Euthanasia

Euthanasia bill should not go ahead: law firm

Ahead of a five-part series examining submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill, Jeremy Rees takes a look at a group that argues the Bill is in no shape to be made law

The law firm which handles many doctors’ legal issues in New Zealand has told a Parliamentary select committee that David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill is “suboptimal” and should not proceed.

DLA Piper is retained by the Medical Protection Society to handle medical protection and indemnity work for doctors and practitioners. About 80 percent of New Zealand doctors are covered by MPS.

In a submission to the Justice select committee, the law firm says it is concerned that such an important change to New Zealand law is contained in a private member's bill which has had no formal consultation before drafting.

“While the Bill is no doubt informed by prior public debate and clearly borrows from other jurisdictions, no formal consultation or engagement with stakeholders preceded its introduction,” it says in a submission, one of 35,000 to the committee.

Although there are a number of submissions from medical practitioners and their representative bodies, many focus on issues of wording and process. The DLA Piper submission stands out by questioning the very basis of Seymour’s Bill.

Newsroom is analysing some of the submissions on the End of Life Choice Bill over the next week.

DLA Piper argues that the Bill has opted to put doctors at the centre of the process of assisted dying, which may be appropriate, but no one consulted doctors or other interested parties on the best way to construct it. It says the select committee process may not be the best way to create a new law as submitters are asked to react to a bill which has already been drafted to set up a system for assisted dying.

“If there is a political will to have legislation for assisted dying voted on by Parliament, then determining what kind of law might be best for New Zealand ought to be the first step.”

The firm argues it would be unfair to set up a regime for assisted dying which transfers medico-legal and ethical risks onto the medical profession without any kind of prior engagement.

“A member's bill that has not benefitted from prior engagement with stakeholders on all sides of the debate is a suboptimal vehicle for advancing such a fundamental shift in our legal and medical landscape.

“To provide a workable, safe and balanced law, this Bill requires substantial revision — ideally informed by detailed and unhurried advice from doctors, lawyers and bioethicists (amongst others).”

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