Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidates can't agree on End of Life Choice Act

By Jessica Tyson

The Green Party’s Elizabeth Kerekere was left fighting her corner during a debate about the End of Life Choice Act against Māori Party’s Heather Te Au Skipworth and Labour’s Meka Whaitiri.

Skipworth and Whaitiri both oppose the act, which would give people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying. 

“We’re already in an inequity line in terms of health, so we’re dying because we’re not getting screened early enough and then we’re going to euthanise our whānau, kāo,”  Skipworth said.

But Kerekere supported it for “the dignity of our kuia, kaumātua to make their choices at the end of life with terminal illnesses with the right safeguards.”

Mana Motuhake

Kerekere said the issue was about “mana motuhake.”

“It's about our people who are terminally ill, who live in chronic pain and they're right to say ‘you know what, I’ve had enough. I cannot take any more’, she said.

“This is not for everyone. We’re not going to go around and knock off all our old people. This is not what this is about. It’s about mana motuhake, it’s about dignity, and it’s for some people to choose with the support of their whānau to do this thing.”

Life is precious

In the act, assisted dying refers to "a person's doctor or nurse practitioner giving them medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death; or the taking of medication by the person to relieve their suffering by bringing on death."

Whaitiri said she was at the debate when the act came up in Parliament but ultimately opposed it.

“As  Elizabeth said, there are some safeguards that weren’t initially in the bill. So a lot of people really pushed up the fact that you had to be absolutely chronically ill, that you had to be a New Zealander, you had to be of sound mind, you had to get two doctors, so I want to acknowledge the law proposes for making those changes," Whatiri said.

“But, ultimately, a bit as Heather was saying, life is precious and I just made a conscience vote that I didn’t want people to take anyone's life away.”

Poll results

In a Māori Television Curia Research poll released tonight, 54 per cent of those polled were for the act, 24 per cent said they were against, and 22 per cent undecided.

Skipworth said the strong support of 54 per cent didn’t change her mind on the act.

“What I think we need to do is invest more in palliative care. I think that’s a dignified way of allowing our whānau to pass on and Māori, te hungo ora ki te hungo ora, te hunga mate ki te hunga mate and nā te atua te timatanga, na te Atua te whakamutunga.”

Parliament passed the act but it has not come into force. The act will only come into force if more than 50 per cent of voters in the referendum vote 'Yes' on election day, October 17.