8 Nov 2016

PM rules out govt euthanasia bill

3:05 pm on 8 November 2016

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out the government introducing its own voluntary euthanasia legislation, despite personally supporting it for people who are terminally ill.

John Key

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Hundreds of people have made submissions to the health select committee, which is holding an inquiry into medically-assisted dying in response to a petition asking for a law change.

Mr Key said more than half of his party supported voluntary euthanasia, but it was a sensitive issue subject to diverse opinions.

"It's highly likely, subject to the formation of the legislation, that I would vote for it," he said.

"But I can tell you now, there are quite a few members of our caucus that won't and there wouldn't be support for it to be a government bill."

National MPs who were "very strongly religiously orientated" would definitely not support such a bill, he said.

People who were terminally ill, in a lot of pain, and had a very short time to live should have the right to make their own decision to end their life, Mr Key said.

"It's a very personal choice, and I think they've got to make it fully themselves and not feel pressured by others.

"To me, I'm not sure it's a step I would personally take, but I understand it's a step ... others would take."

Labour leader Andrew Little said he too supported medically-assisted dying but the issue was not a priority for his party.

"If there is legislation that comes before the House as a result of [the select committee inquiry], well then, the House will, and should, properly deal with it and have a good debate about it."

Both leaders said if there was ever to be a vote on euthanasia in Parliament, it would be a conscience vote for their MPs.