Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Labour: Euthanasia bill will return

Coroner calls for fresh debate, but MP says the issue risks becoming a political football in election year.

Maryan Street removed her End of Life Choice Bill from the private member's bill ballot this year out of concern a debate about euthanasia could come up in election year.
Maryan Street removed her End of Life Choice Bill from the private member's bill ballot this year out of concern a debate about euthanasia could come up in election year.

Voluntary euthanasia will be placed back on the political agenda "like a shot" after the next election, Labour MP Maryan Street says.

Parliament was urged by a coroner yesterday to reopen debate on the issue after the case of 85-year-old Edna Gluyas, who committed suicide in August 2011 after a long struggle with arthritis and back pain.

Ms Street removed her End of Life Choice Bill from the private member's bill ballot this year out of concern a debate about euthanasia could come up in election year and become a political football. Labour was also concerned the bill could distract from its main policies and deter more conservative voters.

Asked whether she would revisit the issue after the general election, Ms Street said: "I'll put it back in the ballot like a shot. That will be one of my first actions."

She hoped that if Labour formed a government next year it could be adopted as policy.

"The ballot is too capricious for something as important as this."

Labour leader David Cunliffe said the coroner's recommendation was "interesting". Mr Cunliffe, a staunch Anglican, said he would not reveal his personal stance on legalising euthanasia, which wouldbe decided by a conscience vote if itcame before Parliament.

"I have a personal view, but given my current responsibilities I'm going to reserve that until my caucus has an opportunity to discuss it."

Prime Minister John Key said he broadly supported the principle of voluntary euthanasia and would consider it if he was terminally ill.

He said the Government would not introduce it as policy because a clear party stance was required and many National MPs would not support it.

Mr Key said he would not back Ms Street's bill because he felt it went too far.

The End of Life Choice Bill would allow people aged 18 or over to be helped to die if they were proven mentally competent by two doctors, after consultation with family, and after a "stand-down" period of a week.

Police had been concerned Ms Gluyas might have had help to commit suicide, but an investigation found she was capable of carrying out the process herself.

Wellington regional coroner Ian Roderick Smith said euthanasia was a more appropriate term for Mrs Gluyas' "tragic death".

"Once again this death raises the vexed issue of euthanasia and ... it will be necessary for Parliament to address this matter yet again."

The last attempt to legalise euthanasia, in 2003, failed by 60 votes to 58.

- additional reporting APNZ

- NZ Herald

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