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MPs urged to study euthanasia ruling

MPs urged to study euthanasia ruling

Voluntary euthanasia campaigners in New Zealand are urging MPs to study a ruling by Canada’s Supreme Court that terminally ill people experiencing “enduring and intolerable suffering” have a fundamental right to end their lives with a doctor’s help.

To deny people in incurable torment the right to end their pain and their lives in a humane manner was a fundamental assault on constitutional civil liberties, the court ruled on Friday. It gave Canada’s federal and provincial governments 12 months to approve laws that protect the rights of patients and physicians and the vulnerable from exploitation.

Former Labour MP Maryan Street, who failed to get her private member’s End-of-Life Choice Bill debated in the last parliament, said people around the world in similar democracies to ours were expressing their strong support for such a measure.

She passed the issue to Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway on leaving parliament but Labour leader Andrew Little told him to drop it. Lees-Galloway told pro-euthanasia campaigners in a letter last month that he believed the new parliament was “reasonably conservative and unlikely to be one that will pass socially progressive legislation under a conscience vote”.

But Dr Jack Havill, president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand, said opinion polls showed that voters of all party persuasions favoured a law change and it was time politicians responded to that.

He urged people who believed in the basic human right to dignity in dying, as in life, to write to MPs drawing their attention to the Canadian move which he said showed the judges were more in tune with the views of society than their political leaders might be.

“New Zealand has historically led the world in social reform,” he said. “It will be sad if Canada now joins the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and some American states in passing compassionate, enlightened, right-to-die legislation ahead of us.”


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