellow MPs during the second reading debate. There is not time to describe every improvement, but I will summarise some of the key ones now. The bill previously allowed people with a grievous and irremediable medical condition to be eligible for assisted dying. That term was lifted from the Canadian legislation, where it works successfully. But, nevertheless, members of Parliament indicated they could not support a bill with that feature, and it has now been narrowed. Only a person whom two doctors judge to have a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months can be eligible. I acknowledge supporters of the bill who lament that narrowing, but I also say that it places a black-letter objectivity in the bill that only the most fundamentalist opponents can deny.

Several provisions have been introduced for the avoidance of all doubt. It is now explicit that nobody can become eligible for assisted dying simply due to age, disability, or a purely psychological condition. Similarly, no written consent or advanced directive can substitute for a person demonstrating their eligibility in real time. These avoidance of doubt clauses don't change the underlying function of the bill, but they do clarify its intentions.

Several improvements have been made to the qualifications required of health practitioners under the bill. The independent medical practitioner, or second doctor, must now have five years' experience. The medical practitioner who gives the third opinion, the potential psychologist, can no longer be a psychologist and must be a psychiatrist. Nurse practitioners may play some roles under the bill, but all decision-making functions remain with doctors, and, ultimately, with the patient. The employment rights of health practitioners who must play a role under the bill and conscientiously object to that role are now explicitly protected. And the test for mental competence has been upgraded to align with that in other legislation, requiring a person to understand, retain, weigh, and communicate information. It's been made explicit that no medical practitioner can initiate any conversation about assisted dying, and rules have been added to balance privacy and responsible public reporting of death in accordance with other legislation. Finally, the immunity protections for a doctor carrying out acts under this law have been made more specific.

 One final change made by the committee is to add the requirement for a referendum to be held before the bill comes into force. I'd like to address some criticisms of this feature, including those who say that we in Parliament are abdicating our responsibility by adding a referendum. That criticism ignores that Parliament has to pass the bill before the referendum is possible. Today is exactly 23 months since we first debated this bill in first reading; nobody can ever say that Parliament hasn't done its job. In fact, the net effects of the referendum is that the public will have one last chance to veto Parliament's work, should we choose to pass it tonight.


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End of Life Choice Bill

- New Zealand Parliament