More than 21,000 New Zealanders to have their say on euthanasia - MPs to hold roadshow

Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales died from cancer, shortly after hearing that a High Court bid to allow her doctor to ...
MATT VICKERS

Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales died from cancer, shortly after hearing that a High Court bid to allow her doctor to help her die without criminal prosecution had failed. Her husband, Matt Vickers, has continued her fight.

A petition to hold a parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia has pulled in a staggering 21,000 submissions from across New Zealand. 

It's an issue more than 1800 submitters felt strongly enough about, that they also wanted to appear in front of Parliament's Health Select Committee to speak to MPs directly. 

Committee chair Simon O'Connor said the MPs would hold hearings around New Zealand, to allow as many as possible the chance to submit in person. 

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"The Office of the Clerk has processed a total of 21,435 written submissions.  This represents the bulk of submissions received. 

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"A final number will be known later in the process after the Office of the Clerk completes its final considerations," he said.

Location for the hearings would be decided by the committee over the coming weeks.

O'Connor said the committee wanted to thank everyone who had made a submission. A parliamentary issue had not garnered similar levels of public participation since the same sex marriage bill in 2012. 

Labour MP Louisa Wall's marriage equality bill has prompted fierce debate, with Parliament receiving more than 20,000 submissions on that one.

But while MPs would investigate euthanasia and make a decision on whether law changes were required, no laws would be changed as a result. 

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Prime Minister John Key has confirmed he supports an inquiry, but would not put the issue on the Government's work programme. 

Instead, ACT leader David Seymour has a members bill in the ballot, waiting to be drawn. It's one of 79 bills however, so could be drawn this year or could languish in the ballot indefinitely. 

Seymour has expressed disappointment that a ballot held on Thursday saw what is largely thought to be a tactical Government "filler bill" drawn instead.

That was by National MP Nuk Korako, which would let airports  "determine the most appropriate way to advertise lost property". 

He said the issue of lost luggage was one he was passionate about. 

The euthanasia petition was instigated by the voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand and former Labour MP Maryan Street, following the death of right-to-die campaigner Lecretia Seales.

It demanded the committee examine public opinion on the introduction of legislation "which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable".

Street previously had her own private members bill in the ballot, which was passed to Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway when she failed to make it back into Parliament after the 2014 election.

But Labour leader Andrew Little took it off Labour's programme because the party had more pressing issues to attend to. 

 - Stuff

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