A bill legalising voluntary euthanasia has taken another step forward in Parliament but will now come with a ban on doctors starting conversations with patients about assisted dying.
Act Leader David Seymour secured another victory on Wednesday night as his controversial End of Life Choice bill returned to the House for the latest in a series of debates about amendments ahead of its third-and-final reading.
The legislation would let terminally ill adults request assisted dying with the approval of two doctors.
It passed its second reading 70 votes to 50 in June and Seymour has promised to make a series of changes tightening the bill to ensure support ahead of the last vote.
His second round of amendments on Wednesday passed 69 votes to 51.
Among other changes, they add clauses:
• Prohibiting a health practitioner from initiating any discussion about assisted dying.
• Giving employment protections for any doctor, nurse, or psychiatrist who objects to taking part in the process on any ground.
• Explicitly stating that if any pressure is suspected on a person applying for assisted dying, doctors and nurses must stop the process.
"There's a very rigorous process, there's many checks and balances, there's many safeguards, there's many medical experts and a great deal of medical expertise engaged in deciding whether or not a person is somebody who is eligible for assisted dying," Seymour told the House.
Many of the changes are intended to appease MPs who have lingering concerns about the bill after no major issues were made during a fraught Select Committee phase, but who wanted to give it another shot.
But those against the bill had proposed dozens of their own changes - 23 in the past two days alone - and dominated Wednesday's debate, much of which centred on concerns about coercion on those requesting assisted dying.
MPs opposed stretched the debate, requesting more time to speak and later calling for the votes to be put off to another day.
Ten of their amendments were voted down, while the rest will be heard another day. None passed.
"Well let's stay here all night then," Seymour proclaimed as the voting process dragged on.
Speaking to the House earlier, National's Agnes Loheni described the bill as the "ultimate weapon" for those abusing the elderly.
"Proponents are pretending that the rules can deal with that danger … but they are entirely inadequate to prevent abuse," she said.
"Pressures can come from family, from our healthcare system, from society as a whole. The mere existence of this bill is a subtle pressure."
National's Chris Penk unsuccessfully put forward his own amendment to put in tighter rules against potential coercion, including having to get sign-off from a specialist panel.
It was voted down 49 votes to 71.
Nation MP Alfred Ngaro said there was concern among those in the Pasifika community and called for an amendment providing support to the person requesting assisted dying, particular for cultural issues.
"They stated … this is not our culture. Our culture of care is to care for the dying and the sick. It's the love and aroha they give throughout that process."
The concern has been raised before but Seymour said it was "stereotyping" people.
"I can tell you there are people in every single group in this country who are for assisted dying and against."
Nelson MP Nick Smith called for an amendment that would mean families would have to be informed if someone asked for assisted dying.
"I find it quite obscene that we are considering a law in which that decision can be made without any requirement for family members to be informed," he said.
"The idea that a stranger doctor is going to able to determine whether a person is under undue influence … I think is a really important gap in the law."
Seymour said extensive studies overseas had shown it was not the vulnerable that most often ended their lives with euthanasia, suggesting coercion was not an issue.
"If there was undetectable coercion it would show up in the data," he said.
"It does not show up in the data. That is the fact."
Like the bill itself, the changes are being voted on by MPs individually, rather than along party lines.
More amendments to the bill will be debated on three more nights in coming months, before it goes to a final reading.
The most significant change will be a demand by NZ First to have the legislation go to a referendum.
The party says it will vote against the bill if the plebiscite doesn't go through. Without its nine votes the legislation could be at risk of falling down at the last hurdle.