Parliament's debating chamber has been given a blessing after a debate about assisted dying during which politicians evoked deeply personal stories about death.

The End of Life Choice Bill, which would legalise voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill adults, passed 70 votes to 50 at its second reading on Wednesday.

During the debate, many recalled the deaths of their parents and other stories of serious illness.

National's Judith Collins was teary eyed as she described to the House holding her father's hand as he died.


As politicians returned to the House on Thursday, Speaker Trevor Mallard took a moment to note a ceremony had been held in the chamber.

"I just want to very briefly thank members for the tone of the debate last night," he said.

"And to also thank Adrian Rurawhe and Aupito William Sio, who led, with staff, a short ceremony here, earlier this afternoon to acknowledge the fact we had invoked the names of a number of people who were close to us."

Meanwhile, both sides of the euthanasia debate having been mulling what the outcome of the vote means and whether the bill could pass a third reading.

NZ First leader Winston Peters says it's a
NZ First leader Winston Peters says it's a "referendum or nothing". Photo / Mark Mitchell

The bill has been conducted as a conscience vote, MPs deciding individually, rather than along party lines.

But NZ First has voted "yes" as a block so far, and is only promising to keep doing so if an amendment requiring a public referendum is added during the Committee of the Whole House phase.

Losing the party's nine votes would be a major hit to the legislation's chances of passing, although it's not clear whether NZ First would vote against, abstain, or let MPs made an individual choice if they don't get their way.

Leader Winston Peters on Thursday said it would be the "referendum or nothing".


"We want the public to have the decision on moral and ethical issues, not a few parliamentarians," he said.

"The referendum is the bottom line."

But NZ First's Tracey Martin said the party would let its MPs vote individually if it didn't happen.

"In my caucus, [Peters] has made it very, very clear, on a number of occasions, he will not have any of his MPs vote against their conscience … We won't be whipped."

Act Party leader David Seymour accepts it's going to be a challenge convincing some MPs his bill is safe. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Act Party leader David Seymour accepts it's going to be a challenge convincing some MPs his bill is safe. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Both she and Peters said they didn't yet have a clear gauge on how many Members of Parliament would back a referendum.

Seymour is also unsure, but said it could be difficult to muster the 61 votes needed to support the amendment.

He's also promised to limit the bill to just the terminally ill, removing a clause that also covered those with a "grievous and irremediable medical condition", to win the vote of the Green Party.

Labour's Louisa Wall, a strong supporter of the bill, said she adamantly opposed a referendum, because a public debate risked hurting already stigmatised groups.

"I will not support anything that has the potential to do harm and is an abdication of the responsibility Members of Parliament have to make law," she said.

On the other end of the spectrum, National's Chris Penk said he was cautious about the proposal, but didn't want to dismiss it without seeing the details.

"It's not a matter of making a choice about whether the bill is more likely to succeed or not [with the amendment]," he said.

"It's more about whether a referendum is appropriate for deciding something where particularly minority rights are at stake."

A number of MPs, including Labour's Willie Jackson and Collins, gave their support at the second reading, but said their vote during a third would be contingent on whether enough safeguards were put in place when amendments were considered by the House.

That's given hope to opponents who argue the bill cannot be made safe.

"We're going to have to work really hard to persuade all of those people that the improvements at the committee stage will actually satisfy them," Seymour said.

"But I do think it's possible."

The bill will return for debate at the end of next month.