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Kiwis more open to euthanasia - MP

Published: 9:10AM Tuesday March 27, 2012 Source: ONE News

A growing number of Kiwis support euthanasia and a fresh national discussion is needed on the subject, the MP at the heart of new debate around assisted suicide says.

Labour list MP Maryan Street, who is working on a private member's bill that would legalise some end-of-life options, told TV ONE's Breakfast that the public attitude about euthanasia has changed.

"I think more people now have seen loved ones in agonising situations at the end of their lives," she said.

"We need to have a social conversation about this."

Street said her bill was "about autonomy, it's about dignity and most of all it's about compassion".

"More and more people are looking to have the kind of control at the end of their life that they like to have during their life," she said.

Concerns have been raised however about legalising some end-of-life options.

Salvation Army Major Garth Stevenson told Breakfast he agrees there needs to be a national conversation about assisted suicide but opposes Street's bill.

"As many people as possible need to become informed about the issues and really need to study it for themselves and be prepared to contact their MPs with an informed comment," he said.

Stevenson said there are already sufficient "middle ground" options available.

"It is not euthanasia to withdraw medical care where it is simply prolonging life unnaturally," he said.

"It is not euthanasia when people are given palliative care to relieve pain and suffering even though that may shorten the dying process."

To take another step and legalise assisted suicide just opens up danger of abuse, he said.

Street said legislation would not open a floodgate and she is taking her time to get her bill right, admitting it is a complicated matter.