OPINION: Referendum needed on End of Life Choice Bill

Some issues are too big to be determined by politicians alone and voluntary euthanasia is one of them. Photo Parliament NZ

The End of Life Choice Bill will soon come up for its second reading in Parliament and a vote will then be held on whether it proceeds to the next stage of the legislative process.

This is the law change that would allow for voluntary euthanasia.

The feedback I have received on the Bill has been mixed and I have heard strong arguments from people on both sides of the debate.

As a local MP, I strive to support greater personal freedom and choice for our community. These freedoms should not be without limitation however and safeguards are vital when laws are liberalised.

The Bill is not yet in a shape where it could be passed. Further amendments are needed to improve it and address shortcomings that have been identified. Parliament should look at the available options to improve the Bill before taking a final vote.

In 2016, I surveyed my electorate on this matter and received 3599 responses, with 2516 in favour. That’s 70 per cent support from that survey. This result is close to opinion polls that have been published recently, although submissions to the select committee were heavily opposed.

A proposal for a referendum to be held on the matter has been put forward. I intend to support there being a referendum so New Zealanders have the final say on this complex issue.

Some issues are too big to be determined by politicians alone and this is one of them.

Another that is going up for a referendum is the issue of personal and recreational use of cannabis.

I can see merit in medicinal use of cannabis where someone has a demonstrable health need. I am not convinced the country is yet ready to see the drug be legalised entirely, however I may be proved wrong when New Zealanders have their say at the ballot box.

On a final note, thank you to everyone who has provided feedback on my podcast ‘JLR Unfiltered’. You can listen to it online by searching for ‘JLR Unfiltered’ in the Apple iTunes Store, or by going to www.jamileeross.podbean.com.

  • Jami-Lee Ross

MP for Botany


  1. Euthanasia Fuels Suicides – I was surprised to read from Jamie Lee Ross that he intends to support the Seymour bill at Second Reading in the hope that it might later go to a referendum.
    As a strong champion of mental health I would have expected him to realise that the bill contains dangers for those suffering mental distress. Why is this?
    Reporting of suicides is widely accepted to lead to the danger of further suicides. This includes the reporting of doctor-assisted suicides. Why else do media reports of euthanasia legislation, including this Bill, include for readers the details of helplines for depression and suicide?

    Contrary to Seymour’s claim in his Preamble to the Bill, that ‘people are ending their lives earlier than they would if assisted dying were legally available to them’, the opposite is true. Legalising doctor-assisted dying does not reduce suicide, it increases it.

    An important study published in October 2016 by British scholars Jones and Paton showed that legalizing assisted suicide had led to a rise in overall suicide rates in those US states affected. The paper says: “It may be that legalising assisted dying also provides positive role models who help normalise suicide more generally.”

    So legalising any form of suicide undermines the value of suicide prevention messages throughout society, whether intended for the old or for the young.

    In effect, it would create a medical, and legal, double-standard.

  2. I disagree
    The weak and the vulnerable need protecting David’s Bill is not doing this
    If one person could be wrongfully killed then Bill should not be passed
    In David’s bill many could be wrongfully killed

  3. Advocating for a referendum must be very tempting for politicians who want to avoid hard decisions and would rather kick the can down the road.

    But there are dangers for vulnerable New Zealanders if the euthanasia issue goes to a popular vote that Jami-Lee Ross and other MPs may not be aware of.

    Not only would a referendum place the decision in the hands of many who do not have the time to thoroughly research the issue, I believe there is a deeper and more worrying reason against it.

    It is simply this: that those most at risk from the adverse effects of such a bill are members of a minority (all be it a sizeable one) – namely the poor, the mentally vulnerable and all those whose healthcare is not adequately funded and protected.

    Even if all these people voted against euthanasia, their votes would not prevent the bill’s passing.

    Of course there would be some among the non-vulnerable who would vote against it because they care enough about the rights of others. But there is no guarantee this would be enough to defeat this dangerous bill.

    A referendum would, in effect, invite a majority verdict on the lives of the minority.

  4. Jaie Lee Ross may our doctors contnue to practice as caring healers, not merchants of death. I suggest you do more research on the countries who have legalised assisted suicide & all forms of euthanansia. I say NO to Seymours Bill.

  5. The bill does not protect those from coercion or error in diagnosis or prognosis
    I was wrongly tested and diagnosed for years
    This bill does not guarantee that no one would not be wrongfully killed therefore it must not be passed you are quite correct on that Jamie
    Laws must protect the people of the land

  6. The fundamental problem I have with the Death Bill is that it is not about giving people choice in dying. It is about protecting doctors who kill. The protection of doctors is near absolute. The scope for abuse is massive. Even those who support euthanasia should oppose this bill due to there being no real protections for the vulnerable.

  7. Mr Ross aligns himself with New Zealand First (NZ First) to support a referendum. He appears to support changing to a Swiss form of democracy, where most issues are decided by referendum, rather than a democratically elected Parliament.
    Tracey Martin (NZ First) in her first reading speech on 13 December 2017 stated that this issue should not be decided by 120 temporarily empowered MPs but by the public of New Zealand. She also stated that MPs are no less intelligent or capable than the public. It therefore follows that MPs will make at least as good a decision as the public.
    In this respect, there is no difference between “temporarily” empowered MPs and the “temporarily” empowered members of the public who would participate in a referendum on a particular date. Either way, a decision is being made for future generations.
    The public has already made its views clear through the proper Select Committee process, with “about 90%” of submitters opposing the Bill for various reasons.
    It is not in our national interest that this issue drag on for so long, which a referendum would certainly ensure. Further, many would vote in a referendum simply based on which simple slogan most appeals to them – hardly a reliable basis for good law-making!
    I call on Mr Ross to:
    1. Abandon this push for a referendum – he has no public mandate for it. His mandate is to do the job for which he was elected – which includes making informed decisions on proposed legislation;
    2. Heed the wisdom and evidence of the Committee and 39,159 submissions, noting that the Committee was “unable to agree that the Bill be passed”; and
    3. Exercise his individual conscience, and make an informed individual vote on this Bill. His voting will be better than us relying on the vagaries of a referendum.
    Don’t “pass the buck” Mr Ross.
    The people of New Zealand will thank you for it, and history will judge you well.

  8. I m curious when did you do your survey and what questions did you ask? The recent polls are saying New Zealanders are moving away from David’s bill
    They realise the wide reaching effects and lack of safety and are now withdrawing support
    I was at a recent meeting and asked the twenty there how would they vote and only one said yes to David’s bill
    Jamie man up vote no

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