Atearful Judith Collins last night described holding her father's hand while he died, as she gave her backing to David Seymour's controversial assisted dying bill.

The second reading and debate on the fiercely argued End of Life Choice Bill got under way in Parliament last night.

Collins, who voted against the bill at its first reading, said she had previously opposed euthanasia because her father had been able to die in dignity because of access to morphine and the support of family.

"He died without losing his dignity ... I thought that was available to everybody. It's not available to everybody," the National MP said.

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Collins said, as a former lawyer, she had always been concerned assisted dying could lead to coercion of the vulnerable, but that Seymour had assured her with his plans for amendments for the bill.

"This year I have been very troubled by it, because I felt that having been opposed to it I was on the wrong side," she said tearing up.

"I am on the right side now."

Here's what some other MPs said:

AMY ADAMS — NATIONAL

National finance spokeswoman Amy Adams. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National finance spokeswoman Amy Adams. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Adams described watching her mother die a "painful and dehumanising" death as she too threw her support behind the bill.

She told the House while she felt the legislation needed more work before it could become law, it contained "kernels" of what could be a system to give people a choice about how to die.

She said the decision would be personal for many.

"For me it was watching my mother die a gruesome, painful and dehumanising death," she said.

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"If she had wanted to spend her last days drugged to the eyeballs feeling nothing I am sure that was possible. But that isn't what she wanted. What she wanted was to be able to choose exactly when that end would come. That's really all we were talking about.

"This was a woman who was proud, independent, intelligent, knew what she wanted ... instead we watched her get literally eaten alive from a vicious melanoma and suffer."

Adams said her core concern was about the bill extending to those with "irremediable conditions".

DAVID SEYMOUR — ACT

Act Party leader David Seymour in his Bowen House office, Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Act Party leader David Seymour in his Bowen House office, Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Speaking first, Seymour, who drafted the bill, urged Parliament to back the legislation, saying denying the suffering a right to choose when to die would be "barbaric".

"In a modern, civilised society such as New Zealand, we should be legislating choice and compassion," he said.

"In one of the most private times in a citizen's life, we should not interfere, but give them the choice to go on their terms, in their time."

The member for Epsom, who first put the bill in the ballot in 2015, described the lengthy process legislation had been through as "rigorous and comprehensive".

"By sheer numbers, consultation has been greater than any other in the history of our Parliament," he said.

Seymour also tried to reassure those who were concerned the bill could lead to coercion.
"If coercion is suspected at any point in the process, the person becomes ineligible for assisted dying," he said.

He also said suggestions doctors would have to do things against their beliefs were "plainly untrue".

"There are now 200 million people living in 15 jurisdictions where assisted dying is legal.

Not one of them that have experienced the reality of an assisted dying law, rather than the opponents' rhetoric, has gone back," he said. "To vote no to this bill is to say 'tough luck, you must suffer for the morality of others'. I believe that is a barbaric conclusion."

GERRY BROWNLEE — NATIONAL

Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee, (left), and National deputy leader Paula Bennett, (right). Photo / Mark Mitchell
Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee, (left), and National deputy leader Paula Bennett, (right). Photo / Mark Mitchell

Brownlee said the elderly and vulnerable would be put under pressure if the bill passed, saying it would have "coercive power".

"It would be unfortunate if we were to see people starting to think, 'Well I've had a good innings. So now maybe I should opt to make the choice that makes it easy for so many others'," he said.

Brownlee described having to tell his mother she would die within a month if she didn't get treatment for her brain cancer or that she could live a year-and-a-half if she fought it.

"She just sat up and said, 'What a month? ... Bugger that, I'll have the treatment.'

"And it wasn't easy. It was awful," Brownlee said.

"But she did as much from her desire for us to have a farewell.

"I don't think we should have a bill, passed into an act, that makes that choice to end a life so much easier than it is at the moment."

WHAT THE BILL PROPOSES

• The End of Life Choice Bill legalises voluntary euthanasia by allowing adults with less than six months to live or those with a "grievous and irremediable medical condition" to seek a lethal dose of medication.

• The person would have to get clearance from two medical practitioners and if either of them had doubts about the person's competence, a third opinion would need to be sought from a psychiatrist or psychologist.

• This is the fourth attempt since 1995 to get a euthanasia law through Parliament. It passed its first reading 76 votes to 44 — meaning 17 MPs need to change their minds to block it.

• It received a record 39,159 submissions during a fraught and year-long select committee stage that included hearings in 14 cities.

• Before the debate started, politicians were still announcing last-minute shifts. Labour's Kiri Allan said she would change to a "no" because she wasn't happy with what had come out of the select committee process.

• If the bill does make it through the second vote, it'll face a number of hurdles, including from opponents who are pledging to table scores of amendments during the committee stages.