Why I support David Seymours euthanasia bill


David Seymour, M.P. for Epsom in central Auckland, has a rare ally in passing his euthanasia Bill of Parliament: me.

Those who know me know I generally despise the A.C.T. Party and everything it stands for. They know I think it goes completely contrary to all that I stand for and want to be seen to be standing for. So one could perhaps be a bit surprised that I am standing up for a Bill of Parliament from a single-M.P. party that I had hoped would meet its electoral oblivion last year.

There are a few reasons why I choose to support Mr Seymours Bill of Parliament:

  1. I believe that a person who is suffering illness that is terminal in nature, degrading to their being and which will eventually kill them – not before making them endure a degrading death no right person would wish on them – should have the right to decide whether they want to continue to suffer
  2. Mr Seymours Bill acknowledges that there are risks around the implementation of the euthanasia process should it be legalized and it has sought to address them
  3. If Mr Seymour does not bring the Bill to Parliament, someone else will, so it is a conversation that New Zealand is going to have sooner or later
  4. It is not a loop hole that will let children bump off elderly parents – the Bill ensures that there are checks written into it which will stop that kind of behaviour from happening

Over the last couple of years we have seen some painful cases of debilitating illnesses degrading people to a state where their lives had no purpose or dignity. One need to look no further than lawyer Lecretia Seales or former trade union activist Helen Kelly. Both were suffering debilitating illness that had made their lives painful and increasingly lacking in dignity.

As mentioned in previous articles, there will be individuals and organizations that cannot accept this. That is fine. New Zealand is a democracy and it is quite fine to have an opinion. It is equally fine to express it, as I hope that they did in making a submission on the Bill of Parliament before submissions closed on Tuesday. What is just as fine is for people to disagree with them, as I do and no doubt many others will as well. It is not for myself or others or organizations to decide what a person can do with their body or their life.

Where I think there needs to be a change in procedure is taking this out of the hands of a conscience vote in Parliament. A conscience vote is where M.P.’s votes are determined by their own beliefs and not by science or reasoned logic based on research. The fact that conscience votes on divisive topics such as this have so far gone in the direction that I had hoped for is more luck than anything. That is not to say that they will go in that way in the future.

A.C.T.’s End of Life Choice Bill before Parliament


Lecretia Seales, a Wellington lawyer who had an incurable brain disease, died nearly 2 1/2 years ago. She was 42. Through out the last stages of her life she fought to have the right to die a peaceful death by lethal injection on her own terms, instead of potentially losing her dignity. The case has raised the issue in New Zealand of whether or not one should have that right. Three separate attempts to resolve it through the legislative processes of Parliament have all met with failure.

Yesterday another attempt in the form of A.C.T. Party Leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill began. Mr Seymour who has actively championed a right for a patient in terminal pain or suffering a terminal illness, particularly if it is debilitating in nature, is confident New Zealanders will support the Bill.

It has the support of various National and Labour Members of Parliament including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour M.P.’s Iain Lees-Galloway and Kris Faafoi, as well as National M.P.’s such as Chris Bishop, Nathan Guy and Mr Seymour. New Zealand First will support it if an amendment to require a public referendum on the issue is added – which Mr Seymour said he will support if N.Z. First can find the votes.

There are moral and ethical issues that any court considering such an issue should deal with.  It needs to be sure that it is not going to set such a legal precedent that could be reasonably challenged in a court of law.

I personally support a process to allow people with terminal illness or pain to die with dignity. To watch someone a person loves and cares about suffer pain they do not need to suffer, knowing it will never go away and over time will only get worse is devastating. To watch their dignity disappear and the life, the personality of the person drain from their being before ones eyes is not something I would wish on anyone.

The process will need checks and balances. I propose the following checks and balances:

  • Is fully aware of the decision that they are making and able to comprehend it
  • Has signed something that has a prominent place on their medical file, expressly permitting them to be put to sleep
  • Has a doctor whose ethical suitability for administering the lethal injection has been certified, and that a process overseen by an appropriate medical organization such as the Royal College of General Practitioners for ensuring only such doctors are able to carry out such procedures is in place

I understand that this will provoke a substantial and at times tense and controversial reaction. That is quite okay. This was always going to be a contentious Bill of Parliament no matter which way it goes, or how far through the legislative process it gets. I understand that those adhering to a particular faith will be potentially alarmed at what they will see as an attack on morality. Again, it is quite okay to express strong opinion.

What is not okay is to openly advocate violence against institutions or people that support/do not support this. That will just – aside from being criminal due to the violence promoted – be hugely and unnecessarily inflammatory. What is not okay is to be deliberately obstructionist.

I hope I never have to make this decision on behalf of a loved one, but I would be guided by what they want first and foremost. Then I would worry about how to carry their wishes out legally. And the moralizing people will just have to live with it.

To die with dignity


Lecretia Seales, a Wellington lawyer who had an incurable brain disease, died today. She was 42. Through out the last stages of her life she fought to have the right to die a peaceful death by lethal injection on her own terms, instead of potentially losing her dignity. The case has raised the issue in New Zealand of whether or not one should have that right. Three separate attempts to resolve it through the legislative processes of Parliament have all met with failure.

There are moral and ethical issues that any court considering such an issue should deal with.  It needs to be sure that it is not going to set such a legal precedent that could be reasonably challenged in a court of law.

I am of the opinion that there should be a process for those who wish to die to be able to do so legally. However there need to be strong checks to make sure that the person whose wish it is to die:

  • Is fully aware of the decision that they are making and able to comprehend it
  • Has signed something that has a prominent place on their medical file, expressly permitting them to be put to sleep
  • Has a doctor whose ethical suitability for administering the lethal injection has been certified, and that a process for such

It is not to say that euthanasia has always been conducted by in an ethically proper way, or for the right reasons. In wartime Germany the T4 programme was administered by the authorities with the intention of euthanasing people with incurable diseases, defects or were otherwise considered to be medically unsound. The churches in Germany railed against it, and in a rare show of concession, in a country where dissent was not tolerated, Hitler ordered the programme to be stopped. Unfortunately by the time it was terminated T4 had given rise to the gas based methods of extermination that were used in the Final Solution against the Jews and “undesirables”.

There are definitely individuals, organizations and institutions that will oppose the passage of any legislation supporting the right to die, possibly even going so far as to launch court action to stop it. One of those organizations is Right To Life, which is mainly disposed towards discouraging abortions as a medical procedure but which has also come out against people being allowed to die by voluntary euthanasia. Although these organizations are right to be concerned about the ethics, there is the potential for unwanted interference in very private matters. It is one thing to “moralize” about euthanasia as a person not suffering an incurable illness that is slowly degrading their life, but quite another altogether to be the person actually suffering, actually watching their lives fade before their eyes.

I hope I never have to make this decision on behalf of a loved one, but I would be guided by what they want first and foremost. Then I would worry about how to carry their wishes out legally. And the moralizing people will just have to live with it.