I have prepared a private member’s Bill giving people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting medical aid in dying. The Bill has been lodged for ballot in Parliament. The End of Life Choice Bill allows those eligible, to choose the manner and timing of their final days, allowing them to end their life in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones. The motivation for this Bill is compassion.Read more

- David Seymour MP


What does the End of Life Choice Bill do?

The End of Life Choice Bill will legalise assisted dying in cases where individuals have a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within six months, or a grievous and irremediable illness, and is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability, and is experiencing unbearable suffering. The Bill carefully defines those eligible for assisted dying, details a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure this is a free choice, made without coercion, and outlines a stringent series of steps to ensure the person is mentally capable of understanding the nature and consequences of each of the end of life care options.

Do New Zealanders really want a change on assisted dying laws?

Yes. Depending on the wording of the question, polling of adult New Zealanders have typically shown around 65%-75% support in favour of legalising assisted dying with appropriate safeguards. More recently, a Reid Research Poll in July showed 71% support and 24% opposition, and a Colmar Brunton Poll in July showed 75% support and 20% opposition. A poll of 2800 persons commissioned from Curia this month on assisted dying shows 66% supporting and 20% opposed.

Who would be eligible for assisted dying?

The Bill defines a person eligible for assisted dying as someone who:

• is aged 18 years or over
• has New Zealand citizenship or is a permanent resident
• suffers from a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months, or has a serious grievous and irremediable medical condition
• is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability
• experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable
• has the ability to understand the nature and consequences of assisted dying.

What are the safeguards to avoid abuse?

A legal process will also be created for a person who asks to receive assisted dying. Two doctors will have to be satisfied that the person is eligible in terms of the criteria in the Bill. The doctors must both be satisfied that the person genuinely wishes to end their life and that he or she has chosen assisted dying free of any pressure or coercion. Should either doctor be uncertain about whether the person requesting assisted dying is competent, then the two doctors must jointly refer the person to a specialist with a relevant scope in mental health.

Personal Stories

Debra Hall - A good life, and a good death

All I want is a future where we can truly celebrate that our parents, our friends and, eventually, ourselves had not only a good life, but a good death.

This is my story of three undignified deaths, from my submission to the Select Committee.

This is my submission to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee, currently considering a petition to change the law in New Zealand to support ‘physician assisted suicide’, or, as I prefer to term it, giving people choices at the end of their lives.

This is a personal story – please do not read it if you think you may be upset or offended.  It is my view, and only my view, of three undignified deaths in my close family in recent years.  To other family members – I truly recognise that your experiences of these deaths are different from mine, and that you may feel that these are not my stories to tell.  Everyone involved has their own perspective – this is mine, respecting that you almost certainly have a different view, and irrespective of that, mostly importantly, celebrating that we all, each one of us, cared very deeply.

So here is my plea to the legislators – exhorting them to lead, not follow, to a better more compassionate society.

Jim Parlane - A dog at the vet has a more dignified ending

Six months ago my mother died from cancer of the ovaries after it spread excessively. She was most likely given a de-facto euthanasia at the hospice. The death was not as comfortable or dignified as it could have been. There was no warning as to the onset as she did not have pain and was at stage 4 before she knew anything about it. Basically a drug called oxycodone was used as a pain relief then it stupefied her into a "raving looney" then she went into a stage of an unknown low level of consciousness before laboured breathing and then dying. All of this was over the space of about 12 hours. She was not able to continue on with life as her ovaries were extremely large, she could not move about, she lost her dignity over toileting and finally the pain was such that it was humane to do what was done. Generally a dog at the vet has a more dignified ending than a person does. The Hospice people did the job as best they could however they should be allowed, by law, to he honest about it.

Geoff Simmons - My Poppa didn’t get a choice

Our society is built on the assumption that people should have freedom to choose unless there is a good reason why not. All of the reasons against assisted dying can be remedied by the appropriate process and regulation. So my simple question is why wouldn't all of New Zealand support this bill?

My Poppa was a fighter. At 67 he took me (a 1st XV rugby player) out to round up sheep. After chuckling at me getting bounced off countless times, he caught a sheep with one hand.

Twenty years later Poppa met his match – brain cancer. In the end he couldn’t tolerate it any longer, and so he refused any further assistance. He won the fight against cancer by denying himself food or water. Thanks to the opponents of assisted dying, this was the only way he could exercise some choice over how he died.

We live in a free society, where generally people have the right to choose to do whatever they want. In order to remove that freedom, the government needs a good reason. The opponents of assisted dying have offered several arguments to back up their case, but none of them are logical and evidence based. All that remains is their belief in the sanctity of life, or an arrogant belief that experiencing a natural death is good for the patient and their family. These are spiritual beliefs held by a few people, and are not good reasons to rob people like Lecretia Seales of the right to choose how they die.

John Marks - Put ownership of death into the hands of the dying

I have lost two wives to cancer.

The mother of my two children died early in 2006 . I remarried again in 2009 to the mother and grandmother of a large second family, but by December 2010 she too was dead from cancer.

I loved them both and watched them die unrecogniseable physically as the strong women and mothers they had been. Both were emaciated, delerious, debilitated and humiliated by the disease that had robbed them of life and dignity. In the final weeks both tried with little success to find ways to disguise the physical ravages which they knew would leave their children and grandchildren with haunted memories.

Both of them, at a point two or three weeks before their inevitable deaths, expressed a desire to exit the world with less discomfort, loss of dignity and without experiencing the fear, confusion, and anonymity of a slow death in front of their loved ones.

I have no doubt that both of them, given the opportunity to die with dignity some weeks before their inevitable exit would have taken it, and would have welcomed the prospect of saying goodbye to their families while coherent and conscious.

Instead they died like animals, sick, confused, wasted and sedated. When I picked up my Sonia to place her on the funeral trolly she weighed less than a medium sized dog. It struck me that had I treated a pet as the system had treated her, I would have been prosecuted for cruelty.

My wives were strong women who relished their matriarchal position in growing families and they lived by example. They liked dressing well, loved looking good and in once case would never be seen without makeup, and the certainly like to control conversation and to counsel their families with their intellect and experience. Neither wanted to die in this humiliating fashion and, most of all, once they had accepted the inevitability of their demise, they both wanted to control the time, nature and evironment of their death. In both cases they would have been appalled to think that even I had to experience the pitiful circumstances which evolved over the final days and hours.

I know both would have endorsed this submission and strongly argued for the sense of ownership and personal power that end-of-life choices would have given them.

On their behalf I appeal to our legislators to make the tough choices, put the right protections in to place to make sure that rights to die are not abused, but most of all to put ownership of death into the hands of the dying.

As a post scrip I wish add that my current mother-in-law is dying of complications of alzheimers disease at the age of 90. She is a charicature of the person she was – a woman who relished her position in society, her place as a strong mother, quality dress and makeup, and her intelligent and loving place in a her family and her community, She has been unable to recognise her love ones for over two years, went through years of panic and pain as her brain disintegrated in her head and today she lies immobile physically and mentally inert as we wait for her to die. Her daugher, my wife, lives with the sad duty of daily visiting this withered shell that was a person she loved. She knows, without a shadow of a doubt that given choice and good advice about her disease her mum would have chosen alternatives many years ago which would have spared herself the panic, confusion and suffering, saved her family the pain, and spared our community of the burden of this questionable extension of her now pathetic existence to satisfy inexplicable laws.

Fran O'Keefe-Jones - As a very senior lady I totally applaud the End of Life Choice legislation

As a very senior lady I totally applaud the End of Life Choice legislation. For many years I have been actively involved with Voluntary Euthanasia and cannot understand why people can be so heartless as to object to the possibility of some assistance when needed. The opponents go on about Suicide. NZ Statistics do not show the number of ‘attempted suicides’ and it is my belief that many are because there is no other way out. For many of us facing the possibility of a nasty end of life, suicide is on our minds and methods sought. Get real folk don’t deny the obvious. Many of us do not want to be the statistics of total dependence/loss of dignity/totally relying on others or the Government coffers.

After being widowed and then found happiness, I lost a darling husband suddenly, a shock but a realisation that he would not have wanted to be an invalid was of some comfort over time.

I also lost a darling youngest daughter 35yo, a precious person I must add. She suffered for almost 12 months during which time we read and sought information to help the situation, but had to watch the slow decline of the inevitable. She left a bereft husband and one daughter just starting college, not to mention her Mum, family and friends. To watch a loved one suffer at length is cruel and certainly leaves its scars on those left behind.

I believe because NZ statistics of ‘attempted suicide’ are not shown, the community would be shocked at how many make the effort to end their lives because of the dreaded ugly end. Surely the legislation being sought would eliminate suicides to a degree. I am appalled at the opposition of some churches, and can only hope and pray there will be help when my time comes.