The public response to the committee’s review, the first of its kind in New Zealand, has been extraordinary. The Committee is so overwhelmed with the number of submissions that it is still processing them – a whopping 16,000 have been processed so far and there are potentially thousands more.
Kelly has become quite reflective and has done a lot of reading and thinking about the subject of dying. She is of the view it’s time to have a more open conversation about the topic, which she has learned people are often uncomfortable discussing.
In addition to submissions by people about their own illness or condition, many were made by people who had witnessed the suffering of loved ones – grandparents, parents, partners, siblings, and friends. Often they were involved in their care in their final few days, months or years.
There are always two sides to every debate and this one is no exception. The submissions against assisted dying were varied and again came from people of all ages and backgrounds.
The New Zealand Health Select Committee is not the first to consider the arguments for and against this issue, as well as the legal options available. Several countries have already gone through this process and currently either allow euthanasia or assisted dying, or both.
A strict requirement for valid consent would protect people who are potentially being pressured into the decision. This is because their consent would be invalid and not accepted if it were found they were under pressure from family, or anyone else, to end their lives.
The Health Select Committee, made up of MPs from National, Labour, Greens and New Zealand First, has a significant task ahead. It will review all written submissions and then begin hearing from a number of people who have requested to make verbal submissions to the committee in person. Once that process is complete, the committee will draft a report containing recommendations that will be made public. At this stage no time frames have been announced.