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Euthanasia controversial - survey

EMMA BEER
Last updated 13:00 05/12/2012

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MP Nick Smith says Nelson is "quite evenly split" on attitudes towards voluntary euthanasia.

The results of his annual electorate survey showed that 58 per cent (1309) of respondents supported a legislative change, while 39 per cent (893) opposed it and 3 per cent (61) were undecided.

This highlighted how contentious the issue was, Dr Smith said.

The "yes" or "no" question asked: "Should euthanasia be legalised to allow people who are terminally ill or severely disabled to end their life by lethal injection?"

"It shows that people are uneasy about high-profile cases of family members being prosecuted for murder, manslaughter or assisting suicide where the person is terminally ill and desperate to end their life, and when the family member has acted out of genuine compassion," he said.

While the survey was not "100 per cent scientific", it did give a good steer on Nelsonian's views, Dr Smith said.

Labour MP Maryan Street's End of Life Choice Bill on voluntary euthanasia has not been drawn from the ballot and is not yet an issue before Parliament.

Dr Smith said he would be closely scrutinising it and "doing a lot more homework".

"The key issue for me in deciding to support the bill or not is whether the checks and controls are sufficient to prevent abuse.

"I never want to see a situation where an elderly or disabled person feels guilty for living or loses their life because the legislation has insufficient safeguards." Dr Smith asked residents for their views in a newsletter survey distributed to 27,000 households. This year, a record 2263 responses were received.

Ms Street said she was delighted with the survey results, despite what she said was a skewed question.

"It was the most inflammatory and sensationalist expression of my bill that he could've put in his question, and he still got a 60/40 response in favour.

"If Nick got a 60/40 response in the basis of the question you couldn't call that evenly divided." Ms Street said support would have been greater with a fairer question.

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- The Nelson Mail

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