Govt will back euthanasia inquiry but won't create new laws, says John Key video

ASHTEN MACDONALD/Stuff.co.nz

John Key talks euthanasia following Lecretia Seales losing her fight to have a doctor-assisted death.

The Government will not put euthanasia on its work programme but will support an inquiry into the issue, the Prime Minister says. 

But for any law to be passed, a private member's bill will have to be put before Parliament

Prime Minister John Key's comments come as debate strengthens over the right to die, following Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales' bid for the courts to rule in favour of assisted suicide.

Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, 42, had asked the High Court to uphold her right to die at the time of her choosing, ...
SUPPLIED

Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, 42, had asked the High Court to uphold her right to die at the time of her choosing, but died naturally.

Seales died on Friday of natural causes, after a long battle with cancer. Just hours before she died, Seales was made aware of Justice David Collins' ruling on her case - that Parliament was the only body that could legislate for euthanasia to become legal. 

At his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Key said he was personally sympathetic to her case, but a Government-sponsored bill would not occur, because it would never make it through the National caucus. 

Nor was it an issue he was prepared to whip caucus support for, but he laid out the process in which a law-change might occur. 

Prime Minister John Key says he will likely support a private members bill to legalise euthanasia, but the Government ...
Maarten Holl

Prime Minister John Key says he will likely support a private members bill to legalise euthanasia, but the Government won't sponsor one.

"There will be no Government-sponsored bill for the very reason it's a conscience issue."

READ MORE:
Death of  Lecretia  Seales may inspire Parliament to take up issue of voluntary euthanasia
California Senate approves physician-assisted suicide bill
* Tributes flow for right-to-die campaigner  Lecretia Seales
  Lecretia  Seales lived with passion, determination and autonomy
* Judith Collins: It's time for a serious discussion about euthanasia
* Physicist Stephen Hawkins says he would consider assisted suicide

That meant individual MPs would vote according to their personal beliefs. 

"Each caucus and party will need to have their own discussions on this. The Government's starting position is that euthanasia, or assisted death, is a conscience issue that is a matter for each individual," Key said. 

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The Government was open to holding an inquiry, which was being called for in a petition by the The Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand.

"However, I would caution that while this would facilitate a debate, allowing the public a forum in which to participate, it would not satisfy Lecretia's ultimate wish for the law to be changed. 

"That can only be done by specific legislation being put before the house. Any MP is free to do just that, and if drawn from the ballot Parliament will debate it," Key said.

ACT leader David Seymour was in the process of drafting a member's bill, and Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway said he would attempt to table his own bill at the first opportunity, which would be when the house sat again next Tuesday. 

That might allow Lees-Galloway to bypass the ballot, but only if no one objected, which was unlikely. 

During the last parliamentary term, former Labour MP Maryan Street proposed and championed the End-of-Life Choice Bill, which was taken over by her Labour colleague, Lees-Galloway, when she failed to make back into Parliament. But Labour leader Andrew Little told him to drop it as the party had more pressing issues to attend to.

Parliament has previously voted down members' bills seeking to legalise euthanasia, including that of former New Zealand First MP Peter Brown, who watched his wife die of cancer and drafted a Death with Dignity Bill in 2003.

Key said he voted for that bill to go through to select committee, and he would likely personally support another similar through the first stages of Parliament, at least.

But he would not lobby other MPs to do the same. 

"Striking the right legislative balance with clear definitions and adequately strong protections to protect robust law is an extremely difficult task, and the fact that no bill has yet passed is testament to that.

"...Ultimately the complexity with this issue is probably in way summarised best by Lecretia herself, when she said words to the effect that in the end her husband Matt would know when the time was right," Key said. 

"That's a challenge for lawmakers, is actually defining that point." 

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the party supported a select committee inquiry, which could make recommendations to Parliament. 

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne said the time was right for wider debate: "any legislative change should flow from that".

But it needed to be broader than a debate solely about euthanasia.

The Maori Party said it did not have a formal position on euthanasia but was also open to a debate.

NZ First leader Winston Peters supported a referendum on the matter, saying it was not for MPs to make the decision.

 - Stuff

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