Claim Jacinda Ardern's euthanasia stance encourages suicide struck down by PM
Prime Minister Bill English texted his backbench MP Simon O'Connor to tell him he was wrong to link Jacinda Ardern's stance on euthanasia to her youth suicide policy.
The National backbencher is facing outrage for suggesting Ardern is encouraging suicide by supporting euthanasia.
O'Connor posted the comments on World Suicide Prevention Day, hours after Jacinda Ardern made a teary-eyed speech at Parliament, where 606 pairs of shoes – each representing a person who died by suicide in the last year – were delivered.
"It's strange that Jacinda is so concerned about youth suicide but is happy to encourage the suicide of the elderly, disabled, and sick. Perhaps she just values one group more than the others? Just saying," O'Connor wrote on his Facebook on Sunday night.
But his leader says O'Connor was wrong to do so.
"We don't link euthanasia and suicide," English said, adding that he had texted O'Connor saying this.
"In both cases what's important here is compassion for people who are vulnerable."
"I know Simon, he's expressing what I know is a strong and compassionate view."
Ardern told Stuff she respects O'Connor's right to his opinion on euthanasia, but he shouldn't conflate it with suicide.
"I absolutely respect Simon's right to hold the view he has on euthanasia, but to imply that it is the same issue as our terrible suicide rates in New Zealand is just wrong."
O'Connor is the member for Tāmaki and chaired Parliament's health committee when it published a divisive report on the issue of assisted dying earlier this year, making no recommendations for changes to current New Zealand law.
Ardern had indicated support for David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill which would give terminally ill people with six months to live or those with a "grievous and irremediable" condition the ability to ask a doctor to help end their lives.
Seymour said O'Connor was "confused".
"Sorry Simon, but you're confused," Seymour wrote on Facebook.
"Youth suicide and assisted dying are totally different from each other. I've volunteered as a KidsLine buddy, counselling young people, so I can tell you the two issues could not be further apart."
O'Connor responded to several outraged commenters.
"Euthanasia is not the same as suicide Simon. You're smarter than that. You can and have expressed anti-euthanasia views much more thoughtfully & effectively," wrote Jennifer Lees-Marshment.
O'Connor replied: "Of course it is - it is the intentional ending of one's life. That is not up for debate. Those who support euthanasia/PAS are arguing that suicide is an acceptable solution to some problems. I disagree. That is what we are discussing."
His Labour opponent Sam McDonald wrote: "Mate I respect you, but you've crossed the line by demeaning Jacinda's sincere response to suicide."
O'Connor responded: "I am not demeaning her sincerity, I am questioning it. You cannot be opposed to suicide for some in society, while happily advocating suicide for others."
"She has been on record supporting the suicide of the sick, elderly, and disabled. Either she is opposed to suicide or she is not. I look forward to her opposition to Seymour's bill."
He described other comments as "ad hominem attacks" and said there was "no such thing as stringent safeguards" against euthanasia being used maliciously.
Many on his Facebook agreed with his views, but the majority expressed disgust.
O'Connor has been asked for comment.
Where to get help
Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.