Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a euthanasia bill in its first reading.
The End of Life Choice Bill, proposed by ACT Party MP David Seymour, was sent to the Justice select committee with 76 in favour, 44 against.
Tauranga’s three government list MPs – Labour’s Jan Tinetti and Angie Warren-Clark, and New Zealand First’s Clayton Mitchell – all voted in favour, principally to give the public a chance to have a say on the matter.
Jan says she felt she didn’t have enough information to take voting ‘yes’ off the table yet.
“I felt it needed to go to select committee so New Zealanders could have their say and the bill could be firmed up. I don’t know if I would vote in favour beyond that, as I want to see what the public have to say and what the select committee comes back with.
“They will do their research and look at what’s going on elsewhere.”
Angie believes New Zealanders are mature enough to have a discussion about this issue from all sides.
“People are definitely asking for this to be addressed, so I was happy to support it to select committee stage. I believe in the right to die with dignity, but I am going to look at all sides of the argument, and make my decision accordingly,” she says.
“I also think it is important GPs are able to make a conscientious objection if the bill becomes law.”
Clayton, like all New Zealand First MPs, agreed to support the bill on the condition a binding referendum is included on the matter.
“It shouldn’t be left to 120 temporarily-appointed MPs to make a decision for the entire country.”
He wouldn’t say at this stage what his personal opinion on euthanasia is, but says he’ll be voting against the bill if no referendum is included.
“I can say our caucus is probably split between those who support euthanasia and those who oppose it.”
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges was among the members of the National Party caucus who voted against the bill.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought, and spoken with constituents, but I made the decision to still vote against it,” he says.
“I think life is sacred, and our decisions around that should be taken with care and hesitancy. I worry about the pressure such a law could place on the elderly, who are unwell and might think the ‘right thing to do’ is just finish it now.”
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller also voted against the bill, although he regrets he was in the minority.
“The House has heard similar legislation twice over the course of the past two decades and on both occasions it was defeated because the legislation calls into question a principle at the very core of our legal system – the preservation of life.
“Any move to remove that prohibition by parliament is a huge step down a slippery slope. It is a sad day for New Zealand to see that fundamental principle eroded.”
He also considers it wrong the bill will go to the Justice select committee, as opposed to the Health select committee.
“To me this suggests they are trying to frame a health issue that involves doctors, nurses, and the administering drugs – essentially what is a medical procedure to end your life – as one of access to justice. This is wrong.
“The Health select committee has only this year finished considering the issue of euthanasia. The issue drew a record 21,000 submissions with an overwhelming majority of 80 per cent opposed.
“From my perspective our palliative care services, such as Waipuna Hospice, do an amazing job supporting those with life-limiting illnesses with nothing but care and compassion. I see no reason to radically redesign that framework”.
He appreciates not everyone in his electorate will share his view.
“But at the end of the day this was a conscience vote and you have to vote according to your values.”