Opinion: Community debate at its best

Few issues are as controversial as a conscience vote in Parliament involving life and death. A vote which will be difficult for many of the 120 MPs that have to vote on the End of Life Choice Bill again before the end of this year.

Earlier this week I hosted a public meeting and debate on this Bill. It’s a proposal that would effectively legalise voluntary euthanasia, or assisted dying.

The End of Life Choice Bill has evoked strong opinions in both opposition and support of the ideas it confronts.

The Bill, in the name of ACT’s David Seymour, is what we call a conscience issue for Parliament. This means that your local representatives are not bound to vote down political party lines. Instead, it is our job to listen and attempt to reflect the values and positions we believe exist within our communities.

Parliament is often said to be at its best when MPs have a free vote. We see well-researched and argued points, delivered with passion and meaning. The shackles of the party whips are dropped, and the normally forgone conclusion of votes disappears.
Public debate in the community is also stronger when the public and decision makers are able to come face to face with each other. That’s what we did on Monday.

Speaking at the meeting we had the Bill’s sponsor, David Seymour, speaking in favour of the Bill. My colleague for Helensville, Chris Penk, argued in opposition.

In favour of the Bill, it was argued that the current law is unjust and forces people into harmful circumstances that undermine their dignity at the end of their life. Moreover, there were amble safeguards in place in the Bill to ensure that the decision and circumstances where such choices were made were true reflections of the individual making them.

In opposition, it was argued that the nature of the choice being made was open to undue influence and coercion. Essentially, that it was very hard to tell whether a good decision was being made and the consequence was irreversible and, in that context, the decision could never have enough safeguards.

The 150 or so New Zealanders sitting in the room on Monday will have heard canvassed one of the more challenging topics we will confront this year. It’s one where it’s impossible to please everyone, but I am glad we were able to put on such an event to listen, learn and engage.

Jami-Lee Ross
MP for Botany


  1. Anyone against this Bill obviously has not suffered intense pain morning & night. Age does not come into it.

  2. Regrettably, the evidence does not support Jami-Lee Ross’s claim that politicians debate proposed legislation like the End of Life Choice Bill in a way which includes “well-researched and argued points, delivered with … meaning”. Having sat through and researched multiple Parliamentary debates on this issue, I have found the politicians opposing such legislation fail to meet the most basic standards of principles, facts reflecting good research and reasoned arguments that are required for all good policy and legislation. The fallacies that the choice of assisted dying is “open to undue influence and coercion” and “the decision could never have enough safeguards” are typical. They are merely assertions for which there isn’t a shred of evidence from the many places that have legal voluntary assisted dying – up to 17 jurisdictions and more on the way. Nor are they based on reasonable assumptions that such abuses would occur, given the demanding requirements and processes that have to be satisfied by the doctors involved before agreeing legally to provide assistance.

    Well-researched points delivered with meaning would be good – not self-serving claims about how well politicians are serving the public even when they sprout fear-mongering propaganda with no basis in reality or reason, they fail to acknowledge and respond with compassion and respect for seriously ill competent adults at the end of their lives with intolerable suffering, and they fail to represent the overwhelming majority who want the choice offered by the End of Life Choice Bill.

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