New Zealanders will vote on a euthanasia referendum at next year's election after a tight conscience vote in the country's Parliament. Source: ABC News.
Kiwi MPs voted 69 to 51 last night to pass the End of Life Choice bill, ending the issue's four-year journey through the Parliament but failing to resolve it.
The bill appeared likely to pass in October, when amendments forced its proponents to swing behind a referendum rather than legalise it outright.
But undecided members were lobbied by both sides until the very last hours, when almost a quarter of MPs gave speeches, often passionate and personal, during a marathon debate. Many addressed their own faith, ethnicities and experiences with death.
Labour MP Willie Jackson, one of the few not to reveal his hand, finally declared himself a supporter with a touching address centred on his mother's deteriorating health.
“My mother changed dramatically from the passionate, strong Maori leader she was,” he said. “Last night I spoke with three of the most high-profile Maori leaders in this country.
“They all said they were tired of hearing that this was against our culture [tikanga]. Tikanga evolves and there is no one tikanga. None of them thought that euthanasia was suicide. All of them thought that euthanasia was dying with dignity. Dignity is everything … and death doesn't mean dying anyway.”
Hundreds of people opposed to the bill spent the afternoon protesting on the lawns outside Parliament, with many filing into the public gallery for the debate.
The bill attracted the highest number of public submissions in New Zealand's parliamentary history. More than 39,000 submissions were received, with public hearings in 14 cities hearing about 1,350 people.
National MP Alfred Ngato said about 90 per cent of those submissions, and about 90 per cent of medical practitioners, were against the bill.
“Many organisations at the coalface of providing end-of-life care, like hospices, are opposed to this bill because it is unsafe,” he said.
The referendum will be held at the same time as New Zealand's 2020 election and another referendum to legalise cannabis, as previously agreed by the Government.