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Death with Dignity Consistent with Bill of Rights

Media Release

28 July 2003

Death with Dignity Consistent with Bill of Rights

Allowing people who are terminally or incurably ill to choose the time of their death is entirely consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the sponsor of the Death with Dignity Bill, New Zealand First Deputy Leader Peter Brown said today.

A report prepared by the Ministry of Justice in respect of the Bill concluded that the provisions relating to contemporaneous requests were consistent with the right not to be deprived of life that is protected by the Bill of Rights. However, the Ministry’s report had suggested that the process for giving “advance directives” was arguably in breach of a right not to be deprived of life. Independent legal advice obtained by Mr Brown determined that this was not, in fact, the case.

“My legal advice is that the provisions surrounding advance directives are consistent with the Bill of Rights Act and with the general law. Following the Ministry of Justices report I commissioned a thorough review of the Death with Dignity Bill to ensure that it was in line with the Bill of Rights. The advice that I have received is that that is the case.” Mr Brown said today.

“In addition, that legal advice has provided a number of suggestions for improving the Bill to ensure that the safeguards that it provides do not simply comply with the Bill of Rights Act, but are as effective as they could be. Those proposals will be put forward and debated, along with the rest of this Bill, during the Select Committee process.” Mr Brown said

“My intention with this Bill is to allow the issues around death with dignity to be fully debated and discussed, both by Parliament and by the New Zealand public.

“That is why the Bill would require a public referendum before becoming law. It is appropriate that this Bill be referred to Select Committee to allow that debate to begin.”

The Death with Dignity Bill will go before the House on Wednesday.

ENDS

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