A petition organised by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) was presented to Parliament in June 2015 by former MP and VES President Maryan Street and Matt Vickers, the husband of Lecretia Seales. The petition of Hon Maryan Street and 8,974 others requested:
“That the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable.”
In response to this petition, the Health Select Committee undertook an investigation into ending one’s life in New Zealand. The committee considered all the various aspects of the issue, including the social, legal, medical, cultural, financial, ethical, and philosophical implications.
The Health Select Committee investigated:
- The factors that contribute to the desire to end one’s life
- The effectiveness of services and support available to those who desire to end their own lives
- The attitudes of New Zealanders towards the ending of one’s life and the current legal situation
- International experiences
The Health Select Committee released their report on the petition in August 2017. The submission process received 21,277 unique submissions from around the country between 27 August 2015 and 1 February 2016, and heard 944 oral submissions. 80% of the submissions were opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide in New Zealand. The Report echoed Justice Collins’ observation from the Seales v Attorney-General court case, that the issue “is clearly very complicated, very divisive, and extremely contentious”, but made no clear recommendations about legislation on euthanasia or assisted suicide in New Zealand, stating that it was a usually a matter of a conscience vote. Instead, the Report encouraged “everyone with an interest in the subject to read the report in full, and to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence presented in it”.
Care Alliance Analysis of Submissions
The Care Alliance analysed the submissions, excluding duplicates and a small number that could not be coded. An independent research company reviewed a sample of the coded submissions and concluded “with at least 95% confidence that the overall classification percentages are accurate within no more than 0.4% variation”.
View the analysis here.
In a press release announcing the analysis results, the Care Alliance stated:
“Quite simply, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society were able to get 8,975 signatures on a petition, but could muster less than half that number in actual submissions,” said Mr Jansen. “By contrast, 16,411 people took the opportunity to say no to euthanasia.”
Opposition to euthanasia was dominant across all submission lengths. For example, of the submissions longer than one page, 1,510 submissions opposed euthanasia while 523 supported its legalisation.