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Euthanasia bill will pass: Seymour

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/06/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

David Seymour is confident his voluntary euthanasia bill will be passed by parliament, but the final vote could be more than a year away.

The ACT leader's End of Life Choice Bill was drawn from the ballot on Thursday and will go on parliament's agenda for a first reading.

MPs will cast conscience votes on it, and parties won't take positions.

Mr Seymour last ran the numbers on his bill six months ago - he says there were 40 MPs in favour, 27 opposed and about 50 who hadn't made up their minds or wouldn't tell him how they would vote.

"We have convinced a third of them, and I think we will convince more than a majority - I think we are easily going to pass this legislation," he told reporters.

The bill could come up for its first reading before the September 23 election, but Mr Seymour expects there will be delaying tactics by MPs who don't want to take a position on it ahead of the election.

"I suspect you will find MPs will find enormous passion for enormously important bills they've previously never heard of," he said.

An important factor in the timing is the imminent report on public attitudes to voluntary euthanasia that a parliamentary committee is preparing.

The report, the result of a two-year inquiry, will have an impact on the debate around the bill and could influence the attitude of some MPs.

If the bill does get through its first reading it will go to a select committee for public submissions - which will take at least six months - and then have to survive three more stages in parliament.

"I'll be working hard to ensure we've got the votes," Mr Seymour said.

"This is morally, democratically and legally the right thing for parliament to do."

An opinion poll taken in June 2015 showed 71 per cent of New Zealanders supported voluntary euthanasia.

Also drawn from the ballot was a Green Party bill that would make it legal for people suffering from a terminal illness or any debilitating condition to use cannabis "with the support of a registered medical practitioner".

That bill will also come up for a first reading.

Mr Seymour's bill gives people with a terminal illness or a "grievous and irremediable medical condition" the option of requesting assisted dying.

It defines those eligible and details a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure it is a free choice made without coercion.

It also outlines a stringent series of steps to ensure the person is mentally capable of understanding the nature and consequences of their decision.

Assisted dying has been debated twice before by parliament.

The first time was in 1995, when the Death With Dignity Bill was defeated 61-29 on its first reading.

The second time was in 2003, when another Death With Dignity Bill was defeated 60-58, also on its first reading.

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