Do you support a law change to allow terminally ill people to take their own lives?
Almost 63 per cent of New Zealanders support proposed law changes that would allow ill people to end their lives, a new poll shows.
Today's results come a day after after Auckland man Evans Mott, 61, was discharged without conviction for assisting his wife to commit suicide.
Labour MP Maryan Street has drafted a member's bill that would make it legal for people who were terminally ill or suffering from an irreversible disease, to take their own life or have someone help them to die.
The bill has to be drawn from the member's ballot before it will be debated in Parliament and that could take some time.
A Horizon Research poll released today found 62.9 per cent of respondents supported the move, 12.3 per cent were opposed.
The poll involved 2969 adults who self-selected to participate online between July 5 and 20.
It has a margin of error of 1.8 per cent.
"Watching mom [sic] nurse dad to the end at our home was enough to make up my mind that at some point ending it faster is a kindness," one respondent wrote.
Men were slightly more likely to be opposed (14.2 per cent) to the law change than women (12.2 per cent) while the level of support was reasonably even between the sexes at 62.6 and 63.1 per cent respectively.
There was also majority support amongst ethnicities with 65 per cent of Maori, Pakeha and Indian people supporting it, 61.5 per cent of Pacific Islanders and 55.3 per cent of Asian people.
Support was particularly high among respondents aged 45-54 (71.6 per cent ) and 55-64 (65.3 per cent).
The majority of people (66.9 per cent) also supported the introduction of End of Life Directives - legal documents that outline a person's wish for medically assisted death should the issue arise.
Street said the results showed New Zealander's supported the need for greater compassion from the law.
"It is about people, in these [certain] circumstances only, being able to make that hardest of choices if they want to."
It was about giving people a legal option, not making it easy, she said.
"This is about self-determining adults in life being able to be self-determining about their moment and method of death."
Street did not want to comment specifically on Mott's case but said his sentence expressed an increasing compassion in society.
"Lesley Martin got 15 months custodial sentence, Sean Davison got five months home detention, Evans Mott discharged without conviction."
While the circumstances were different the social attitude was changing "and I think that's being reflected".
Martin was sentenced for the attempted murder of her terminally ill mother, Davison was charged with attempted murder but eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of inciting and procuring suicide.
Two previous attempts to change New Zealand's legislation have failed; former NZ First MP Peter Brown's Death with Dignity Bill was voted down 60 votes to 57.
Another bill, championed by Michael Laws in 1995, failed by 61 votes to 29.
End of Life Choice president Carole Sweney said the new poll meant it was now time for Parliament to listen to the people.
"Our politicians need to take into account the consistent and considerable majority who support law change in this area," she said.
A United States expert on the issue, Yvonne Shaw, is in New Zealand.
She said the main unintended consequence of the law change in Oregon was that more people were accessing hospice care - about 95 per cent of those in the Death with Dignity programme as opposed to an average 60 per cent outside.
"When people call they don't know what their options are," she said.
Exact numbers are difficult to collate but about 1200 have entered the programme since 1998, 700 have gone through with it.
Among the remainder were people that died before they could take their own life, and others who changed their mind.
Street is hoping her bill will be pulled from the ballot next week if space is made following member's day in Parliament on Wednesday.
It would be put to a conscience vote, meaning MPs would not have to vote along party lines, if drawn.
National MP Maggie Barry has already launched an anti-euthanasia campaign.
She believes it is not a sensible option because of the world-class palliative care available in New Zealand.
THE PROPOSED CHANGE:
It would make it legal for New Zealand residents aged over 18 to end their own life or seek assistance from someone else to do so.
And it would enable doctors and others to assist, though neither they nor the person ending their life would be able to be coerced into the decision.
There would be a seven day stand-down period once the decision was made before it could be actioned.
People would have to be mentally competent, have a terminal illness or irreversible disease and would have to see two medical practitioners.
They would also be encouraged to seek counselling.
Similar laws exist in Oregon and Washington states in the US, and in Holland and Switzerland.
BY THE NUMBERS
Overall support for law change?
Strongly support 30.2 per cent
Support 32.7 per cent
Neutral 15.8 per cent
Oppose 6.2 per cent
Strongly oppose 6.1 per cent
Not sure 9 per cent
If you were suffering for a terminal illness or irreversible condition would you want the option?
Yes 64.8 per cent
No 13.4 per cent
Not sure 21.8 per cent
Would you help a close friend or relative?
Definitely 16.2 per cent
Most likely 23.7 per cent
Not likely 14.2 per cent
Definitely not 18.2 per cent
I'm not really sure 27.7 per cent
- © Fairfax NZ News
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