NZ MP withdraws support for euthanasia bill - a delay but not the end of the matter.
Readers will recall that in late 2013 New Zealand List MP, Maryan Street withdrew her controversial 'End of Life Choice' Bill from the ballot system of the National Parliament because of fears that euthanasia might become an issue that would damage NZ Labour Party's chances at the polls in September 2014.
Ms Street was unsuccessful in her attempt to regain a seat in the parliament at the election. However, undeterred, another NZ Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, confirmed after the poll that he was likely to take the batton from Ms Street and push the bill back onto the ballot.
However, good news today (December 15) in the NZ media reports that, at the request of the NZ Labour Leader, Andrew Little, Lees-Galloway has dropped the bill.
Little explained to the media that. "It comes down to priorities at the moment," adding that 'they (NZ Labour) are "very much focused" on other issues, such as jobs and economic security.
"There are more people affected by weak labour market regulation and weak economic strategy than they are about the right to make explicit choices about how they die." Little further insisted that Labour isn't trying to avoid controversy by dropping the bill, explaining that it's just "about choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time."
The response from the pro-euthanasia movement in NZ was predictable:
Jack Havill, expressed his disappointment over the bill's fate. He said many Kiwis favour the end-of-life choice, and with the bill seemingly killed before it even reaches voting, patients are denied of chance to end their lives with dignity.
"We find this strange because it is clear that a majority of New Zealanders support the right to have medical assistance to die where there is terminal illness or irreversible unbearable suffering,"
Australia's Philip Nitschke tweeted to the effect that he sees this action to drop the bill as being done by 'gutless MPs'.
Potent rhetoric, perhaps, but Havill and Nitschke are denying the reality. If, as has been suggested, euthanasia was an issue of such overwhelming support, then why did NZ Labour want to drop an issue that could effectively galvanise 'a majority of New Zealanders' behind them? Little is right: euthanasia is not a high order priority for New Zealanders and certainly not for a political party that needs to rebuild after their election defeat. Far from being 'gutless', this volta face is about political and social reality.
In their media release congratulating NZ Labour, Euthanasia Free NZ belled the cat:
"Public support for voluntary euthanasia is overestimated and based on unscientific online polls that ask an uninformed public to respond to leading questions couched in euphemisms", says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
The unintended consequences of euthanasia legislation are unknown to many. Several depressed, but otherwise healthy, Belgians have been euthanised. Many naively believe that legal euthanasia can be regulated and that safeguards can prevent coercion and subtle pressure on vulnerable people to request death. It is not so.
The New Zealand Herald report offered some additional insights:
Opinion polls have shown strong public support for legalising euthanasia, but any Parliamentary debate is now unlikely to occur until at least the next term unless another MP drafts a bill or Government takes up the issue.
Prime Minister John Key has previously said he supported speeding up the process of death for a terminally ill patient but he felt the End of Life Choice Bill went too far.
Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said he was disappointed the bill had been dropped but it was unlikely anyone in his party would take it up at this stage.
While this is certainly good news, Little's comments also suggest that euthanasia may be an issue for another day. No room for complacency here.
Euthanasia Free NZ confirmed that they will continue to build their work in opposition to any future bill. The reality is that, the longer a debate drags on, the more MPs and the public are able to get beyond the rhetoric and look at the real issues.
We congratulate our colleagues in New Zealand for their continuing great work. There should be no doubt that their work has helped New Zealanders to understand the significant and insurmountable issues with euthanasia legislation.
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