It did not take long. Just three days, if that, for the politicians to get voluntary euthanasia well and truly off the political agenda.

Such is the wariness of MPs when confronted with conscience votes on such matters where they consider they have more to lose than they stand to gain.

Last Friday, they were tripping over one another in their haste to express their condolences to the family of Lecretia Seales. By Monday afternoon, Seales' legacy - her surviving wish for people like her who have a terminal illness which causes enduring suffering to be able to determine when they die - had effectively been sidelined by the two major parties.

Seales' legal challenge prompted the High Court to throw responsibility for the law covering assisted death back into Parliament's lap. The response of John Key and Andrew Little was to kick for touch.


The Prime Minister's very deliberate statement yesterday that he was "open" to a full select committee inquiry was designed to give the impression Parliament was actually doing something, while at the same time slotting into Labour's plan for neutralising the issue.

Parliament will actually be doing nothing. Whatever an inquiry, which will take months aplenty, comes up with by way of a report and recommendations are not binding on the Government. Key can ignore the findings.

He will get little trouble from Little, whose demand that a private member's bill on voluntary euthanasia promoted by one of his MPs be shelved tells you what priority he attaches to the issue.

Key also said there will be no Government-sponsored legislation paving the way for voluntary euthanasia.

That leaves supporters of the concept with two options to get a bill before Parliament.

Any MP can seek the leave of the House to introduce a bill. But it takes only one MP to voice objection for leave to be refused. The alternative is to draft a new private member's bill and place it in the ballot reserved for such measures. That would see it competing with 74 other private member's bills to secure one of the few slots on the order paper and finally up for debate.

Those are not good odds.

Seales' family can justifiably feel well miffed.