A committee of MPs considering the controversial euthanasia bill has made only minor technical changes, leaving Parliament to debate the issue ahead of its second reading.
The report of the Justice Committee on Act leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill was tabled in Parliament today following more than 39,000 submissions and 15 months of work.
The committee's chairman, Labour MP Raymond Huo, said it was "truly the end of a long and thought-provoking process, for now".
While the report contained a summary of the 39,159 submissions received and considered, as well as a number of recommended amendments to improve the workability of the bill, the committee was unable to agree the bill be passed, Huo said.
"This is a member's bill that involves conscience issues. By convention, select committees focus on improving the technical workability of these bills without forming a view on whether they should be passed.
"This reflects the principle that it is up to all members of Parliament individually to judge, based on their own conscience and assisted by the committee's report, whether or not the bill should proceed," Huo said.
Consistent with that approach, the committee did not recommend substantive amendments, such as changes to who would be eligible for "assisted dying".
"The committee, however, unanimously recommended technical amendments to make the bill more workable, regardless."
The report followed more than 15 months of work, including hearing oral submissions from 1350 individuals and organisations at 42 public hearings in 14 cities and towns across the country, Huo said.
Seymour said the committee had done the right thing in referring the bill back with minor technical changes and leaving the substantive amendments to be debated in the House.
"It's pleasing to see the result of the largest consultation in parliamentary history released and the bill returned to the House with improvements which strengthen the Bill.
The improvements include:
• Aligning the bill with existing legislation and regulations.
• Strengthening the complaints process by explicitly including options for the registrar to refer cases to the police, health and disability commissioner, coroner, or other authority.
• Making explicit stating that if coercion is suspected at any point in the process the person becomes ineligible for assisted dying.
• Making explicit stating that life insurance contracts must be valid in the case of an assisted death.
"MPs will now have the chance to vote for the second time on the End of Life Choice Bill with minor changes made by the committee, and for choice and compassion for New Zealanders who are suffering at the end of their lives.
Seymour said he would put forward further amendments to the bill, which he had already flagged in his report to the committee in December, as supplementary order papers.
They included the provision for a binding referendum at the next election; limiting eligibility to terminal illness only; stating that access to assisted dying cannot be by reason of mental health conditions, age, or disability only and expanding membership of the group willing to participate in voluntary assisted dying to include nurses, Māori and Pasifika representatives, and disabled persons representatives.
The bill is likely to come back for second reading on May 22.