PRIME Minister John Key said if he was terminally ill he would consider euthanasia, and that it already happens in New Zealand hospitals.
However doctors disagreed with him, saying it was a simplistic view of the situation.
Mr Key told Newstalk ZB yesterday that he understood the argument that legalising euthanasia might pressure elderly people to end their lives early in the face of “rapacious grandkids”, but added, “I don’t really buy that argument”.
“I think there’s a lot of euthanasia that effectively happens in our hospitals,” he said
“. . . If I had terminal cancer, I had a few weeks to live, I was in tremendous amount of pain – if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia, I’d want that.”
Labour MP Maryan Street is currently drafting a member’s bill to legalise euthanasia, with the the emotive subject already sparking debate even before it is in the ballot.
The Prime Minister signalled his broad support for euthanasia, but wasn’t sure if that support extended to backing the bill as he said there could be some “quirks” that he did not agree with.
“So I may or may not vote for that bill, [but] the broader principle I support.”
He had previously backed a bill promoted by NZ First MP Peter Brown in 2003 which was thrown out on its first vote.
Ian Powell, director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, which represents senior doctors, said he did not think euthanasia was happening in hospitals the way Mr Key made it out to be.
“The situation is much more complex than that . . . Sometimes continuing a treatment can prolong the agony for a patient, and not even keep the patient alive.
“By not prolonging the agony . . . even though the intent is not for the patient to die, it is sometimes a consequence.”
The debate follows the death today of British man Tony Nicklinson.
He had been suffering from locked-in syndrome since 2005, and last week his appeal to the High Court to overturn the UK’s ban on euthanasia was rejected.
He had asked the court to declare that any doctor who killed him with his consent would not be charged with murder.
Last week’s decision had left him “devastated and heartbroken.”