Bill English: Assisted Dying Bill would be parliament-sanctioned killing

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 26 February 2019, 11:24a.m.
The former Prime Minister is a vehement opponent of David Seymour's bill. (Photo / NZ Herald)

A former Prime Minister is campaigning against the End of Life Choice Bill, saying it is dangerous and is parliament-sanctioned killing.

Sir Bill English was at a meeting that was held in Rangiora last night, one of many held to discuss David Seymour's Member's Bill.

It proposes people with terminal illness be able to request assisted dying.

Sir Bill told Chris Lynch that he has become more convinced about how dangerous the bill is.

"You have this discussion about the compassion of how to support people when they are dying, but Parliament and the MPs of Christchurch now have to write a set of rules to do something that they have not done before, which is to give permission to a small group of doctors to be able to kill people who have asked to be killed."

He says when the rules are full of hazards. Sir Bill believes it could make New Zealand a dangerous place to be old and confused, disabled, or young and suicidal.

"How do we tell young people not to consider suicide as a solution to their depression on the one hand, but on the other, but then say to if you ask for euthanasia, the state will organise it and provide a doctor."

When asked if he was scaremongering, Sir Bill says that he isn't as the legislation features broad, non-medical criteria that will allow people to utilise it.

"People have approached this with the mind of trying to alleviate suffering, and that's quite a legitimate and powerful driver. The reason we haven't gone down this path before is because taking the next step, which is we can now sanction a doctor to kill you, is rife for dangers for everyone else."

Sir Bill says that some generally well-educated people want control over the end of their lives, but those with disabilities who are in vulnerable position.

"They know that if the definition includes them, then that diminishes them, it puts them at risk."

Proponents of the bill on social media have questioned whether Sir Bill has ever been in a position where he has witnessed a loved one suffer.

The former Prime Minister says that medical experts who were also at the debate last night say that they have only seen a few cases where people were in an untenable position.

He says his religion (Sir Bill is Catholic) helps shape his views, but that his opposition is on the fact you can't make this safe.

"Parliament has turned this down several times, because its impossible to write legislation that enables choice for a few in a way that makes it safe for everyone else."

Sir Bill says that it is like having a rugby game without a referee as there are no consequences.

He says that a lot of the things that people consider to be assisted dying can already happen, as people can deny treatment if they no longer wish to live.

He fears that passing the bill would put pressure on older people when they reach a certain stage of life to take it up. 

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