Simon O’Connor: Why we didn’t back euthanasia bill

NZ Herald 10 August 2017
Family First Comment: Superb commentary. Thank you Simon.

Throughout this term of Parliament it has been my privilege to serve as chair of the health committee. Over the last two years, it has been my responsibility to lead the inquiry into assisted suicide and euthanasia as requested by a petition to Parliament.

I led a group of dedicated MPs from a cross-section of parties in listening to what New Zealanders had to say about this difficult but important subject. I felt it was essential that I maintained an unbiased, even-handed process, though I made no secret of my own personal concerns about the topic.

From the outset, I believed it was important for all those concerned to know my opinion so that they could watch me and ensure that I behaved in a fair manner towards all sides and I have appreciated the statements by MPs and by the petitioner acknowledging my professional impartiality.

Over 21,000 New Zealanders wrote to the committee with their own thoughts on assisted dying and euthanasia. Of those, 944 people spoke to us in person over 108 hours of hearings. This inquiry was the largest ever undertaken by a New Zealand Parliament and was the largest, most public discussion ever held on this topic.

Now that the investigation is complete, now that all of the submitters have been heard, and the report has been written by the health committee as a whole, I feel I can finally say a few words myself.

Before entering Parliament I spent years studying ethics and philosophy at university, particularly around human rights. Some might see these fields as impractical but they prepared me well for this investigation. My extensive readings, lectures, and discussions formed the basis of my objection to assisted suicide.

I entered this investigation willing to hear evidence from all sides and was prepared to consider new arguments if they were presented. Unfortunately, the arguments in favour of assisted suicide and euthanasia are not terribly well-reasoned. They rely heavily on emotional experiences and intense ideologies. These are not the best foundations for building laws, but they are important and they do deserve to be heard.
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