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Great divide in euthanasia debate

National MP Maggie Barry. PHOTO/FILE

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Strong speeches and emotional testimony from stage and floor were features as more than 250 people gathered to discuss euthanasia in Carterton on Monday night.

Discussion centred around ACT leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choices Bill, but this was more than politicians stating their views.

One member of the audience struggled to breathe as he rose to speak in favour of euthanasia, after battling his illness for many months.

“I think this is a right that I should have, not anybody else. It is my right if I want to go now because I am struggling to breathe.

“I can’t walk anywhere. I have to be pushed around in a bloody wheelchair and it is just demoralising.”

He said he was just 64.

“So, if anyone tries to tell me that I can’t do euthanasia, I tell them to get stuffed,” he said.

He told Seymour: “To me your bill is about a choice and that person should have that choice and nobody else but that person.”

The crowd was fairly evenly divided, according to a show of hands.

The medical director of Te Omanga Hospice, Ian Gwynne-Robson, spoke of his disabled wife, Diana, who had made a submission to the health committee on the issue previously.

She wrote of how people like her could be written off by under-trained doctors who were intimidated by complex conditions.

She had suffered intolerable pain but had found solutions and had learned to enjoy her life.

Gwynne-Robson also told the story of a woman who did not want euthanasia as an option but was under the thumb of a husband responsible for her care who did favour it.

“The bill has a ‘barn door wide open’ criteria that doesn’t protect enough people,” he said.

National MP Maggie Barry got a negative reaction to a reference to possible coercion within families when money was at stake and to the suggestion insurance companies might incentivise euthanasia as a cheaper option.

She said of 36,000 submissions received by Parliament’s justice committee, 90 per cent were against.

Seymour said his was a “bill with sufficient safeguards that has been signed off by the right people, giving choice for those who wanted it and protections for those who needed it”.

Barry said her own private member’s bill, if selected and passed, would provide better access to palliative care, which was world class in this country.

Dr Owen Prior said his family had been doctors for more than 100 years.

“I am not in favour of euthanasia. If you asked me to give someone an injection to kill you off, I wouldn’t do it.”

He spoke in support of advance directives, which give people a say in what treatment they wanted to receive if they fell ill.

He also spoke about the past practice of increasing doses of morphine, and the discussion noted morphine could be given with an intention to relieve pain rather than to kill.

Gwynne-Robson said it was very hard to kill a person with morphine. It was a disservice to perpetuate the myth that morphine killed.

“People who get good palliative care live longer,” he said.

A man called David Seymour asked his politician namesake about insurance and was told that if the bill passed, the death certificate would record the person had died of the condition that qualified them for
assisted dying.

Seymour’s private member’s bill has passed a first reading in Parliament.


  1. The report that 36,009 submissions had been received nd 90 percent were opposed to the bill is deceiving. To the majority of the public the whole submission procedure is foreign to them so they do not investigate and get involved. In addition people are too busy working and providing for their families with little spare time for such matters. A better idea of support are the results of polls, including radio ones, which have shown 75 percent supporting End of Choice legislation. Consider who is opposing it and their objectives. Is it religion, fear of losing their jobs etc? It would be voluntary with protection for vulnerable persons. In my opinion better to use facilities and people skills for those who would recover. Humans need dignity in this matter. MPs may have their own personal views but they must take into account and vote according to what their constituents want for themselves. Remember not all pain can be relieved.

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