Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Legalising euthanasia gains support in Bay

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Euthanasia campaigners Tessa Nesdale Johnathan Spink. Photo/Andrew Warner
Euthanasia campaigners Tessa Nesdale Johnathan Spink. Photo/Andrew Warner

A recent survey of Bay of Plenty residents carried out by Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller found a majority were in favour of a law change.

In Mr Muller's annual survey he asked his constituents if they supported the law change to voluntary euthanasia. He received 850 replies, with 74 per cent in favour of a law change and 26 per cent against.

Mr Muller included the question to keep up with issues which were circulating the public, but said if he were to vote on legalising euthanasia, he would vote no.

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"I just wanted to really get a sense of the community's perspective on that," he said.

He said if the voluntary euthanasia bill was pulled from the ballot, it would be a conscious vote.

"For me, I would naturally be inclined to vote against any liberalisation of the current law and part of that is a moral perspective."

He said one of the reasons behind his decision would be from what he had heard from people who cared "for those at the end of their life journey", and that changing the law would bring a "whole lot of challenges".

Chairman of the Bay of Plenty branch of End-of-Life Choice Jonathan Spink was not surprised by the result.

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"What we really need is a law change to come through a private members' bill ... we're hopeful it'll come of that."

He said people who were suffering unbearably and had a terminal illness should be able to have access to voluntary euthanasia.

End-of-Life Choice Tauranga Committee member Tess Nesdale said she joined the group after working in palliative care in England.

"It's a person's choice. Nobody is going to have an unwanted death. You, and only you, can give permission for your life to be ended," she said. "It's a human right to die peacefully without pain, in your own time."

Waipuna Hospice chief executive Dr Richard Thurlow said he too was not surprised by the result, but said those answering in this, and other recent surveys may not be the most appropriate to answer.

"We're asking a population of people, who, this is possibly the first time they've thought about it," he said. "Is that the demographic we need to be surveying, or is it actually the people who are in the period at the end of their life."

"From my experience at hospice and hospices around the country, is that when you get that life-limiting condition, or given there is no further treatment discussion with your specialist, initially there is a loss of hope and often people do question, what is life all for and everything else like that, but ... after a couple of weeks of being looked after by hospice, anyone who has any questions of wanting to have an assisted death in some way, actually change their mind."

He said he thought funding was better to be directed into palliative care in hospice, and in hospital and in aged residential care.

ACT New Zealand leader David Seymour, who had a private members' bill of legalising voluntary euthanasia in the ballot, said he thought the Bay of Plenty electorate survey result was in accordance with the rest of New Zealand.

"I find older people are more favourable, because they spend more time thinking about what sort of choices they'd like to have in the end of their life," he said.

He said there would be strict rules about who could have an assisted death.

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