'This is safer than any other process in NZ healthcare' – David Seymour stands by his euthanasia bill

Source: 1News

The End of Life Choice Bill had its second reading in Parliament last night, and ACT Party leader David Seymour, the bill's sponsor, is standing by it as being "safer than any other process in New Zealand healthcare".

The controversial bill on assisted dying was picked apart by MPs, especially on topics including a doctor's role in the process and coercion.

Yesterday on TVNZ1's Breakfast, Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero described the bill as "clumsy" , "cumbersome" and "complex".

She expressed concerns of coercion, particularly among disabled Kiwis who might feel like a burden.

But today on Breakfast, Mr Seymour said she was wrong about the number of doctors involved, adding that two doctors would be required to access the patient and judge if that person would be eligible.

"If the doctor suspects at any time that there is any kind of pressure then they have to take no further action - they have to fill out a form saying 'I suspect pressure', tell the person this is going no further," he said. 

"There's 200 million people around the world who live in a place where assisted dying is legal and, as you might expect, over that time other people have asked this question. They've studied: Is there coercion going on? Can we see people being pushed into this? And the evidence is that it doesn't happen.

"The way to have this debate is actually to talk about what's happened overseas because it's not like New Zealand is doing this for the first time," he said, adding that there are nations which have had assisted dying legislation for 20 years.

Canada and some US and Australian states have implemented euthanasia laws.

"This is something that three quarters of New Zealanders consistently say they want to be a choice. Why? I think because they've seen a bad death and they're saying, 'When my time comes, if I'm dying badly, I want to be able to choose'," Mr Seymour said.

"And given the rest of the world, or at least a substantial and growing portion of it, has managed to navigate these debates, I think that we should give New Zealanders who are ill and suffering at the end of their life the same choice too."

When asked about concerns regarding doctors making decisions on whether a person is eligible, Mr Seymour said doctors make life and death decisions every day in New Zealand - including on continuing treatment, to have surgery or to resuscitate.

"These decisions are made at our hospitals every day with nothing like the level of protocol and safeguarding stipulated in my bill," Mr Seymour said.

"This bill is safer than any other process in New Zealand healthcare."