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From Maggie Barry on End of Life Choice bill

After 16 months of working through a record 39,000 written submissions and hearing from1350 submitters at 42 public hearings in 14 towns, the Justice Select Committee today tabled its report on the ‘End of Life’ bill.

The eight members of the Justice Select Committee - four National and four Labour - all agreed the bill was not workable in its original state and they were not able to agree that the bill be passed. Some minor and technical adjustments were made but the committee did not recommend any substantial changes.

In excess of 91% of all submitters firmly rejected law changes to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia in New Zealand, which Deputy Justice Chair and North Shore MP Maggie Barry says is a far more reliable and representative measure of Kiwis’ concerns than past polling results.

“Generalised polls around choosing death with dignity pose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions that are not relevant to this specific legal debate about a law change which would have serious and far reaching consequences for our most vulnerable elderly, disabled and mentally unwell citizens,” Ms Barry says.

“Only 8 out of 196 countries, around 4% of the world’s population, have legalised euthanasia and it would be very difficult to reverse a law change in this country, which is why MPs need to be particularly careful to weigh up all the unintended consequences before they cast their conscience vote following the second reading.”

Ms Barry has been impressed by the effort the record number of submitters went to. “More than 53,000 pages of submissions were received with an average length of 250 words, and I commend and respect the courage of all those who took the trouble to make submissions on the complex issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and in particular those who came before a group of MPs to tell their deeply personal and often harrowing stories.”

More than 93% of the 1900 submissions received from medical professionals opposed the bill, and of the 20 organisations representing the dementia, aged care and palliative care sectors, not one supported legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide.

From the 131 submissions from churches, including Buddhist and Muslim welfare groups, not one supported the bill, although more than 90% of submissions made no reference to religion at all. The disability sector was also overwhelmingly against the bill,

Ms Barry voted against the bill at its first reading and says having sat through submission hearings, she is now even more opposed to the bill and will vote against it at its second and third reading if it makes it that far. “For people who want different choices at the end of their lives, this is not the bill to deliver it because there are no meaningful safeguards to protect our most vulnerable.

“Rather than MPs voting in favour of the nuclear option to legalise euthanasia, I want to see all New Zealanders guaranteed access to top quality specialist care at the end of their lives. After extensive consultation with local and international experts, I have drafted a Members bill currently in the ballot called the ‘Access to Palliative Care’ bill, which requires DHBs to provide end of life care for all New Zealanders whenever and wherever they need it.”

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