Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key indicates possible support for euthanasia legislation

From Stuff in New Zealand:

Prime Minister John Key (pictured) has indicated he supports looking at the legislation surrounding euthanasia.

''That's because I think, while it's a sensitive issue that you would have to make sure was properly covered, I think there have also been some tragic cases where we have seen people before the courts where they have [assisted in euthanasia] at the will of the person they have ended their lives for,'' he told a Family First forum in Auckland today.

Secretary of Voluntary Euthanasia New Zealand Pat Hubbard said Key's comments were ''extraordinarily good news'' for the ''death with dignity'' group.

Hubbard said many MPs individually expressed their support for pro-euthanasia legislation but hearing Key support taking another look at the issues was ''very encouraging''.

She said Key's views were in line with the public.

Randomised polls showed public support for euthanasia in New Zealand, which sat around 70 per cent, she said.

''There are a lot of people saying this is not a good situation. We have all these aging people and people with chronic diseases who are being kept alive artificially, and a lot of them might not prefer to be kept alive artificially.''

Hubbard said given the lengthy process of getting legislation passed through parliament any action from politicians was unlikely before this year's general election.

The last time the issue of euthanasia was brought before parliament was with New Zealand First MP Peter Brown's Death with Dignity bill in 2003.

It was defeated by three votes.

At the time John Key, then an opposition MP, said it would be hard to implement such a law.

''Drawing the line to determine at what stage of an individual's illness the voluntary euthanasia took place would be too difficult for those working in the field,'' he said.

Key explained today that he voted in favour of that bill going to the select committee stage.

Family First Director Bob McCoskrie said he didn't mind politicians again looking into euthanasia but his organisation did not support it.

''Our argument has always been to improve and make our palliative care world class and then the need for euthanasia is weakened,'' he said.

He said the conviction of people who assisted the suicide of their loved ones sent the ''right societal message''.

Auckland-born scientist Sean Davison is currently before the courts over the attempted murder of his mother in 2006.

His charges followed the publication of his book, Before We Say Goodbye, in which he admitted giving his mother morphine before she died.

Another pro-euthanasia campaigner, Lesley Martin, was convicted and sentenced in 2004 under similar circumstances following the publication of her book To Die Like a Dog.

More than 220 delegates representing over 85 family-focused organisations and groups were at the sixth annual Family First conference organised by Family First NZ today.