Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Euthanasia legitimate up to a point, says Key

PM recognises some mercy killing situations but says Maryan Street's bill goes too far

Mr Key has signalled possible loosening of euthanasia laws. Photo / NZ Herald
Mr Key has signalled possible loosening of euthanasia laws. Photo / NZ Herald

Prime Minister John Key has signalled possible loosening of euthanasia laws, saying he would sympathise with "speeding up of the process" of death for a terminally ill patient.

He told Family First director Bob McCoskrie in a public interview at a forum in Auckland yesterday that euthanasia would be "a legitimate thing" to speed up death for a terminally ill patient who was in pain.

But he said he would not vote for a bill proposed by Labour MP Maryan Street that would allow any adult suffering from a condition likely to cause their death within 12 months to request medical assistance to die.

"If it's the same bill, I'll oppose it because I think the way that bill was structured is not good law," he said. "In the world that I live in, in my head, it's a conscience issue. So when someone says to me 'euthanasia' I think of the person that is terminally ill, that is going to die, and in a tremendous amount of times and in my world, euthanasia is a legitimate thing in that situation."

He said modern medical practice was to give terminally ill patients pain relief and allow the natural process of death to occur.

"The palliative care would not do anything to prolong their life or to shorten their life. What I would say is in that scenario I ... could understand the speeding up of the process," he said. "The bill goes a lot further than that. In the situation where grandma is 92 [and people just want her to go], that's not acceptable."

Mr Key voted for a bill brought by former NZ First MP Peter Brown in 2003 that would have allowed people with terminal illnesses to seek medical assistance. That bill was defeated by 60 votes to 57. He said Mr Brown introduced the bill because he saw the pain his wife went through before she died of cancer.

Labour leader David Cunliffe declined to comment on the issue yesterday and Ms Street did not return calls.

Mr McCoskrie also asked Mr Key about abortion, gay marriage, smacking, the drinking age and decriminalising marijuana. Mr Key did not support changing the law on any of those issues.

However, answering another question on prostitution, he said Customs Minister Nicky Wagner was working on a policy to tackle street prostitution in residential areas.

"The whole argument around prostitution law reform that was put up was that it would eliminate street prostitution and there would be a safe environment where girls could work," he said.

"That hasn't worked. If you go out to South Auckland, there's 14-year-old girls out there. Everyone is struggling to work out exactly how to make it work."

- NZ Herald

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