Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand, Inc

Lacking a coherent view of how people might live successfully all the way to their very end, we have allowed our fates to be controlled by the imperatives of medicine, technology, and strangers.

Dr. Atul Gawande,


Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.

                                                                                                                               - Napoleon Bonaparte  


There are few presumptions in human relations more dangerous than the idea that one knows what another human being needs better than they do themselves.

                                                                                                                    -  Michael Ignatieff


This is a letter which our Newsletter Editor, David Barber, sent to the Sunday Star Times. David wrote it in response to a column by its political correspondent the previous week. The SST published the letter minus the last paragraph. It is included here.

Hamish Rutherford says Prime Minister John Key “surely knows strongly advocating for the cause (of voluntary euthanasia) could alienate parts of the electorate, not to mention the caucus” (June 28).

The caucus maybe, but Rutherford did not say that it would alienate only a small part of the electorate, for opinion polls consistently show an overwhelming majority are in favour of medically-assisted dying.

In April, a totally independent survey by Research New Zealand poll found 74 per cent of New Zealanders surveyed believe people suffering a painful incurable disease should be able to get help to end their lives.  Only 20 per cent opposed doctors being allowed to assist if a patient with a painful terminally ill disease requested it.

The question your columnist should have asked is why the men and women we elect to carry out our will continually ignore the wishes of most voters on the issue.

No more will die when physician-assisted dying is eventually made legal – as it inevitably will be when compassion overcomes perceived self-interest – but fewer will suffer.

The Sunday Star-Times (July 12) published a letter from a Brian Collins, Wellington, in support of David's view above.

"I completely agree with David Barber's letter (July 5)." It supports my point that the politicians should do what the majority
of voters want in the way of assisted dying.


Maryan Street's Report on Petition Presentation to Parliament on 23/06/15

The Select Committee Chairperson - Simon O'Connor has since acknowledge receiving the petition. As soon as further information on dates for the process are available, we will show them.

The petition was signed by 8975 people. (There were a further 100 signatures received after the closing date and couldn't be counted).

Maryan Street's report:

The weather was threatening to rain on our parade, but in the end it didn't and the sun even shone for a moment. On Tuesday 23 June at 11.30am a group of VES members and supporters assembled by the Dick Seddon statue at Parliament to present our petition to a cross-party group of MPs. We had 8975 signatures (not counting the extra 100 which had come in late!) in a large box taped up with an End of a Life Choice banner. 

Maryan Street welcomed everybody and proceeded to outline the importance of this petition, which seeks a select committee enquiry into public attitudes towards assisted dying. In the wake of Lecretia Seales' efforts in the High Court recently, which resulted in the judge sending the issue back to Parliament for decisive action, it was a most appropriate next step in getting to a compassionate law.

Maryan then handed the microphone over to Matt Vickers, the widower of Lecretia Seales, to speak. He did so eloquently and most movingly. People were surprised and delighted to see him there. His presence was a media magnet and while all media were present, it was mostly print media which carried the story throughout the day, with some TV coverage happening on the late news that night. But there was a lot of coverage online and via social media.

The petition was presented by Maryan and Matt to four MPs: Iain Lees-Galloway (Labour), Chris Bishop (National), Kevin Hague (Greens) and David Seymour (Act). All four MPs spoke, each of them pledging their support for the issue. David Seymour is in the process of preparing a bill based on the existing EOLC Bill to put in the ballot as soon as practicable.

At 2pm that day our petition was introduced to the House - that means that the Clerk read it out before Question Time. It was then referred to the Health Select Committee. They considered it the very next day and agreed to hold the requested enquiry. They could have said they would not deal with it; they could have said they would take submissions only from the petitioner; but they have done the right thing and agreed to hold an enquiry. 

This is all very good news.

Now we must prepare submissions from individuals and groups to present or send to the committee. Submissions can be done electronically and can be as long or as short as the submitter likes. People can ask to appear before the committee but you can also say that you do not want to appear. MPs will still receive your submission.

In the very near future as the committee's timetable is made clear, VES will send out details of how to write a submission and exactly whom to send it to. This is indeed Lecretia's legacy and the start of informing MPs of the facts, research and practice around assisted dying. This is our best chance to get everything in front of the public and the MPs. If a bill is produced while this process is in train, well and good. The processes can run simultaneously. 

We now move into our next phase of activity!



The AGM was held at Hamilton Airport Hotel Conference Centre, Hamilton Airport on 20 June. The day was very successful and well attended. Members and the public heard reports and presentations by Dr Jack Havill (President), Pete Cowley (Treasurer), Maryan Street, David Seymour MP,  Phillipa Malpas and Sande Ramage

Lecretia's Choice's photo.

Lectretia Seales is asking NZers for support


Lecretia's Choice

Lecretia Seales believed ill people enduring intolerable suffering with no hope of recovery should have the choice to request assistance to end their lives.

You Can Help

If you or a loved one were afflicted with a terminal illness, and were facing prolonged agony and suffering, with no hope of recovery, what decisions would you want to be able to make? What choices would you want to have?

Lecretia pursued compassion through the courts, she didn't receive a favourable ruling. What about you and the ones you love? What about people that don’t have the resources to petition the courts? Shouldn’t our laws provide a way for our suffering, terminally ill citizens to take control of the manner in which they die, without requiring them to take legal action?

If you believe that terminally ill New Zealanders in pain or suffering should be able to choose how and when they end their lives, there are a number of things you can do to help:

  1. You can spread the word about dying with dignity
  2. You can tell politicians why it matters

Spread the Word

We really appreciate your attention and interest. If you haven’t already, please like Lecretia’s Facebook page. But the most effective thing you can do is to share Lecretia’s Facebook page to your own timeline by clicking the Share link below, to share Lecretia’s story with your friends.  The more people that are aware of the issue, and the more informed their opinions, the more likely we are to have a quality national debate about end-of-life care and death with dignity.

Write to Party Leaders

Since Andrew Little buried Ian Lees-Galloway’s End of Life Choice Bill and some parties are actively forbidding their MPs from doing so.

David Seymour MP has taken responsibility for reviewing a right to die bill.

One of the most powerful things you can do is to write to your favoured party leader to tell them how important this issue is to you, and why. If you have seen a family member suffer unnecessarily, or have concerns of your own about how you will experience end-of-life care, please tell your favoured party leader about it.  Let them know you care about their views and support for end-of-life choice. Let them know that your vote is contingent on them listening.

Email John Key

Write to John Key, Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party

Write to Andrew Little, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party

Write to Andrew Little, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party

Write to Metiria Turei, Co-Leader of the Green Party

Write to Metiria Turei, Co-Leader of the Green Party

Write to Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First

Write to Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First

Write to Te Ururoa Flavell, Leader of the Maori Party

Write to Te Ururoa Flavell, Leader of the Maori Party

Write to David Seymour, Leader of the ACT Party

Write to David Seymour, Leader of the ACT Party

Write to Peter Dunne, Leader of United Future

Write to Peter Dunne, Leader of United Future

Write to all party leaders

Write to all party leaders


In "News", you'll find YouTube links to one of Dr Rob
Jonquière's presentations.


Physician Assisted Dying (PAD)
Here are some recently published, useful and interesting statistics on what the New Zealand public think about Physician-assisted dying (PAD). This was published Dec 2014 by an Auckland University group in a distinguished Palliative Care Journal USA. As you will see, the results show the high value respondents place on patient autonomy with regards to End-of-Life Choices, and 82% want legalisation of PAD.

Guide to Dying- Your Way 

When thinking about dying, it’s easy to forget that you may be in a situation where you are unable to speak for yourself, unable to communicate what you do and don’t want – for example, after a head injury, stroke or heart attack – or you may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other health issues that could alter your quality of life.

An Advance Directive specifies what you do and don’t want, written down, witnessed and signed. You can purchase our Guide to complete your AD for healthcare here:   Purchase Advance Directives



Assisted  Dying - The Law in NZ

In New Zealand, the process of allowing a natural death by refusing medical treatment or intervention is quite legal. A clause in our Bill of Rights Act 1990 gives an unambiguous right to refuse medical treatment. Our Code of Health Consumers' Rights confirms that statutory right and also enshrines in law the use of an appropriate Advance Directive. It goes even further, in that Advance Directives do not necessarily have to be in writing. In emergencies an oral directive has an equal effect.

Assisting in a suicide or hastening a death is illegal. Aiding or abetting in any way is illegal and subject to heavy penalties. However, recent court cases reveal the compassion of New Zealand judges when they consider the charges, especially in cases in which it is obvious that the accused did not stand to benefit from the death. Where a conviction is brought in by a jury, the Courts seem to be inclined to take a lenient view when handing down sentences. 

We asked people how they feel about aid-in-dying laws.

And the Survey Says:

Most New Zealanders support aid-in-dying legislation.

Nearly 7 out of 10 New Zealanders support or strongly support an End-Of-Life Choice, for those who qualify and who request it. 

This holds true across all demographics, including political party, religion, age, gender, geographic location and income level.

Read the results of the Horizon Research Survey, focused on the End-Of-Life Choice Bill by clicking here.

Why we support End-of-Life choice
By Jack Havill, president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand

- To prevent suffering at the end of life, including pain that cannot be relieved by drugs. Some patients don’t want to be anaesthetised for their last days.
-  To maintain dignity in death. Terminally ill patients often lose control of their bodily functions and would prefer to die before becoming completely dependent on carers.
-  To retain personal control and be able to say when and how those with unbearable suffering die.
-  To allow terminally ill people who want to end their suffering to die in the company of friends and family and not have to commit suicide alone. While suicide is legal, a loved one who assists, or is even present at the time, risks prison.
- To allow sufferers to depart this life while still possessing their mental faculties. This would allow dignified goodbyes to friends and relatives and limit mutual distress.
- To eliminate compassionate law-breaking which risks prosecution.  It is recognised that some family members and doctors and nurses already assist patients begging for help to die because they cannot bear to see the suffering. A law change would legitimise their humane actions.
- Surveys show that nearly seven out of 10 New Zealanders across every section of society favour End-Of-Life Choice for those who qualify and request it.  Many are angry after watching and caring for family members who have su
ffered long drawn out deaths and want a good death for themselves.

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The Hon. Maryan Street, MP, Labour, sponsored the End-Of-Life Choice Bill.  It includes safeguards for aid-in-dying, such as:

Protection from prosecution for doctors and family members

Requires patients to submit 2 written requests for the medication. 

The participation of 2 doctors

Mandatory reporting

Such safeguards insure that the law is used as it is intended, and is accessible to those who qualify.

View the Bill here:

End-of-Life Choice Bill


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