Euthanasia bill close to MP's heart

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2013
MARYAN STREET:
MARYAN STREET: The MP's euthanasia bill is in the ballot box

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People who have been self-determining, autonomous adults throughout their lives should have every right to choose when their time is up, MP Maryan Street says.

Along with Waikato's Voluntary Euthanasia Society, Ms Street travelled to New Plymouth yesterday to speak about her End of Life Choice Bill, which is in Parliament's ballot box.

Support towards the bill appeared strong in New Plymouth, with more than 50 people, young and old, turning out to listen and express their views.

Only one attendee, with Christian views, stood up to express his disagreement with the document.

The bill proposes euthanasia be open to people with terminal illness likely to cause death within 12 months, or to people with an irreversible physical or mental condition that renders their life unbearable - by their own assessment.

Ms Street, a former New Plymouth Girls' High School student, said the topic of euthanasia was a growing issue that had continued to generate much interest over the years.

"I feel a little aggrieved when people say this bill will be the start of a slippery slope where we will just dispose of everybody who is inconvenient for society. It's not true. It is about people having the choice as to when they end their lives."

With a mother and sister who have died from terminal illness, Ms Street has seen first-hand what it is like for a loved one to experience pain and suffering until their last breath.

"This bill is not for the well elderly.

"This is about end-of-life choice. Nothing in it is compulsory, nobody has to do it, but it will provide a choice for those who wish to choose their moment of death."

Should the legislation be enforced, Ms Street said it would apply only to New Zealand citizens over 18 years of age.

"Application for children with terminal illness was a bridge too far in my view at this time. That might be something that may happen in the future, but not now."

The bill also proposes the patient has a seven-day reflection period, and family members cannot annul it.

Ms Street said her decision to include "irreversible mental condition" in the criteria had stirred up a lot of criticism.

"The thing I clearly had in my mind, and from what I've been told time and time again, is that prominent fear of Alzheimer's, people's fear of ending their days with a lack of dignity, and not even knowing. So I had to put it in there."

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Also causing controversy was a clause in the bill that states if a medical practitioner did not want to participate in the process, they must refer the patient to someone who will.

"That's quite controversial for doctors because if they don't wish to participate in it at all, they then feel compromised by referring them to someone who will, so they feel they've participated anyway.

"That may be something which is altered," she said.

Similar bills have been through Parliament twice before.

In 1995, one was defeated 61-29, while in 2003 another missed out by two votes.

New Plymouth woman Denise Walters attended yesterday's meeting and was strongly in favour of what she heard.

"It is absolutely necessary. There is no point of going through all that pain and suffering while you're waiting for it to happen. Some people are kept alive with no dignity or quality of life and that is not right," she said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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