The right to die - should we be allowed to have it or should we be forced to suffer until it happens naturally?

That's the burning question politicians will again turn their attention to today.

They'll begin the laborious process of debating Act MP David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill almost four years after he put it into the private members' ballot box to see it pass its first reading just over two years later and its second two years after that, both relatively comfortably.


But today the rubber hits the road and by the time it emerges for a vote at the end of it there are bound to be a lot of burn-outs. In the driver's seat for much of the time will be National's Maggie Barry, who's planning more than a hundred amendments to it.

Some say her plan is to drive them into a brick wall through sheer frustration. Without naming her, Judith Collins was crushing in her criticism of people who play "silly buggers" abusing the process.

The bill's architect Seymour reckons he's come up with a solution for most of their concerns by moving an amendment of his own, those for example who feel the terminally ill may feel pressured to end their lives because they feel a burden on their families.

He's narrowed the choice down, limiting euthanasia to those who are suffering from an illness that's likely to end their lives within six months in the view of two doctors.

That's not going to convince the likes of National's Michael Woodhouse though who says no changes to the bill would change his mind, that euthanasia's neither necessary nor is it appropriate. He says the support of family and good palliative care is a much better way to end a life than the arbitrary hand of a doctor.

To decide anything else, Woodhouse insists, would be to go down a slippery path. Silly bugger, some would say.

All their squabbling holds no truck with Winston Peters and his party - they'll vote against the bill if it doesn't embrace a binding referendum at next year's election. Peters argues temporarily empowered politicians alone shouldn't decide on something that affects the fabric of our society.

Their conscience on this one it seems will be a collective one while the rest of them free to exercise theirs as they wish. But given the sluggish pace of the bill so far, and the attempts by its opponents to slow it down even more, no one is laying any bets on whether that referendum, or indeed the bill, will see the light of day this side of the election.


If the referendum is incorporated as part of the bill going forward, euthanasia won't of course be decided on by us until after the election - which makes all the debate and amendments in the coming months pointless.