Attorney-General busts myths on End of Life Choice Bill

Today the Attorney-General has tabled a Bill of Rights Act 1990, Section 7 report on the End of Life Choice Bill.

“I am pleased that the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Justice have agreed that my bill creates a framework for assisted dying that is consistent with the fundamental rights and freedoms of New Zealanders. This will provide reassurance to MPs when they vote on the Bill after this year’s election.”

“Critics of my Bill, short of substantive arguments, have called it ‘poorly drafted’. Today’s report from the Attorney-General debunks those claims.”

“Opponents will now need to explain why they would not allow dying people, in extreme suffering, to have a choice about how and when they die – rather than hiding behind those straw men.”

The Right not to be Deprived of Life

“I am particularly pleased that the report finds my Bill consistent with the right not to be deprived of life (s 8).”

“The report says that the eligibility criteria are narrow enough, and the safeguards strict enough, that the Bill will not cause wrongful deaths, and that assisted dying will be available only to the group the Bill intends – incurably or terminally ill, and in unbearable suffering.”

“It says that on the question of the right not to be deprived of life, the Bill is consistent with the principles of fundamental justice.”

“This differs from the previous Bill on assisted dying, in 2003. That Bill was found to be inconsistent with the right not to be deprived of life. It didn’t have all of the same safeguards that my Bill contains.”

Freedom of Conscience & Freedom of Expression

“The Attorney-General also confirms that the Bill is consistent with the freedom of conscience and freedom of expression of medical professionals (ss 13 and 14).”

“The Bill protects the right of medical practitioners to choose not to participate in assisted dying procedures, requiring them only to provide a referral to a willing medical practitioner, and to provide some information. These requirements have been found to be consistent with the rights of those medical practitioners.”

Limitation based on Age

“The report finds that the Bill’s requirement that a person requesting assisted dying be over 18 limits a person’s right under s19(1) of the Bill of Rights. It finds that my Bill is too restrictive – at the same time that opponents are claiming it will be open to too wide a group.”

“Parliament can pass the Bill with the age requirement intact. I will keep the age limit at 18 in the Bill to ensure that only competent adults, who are suffering unbearably due to incurable illness will have access to assisted dying.”

The End of Life Choice Bill will be debated in Parliament after this year’s election. Members’ Bills drawn from the Ballot retain their place on the order paper after the election.