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Voluntary euthanasia inquiry picks up pace

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/06/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer

Voluntary euthanasia inquiry picks up pace © virsuziglis/iStock/Getty Images Voluntary euthanasia inquiry picks up pace A parliamentary committee that's investigating public attitudes to voluntary euthanasia has processed nearly 20,000 submissions and still has work to do.

The cross-party health select committee says when it's finished dealing with the written submissions it will start hearing oral evidence.

Chairman Simon O'Connor says the count so far is 19,477 "and we are continuing to process the remainder".

The inquiry is in response to a petition presented to parliament a year ago by former Labour MP Maryan Street, who is now president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

The petition carried nearly 9000 signatures and asked parliament "to investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable".

As the committee continues to wade through the submissions, a bill which would make assisted dying legal in strictly defined circumstances is still in the members' ballot along with about 70 others.

ACT leader David Seymour drafted the End of Life Choice Bill and put it in the ballot in October last year.

"I've done this because I believe that morally, legally and politically it's the right thing for parliament to be doing," he said at the time.

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out a government-backed euthanasia bill, which means the only way laws around assisted dying could be changed is through a member's bill.

Labour leader Andrew Little said at the weekend voluntary euthanasia wasn't a priority for his party.

"It would be nice to be able to do everything from opposition but we can't, we have to focus on those things that are about building a better nation - that's going to be our priority, I make no apology for that."

The debate around voluntary euthanasia was re-ignited last year by the highly-publicised plight of Wellington lawyer Lecretia Seales, who died from a brain tumour hours after she was told the High Court had ruled against her bid to choose when she could die.

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