A bill to allow assisted dying in New Zealand has passed its first reading by a significant margin of 76 votes to 44.
Many MPs restricted their support to the first reading, saying future support would depend on public submissions and amendments made during the select committee process.
The NZ First MPs in particular want to include a binding referendum of the public before any law changes would come into effect. Act leader David Seymour, the bill's sponsor, has agreed to that but it would have to get majority support in Parliament as well.
The bill will be considered by the Justice Select Committee and Seymour sought an extended nine month period for that consideration, rather than the usual six months.
The debate as it happened
9:50pm: The voting is taking place now.
9:41pm: While most National MPs speaking on the bill had opposed it, Chris Bishop was supporting it, saying in a modern and compassionate society the law should provide for a decent death.
He said at the moment someone diagnosed with a terminal disease had two options – either trying to commit suicide "often by violent or dangerous means" or suffering until they died of natural causes.
"The choice is cruel. We have an opportunity tonight to create a more compassionate society."
He said legalising assisted dying was the morally right thing to do. "It upholds human dignity."
He said the status quo was inadequate given the suffering by some at the end of their lives, despite the best palliative care could offer.
He believed it was possible to design a system which stopped terrible suffering by a few while avoiding harm to others. He pointed to other jurisdictions which allowed, including Canada where the court found the risks of assisted dying could be mitigated by safeguards.
"Scores of countries and jurisdictions had legalised assisted dying.
It is time the New Zealand Parliament considered this issue substantively and in a rigorous way."
9:28pm: A staunch opponent of the bill, National MP Maggie Barry said it would allow people such as family members "to predate on the vulnerable."
She said as a former Minister for Seniors she had seen the "horrors" of elder abuse, including by other family members.
"The scourge where family members inflict physical, psychological and mental violence and neglect on their own family members. More than three quarters of abusers are family members.
A family is not a safe place to be. And the abuse of our elders with an ageing population is something we need to take into account with this particular bill.
This bill will allow more people to predate on the vulnerable with far too few protections and safeguards."
Barry said the issue had been raised by a few high profile cases, but she did not believe New Zealand should base laws on a few cases.
She said it was the worst bill on euthanasia she had seen and incapable of being fixed in a select committee.
Barry also raised the issue of doctors who were unwilling to assist in such cases being required to provide a patient with details of doctors who would perform it.
She said the answer was not to allow assisted dying, but to invest in palliative care.
9:20pm: Green MP Julie Anne Genter said she would support it to select committee, but should be amended to ensure people such as the disabled were protected.
She said there was passion and strongly held views on both sides of the debate, but the debate was not about what Maggie Barry had described as a "licence to kill."
She said it was unusual for the Green Party to cast conscience votes because it often voted on party policy.
While it had a policy on euthanasia, Seymour's bill went beyond that policy.
"I do think there is a very compelling case… this issue is not about suicide, it's about what happens when someone is very close to death."
She said modern medicine meant life could be extended to the point there was no quality of life left.
9:13pm: Aupito William Sio said he was also opposing the bill, but acknowledged there were strong views the other way.
"From a Pacific perspective, when we talk death there's a tendency for many of us to acknowledge death is only a pathway to another life. From a Samoan perspective, we have grown up to value life."
He said Parliament had voted against euthanasia before in the past and knocked it back and the Health Select Committee had also recently considered a petition on it which canvassed the many aspects – legal, medical, human rights, cultural and others.
Sio said that Select Committee report had provided enough scrutiny and public input not to refer it to select committee again.
9:07pm: National MP Nuk Korako spoke against the bill, saying there was no such concept as assisted dying in Maoridom.
"Euthanasia is foreign to Maori."
He said many people had sat as relatives suffered and died.
"Death has never been a final ending for our people .. the process of dying for us is a process for whanau. We hear of a terminal illness in the whanau and we know it is time to gather."
He said that process was an essential component of binding a family together, of grieving and reminiscing "and coming to that moment of peace when we can let them go."
"That process is as much about the living as the dying."
He said Maori voices on the issue were few and far between because of the fear it would be seen as superstition. However, there was a belief euthanasia would leave a soul in limbo rather than return them to the ancestral home.
9:04pm: NZ First MP Tracey Martin said the issue should go to a referendum for the people to decide so NZ First would vote for it at the first reading as a bloc based on a commitment to David Seymour to do so if Seymour also supported the referendum on it.
"Not a single one of us is smarter than the people who placed us here. Not a single one of us has more of a conscience or a right than those who placed us here."
Martin recalled her own father's history with dementia, waking in the night terrified and not knowing who she was or where he was.
"I remember him saying to me 'if I could push a button I would end it now.' Did he mean the dementia or his life? I don't know. For me, this is something I need to grapple with."
She said a wider public discussion was needed.
9:01pm: Labour MP Louisa Wall spoke of the unsuccessful court case taken by Lecretia Seales seeking the right for an assisted death.
"Lecretia's response was 'isn't this my body, my life'? And then she died."
Wall said the judge in that case had said the status quo was not ideal and people were at risk of trying to end their lives themselves – but it was up to Parliament to take any such step.
"A citizen of our country went to the courts for a right and the courts have said she didn't have that right and it was for Parliament to create a mechanism [to deliver that.]"
She said Seales had wanted to live but it had come to a point medicine could not help her anymore.
"This isn't about systemic change, this is about individual choice. And I am standing up for Lecretia."
She said there was no reason the bill could not be fixed in select committee.
8:54pm: National MP Simon O'Connor also opposed the bill, saying it was the worst example of legislation for euthanasia he had seen.
"The current laws as they stand mean nobody will die against their will. But this proposed law will make involuntary dying possible."
He said despite the claimed objections, the law would apply to everyone – the sick, vulnerable, elderly, "the lonely and the fearful."
O'Connor had attacked Labour leader Jacinda Ardern during the election campaign for speaking out against youth suicide while supporting euthanasia. He raised that again in his speech in Parliament, although he did not name Ardern.
"You cannot stand in this House and decry the suicide of one group of people, say the youth, and then encourage the suicide of another group – say the sick."
8:49pm: National leader Bill English was the first opponent to take the stand, saying the bill contained a "cold, bureaucratic process of death" but the price of personal autonomy was not worth the cost to the community.
He said there was a blanket prohibition against taking the life of another in the criminal law but the bill created an exemption to that prohibition which could be decided by "box ticking."
"In removing that prohibition which has been in our law as long as this country has existed, this bill is taking a huge step."
He said many, including himself, had known the suffering and fear of a dying person and those around them.
"Alongside that personal connection, we have to weigh up in our role as lawmakers, not just siblings or children or friends, but as lawmakers.
Our role is to make sure society has a set of laws that protect those that most need protection."
"We don't want people encouraging a depressed or disabled person that their life is not worth something … you are not always the best judge of the value of your life."
He said it would make the disabled and elderly more vulnerable.
He said the price the community would pay was people would be more subject to the pressure to make the judgement that their lives were of less value.
"This bill, with its cold bureaucratic process of death tries to look like it's safe." He said it was not.
8:47pm: Beginning the debate, Seymour said anyone in Parliament could find themselves in the position of having a terminal illness and wishing they had the option to decide when to end their lives.
He said there was a risk of "amateur, violent suicide" and said five per cent of suicides were by people who were dying who wanted to end their life.
"They knew what was coming and wanted to take control."
He mentioned one case of a staffer in Parliament who had unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide after he was diagnosed with Huntington's.
He said the tragedy of that was that that man had tried it years before he would have liked to because he knew he would not have the capacity to do so later.
"That is the moral case for this bill, it is wrong we suffer the status quo when people suffer needlessly."
He said it was an "absurdity" that people did not have that choice at the end of their days.
Seymour also referred to the Supreme Court of Canada, saying it was a conservative court yet the Court had agreed the risks associated with assisted death could be controlled through appropriate safeguards.
He defended the his bill against claims by some MPs that it did not have enough safeguards to prevent the vulnerable being exploited, saying there were numerous thresholds which had to be met before the option became available. Those included age, a requirement to be of sound mind, and suffering from a condition that was terminal or unable to be treated with medical treatment.
They also had to in pain or suffering to a degree that it could not be controlled.
One of the prompts for Seymour to introduce the bill was the campaign of the late Lecretia Seales who died in 2015 after suffering from a brain tumour. Seales had fought for the right for assisted dying, including taking it to the High Court. Her husband Matt Vickers now lives in New York but was back in New Zealand for the first reading, sitting in the public gallery.
It is a conscience vote for all MPs other than NZ First's and Seymour was hopeful he had the support to pass it.
MPs were flooded with emails about the End of Life Choice bill in the past two days, mostly urging them to vote against a law change.
Some of that was driven by anti-euthanasia groups in New Zealand calling on help from their Australian counterparts.
Right to Life Australia had sent out a message to its supporters urging them to make contact with New Zealand MPs.
"Please email MPs in New Zealand urgently today," the email to supporters reads.
It quotes Renee Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia Free NZ, saying it was crucial that MPs receive thousands of messages in opposition today.
Seymour's bill moved forward on the agenda after Labour withdrew two of its MP's bills because they were no longer required under the new Government and adopted a third as a government bill.
WHAT DOES THE BILL DO?
The End of Life Choice Bill is based on an earlier piece of legislation drafted by former Labour MP Maryan Street.
It would allow mentally competent New Zealand adults with a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months, or a grievous degenerative medical condition which cannot be treated the choice to ask a doctor to help end their life at the time of their choosing. In both cases, the pain or suffering must be unable to be managed through medical care.
The Director-General of Health would establish a group of medical practitioners who would maintain a register of health professionals willing to participate in assisted dying.
A new process would require two medical practitioners to be satisfied a person meets the required criteria. The second would be independent of the patient and initial doctor.
HOW DID YOUR MP VOTE?
Of the MPs in Parliament, 37 Labour MPs supported the first reading of the End of Life Choice Bill while nine voted against it. In National, 21 supported it and 35 opposed it. All nine NZ First MPs and eight Green Party MPs voted in favour, as did the bill's sponsor Act leader David Seymour.
Amy Adams, National, Selwyn
Kiri Allan, Labour, List
Virginia Andersen, Labour, List
Jacinda Ardern, Labour, Mt Albert
Darroch Ball, NZ First, List
Paula Bennett, National, Upper Harbour
Chris Bishop, National, Hutt South
Tamati Coffey, Labour, Waiariki
Jonathan Coleman, National, North Shore
Liz Craig, Labour, List
Clare Curran, Labour, Dunedin South
Marama Davidson, Green, List
Kelvin Davis, Labour, Te Tai Tokerau
Matt Doocey, National, Waimakariri
Ruth Dyson, Labour, Banks Peninsula
Paul Eagle, Labour, Rongotai
Kris Faafoi, Labour, Mana
Andrew Falloon, National, Rangitata
Julie Anne Genter, Green, List
Golriz Ghahraman, Green, List
Nathan Guy, National, Otaki
Peeni Henare, Labour, Tamaki Makaurau
Harete Hipango, National, Whanganui
Chris Hipkins, Labour, Rimutaka
Brett Hudson, National, List
Gareth Hughes, Green, List
Raymond Huo, Labour, List
Willie Jackson, Labour, List
Shane Jones, NZ First, List
Nikki Kaye, National, Auckland Central
Matt King, National, Northland
Barbara Kuriger, National, Taranaki – King Country
Iain Lees-Galloway, Labour, Palmerston North
Andrew Little, Labour, List
Jan Logie, Green, List
Marja Lubeck, Labour, List
Jo Luxton, Labour, List
Nanaia Mahuta, Labour, Hauraki-Waikato
Trevor Mallard, Labour, List
Jenny Marcroft, NZ First, list
Ron Mark, NZ First, list
Tracey martin, NZ First, list
Kieran McAnulty, Labour, list
Clayton Mitchell, NZ First, list
Mark Mitchell, National, Rodney
Stuart Nash, Labour, Napier
Greg O'Connor, Labour, Ohariu
David Parker, Labour, list
Mark Patterson, NZ First, list
Winston Peters, NZ First, list
Willow-Jean Prime, Labour, list
Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour, list
Grant Robertson, Labour, Wellington Central
Jami-Lee Ross, National, Botany
Adrian Rurawhe, Labour, Te Tai Hauauru
Deborah Russell, Labour, New Lynn
Eugenie Sage, Green, List
Carmel Sepuloni, Labour, Kelston
David Seymour, Act, Epsom
James Shaw, Greens, List
Scott Simpson, National, Coromandel
Stuart Smith, National, Kaikoura
Erica Stanford, National, East Coast Bays
Chloe Swarbrick, Greens, list
Fletcher Tabuteau, NZ First, list
Jan Tinetti, Labour, list
Anne Tolley, National, East Coast
Tim van de Molen, National, Waikato
Hamish Walker, National, Southland
Louisa Wall, Labour, Manurewa
Angie Warren-Clark, Labour, list
Duncan Webb, Labour, Christchurch Central
Meka Whaitiri, Labour, Ikaroa Rawhiti,
Michael Wood, Labour, Mt Roskill
Megan Woods, Labour, Wigram
Jian Yang, National, list
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, National, list
Maggie Barry National, North Shore
Andrew Bayly, National, Hunua
David Bennett, National, Hamilton East
Simon Bridges, National, Tauranga
Simeon Brown, National, Pakuranga
Gerry Brownlee, National, Ilam
David Carter, National, list
David Clark, Labour, Dunedin North
Judith Collins, National, Papakura
Jacqui Dean, National, Waitaki
Sarah Dowie, National, Invercargill
Bill English, National, list
Chris Finlayson, National, list
Paul Goldsmith, National, list
Jo Hayes, National, list
Steven Joyce, National, list
Anahila Kanongata'a, Labour, list
Nuk Korako, National, list
Denise Lee, National, Maungakiekie
Melissa Lee, National, list
Tim Macindoe, National, Hamilton West
Todd McClay, National, Rotorua
Ian McKelvie, National, Rangitikei
Todd Muller, National, Bay of Plenty
Alfred Ngaro, National, list
Damien O'Connor, Labour, West Coast Tasman
Simon O'Connor, National, Tamaki
Parmjeet Parmar, National, list
Chris Penk, National, Helensville
Shane Reti, National, Whangarei
Jenny Salesa, Labour, Manukau East
Alastair Scott, National, Wairarapa
Aupito William Sio, Labour, Mangere
Nick Smith, National, Nelson
Jamie Strange, Labour, list
Rino Tirikatene, Labour, Te Tai Tonga
Phil Twyford, Labour, Te Atatu
Louise Upston, National, Taupo
Nicky Wagner, National, Christchurch Central
Poto Williams, Labour, Christchurch East
Michael Woodhouse, National, list
Jonathan Young, National, New Plymouth
Lawrence Yule, National, Tukituki