Euthanasia backed in poll

By Mike Dinsdale

23 comments
Whangarei MP Phil Heatley
Whangarei MP Phil Heatley

More than 60 per cent of Whangarei residents want euthanasia legalised in some form while 85 per cent want changes to cannabis laws, a survey has found.

The research, carried out by Whangarei MP Phil Heatley, has surprised the National party MP, who traditionally votes along conservative lines and said the results will have him considering his stance on euthanasia.

But Bob McCoskrie, national director of conservative lobby group Family First, said the survey results on cannabis were at odds with national polls and he would oppose any attempt to decriminalise assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Mr Heatley has just released the outcome of his electorate survey where he sent questions to 7000 households in the electorate covering issues such as euthanasia, cannabis legislation, barriers stopping the district progressing, plans for unitary authorities and the biggest problems in the area.

He received 977 responses.

On euthanasia 46 per cent wanted it legalised for medical purposes only and 20 per cent wanted it legalised, with 20 per cent saying it should remain illegal and 9 per cent undecided. With cannabis, 62 per cent thought it should be legal, 23 per cent wanted it legalised for medical purposes only and 15 per cent wanted it to remain illegal.

Mr Heatley said the response to euthanasia took him by surprise and he would have to think about his stance on the issue.

"That's a lot (of people supporting euthanasia) and maybe I shouldn't be as conservative on this issue and that's worth looking at," he said.

"I have never supported it, but some people have very strong feelings about it and I acknowledge that."

He said his survey respondents were traditionally more conservative so the response to legalising cannabis was a big surprise, but he was firm on opposing any liberalisation of drug laws.

"I'm pretty head strong on this particular issue. It makes no sense to suggest to our kids that it's okay to smoke cannabis.

"Just because alcohol and tobacco are legal under controlled circumstances, it's no reason to promote another drug."

Mr McCoskrie said legalising euthanasia would place large numbers of vulnerable people at risk. "In particular those who are depressed, elderly, sick, disabled, those experiencing chronic illness, limited access to good medical care, and those who feel themselves to be under emotional or financial pressure to request early death," he said.

"It would have sent a dangerous message to young people about suicide and the value of life. Maintaining the current laws protects all New Zealanders equally."

Labour MP Maryann Street has withdrawn her private members bill which would attempt to decriminalise assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Meanwhile, Mr McCoskrie said, in the poll of 1000 New Zealanders by Curia Market Research, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statement "If an adult wishes to use a drug such as marijuana, they should be able to do so legally" only 33 per cent of respondents agreed, with 60 per cent disagreeing and 7 per cent being unsure or refusing to say.

HAVE YOUR SAY:

What do you think about the survey results on euthanasia and/or cannabis? Send your views to reporters@northernadvocate.co.nz

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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