Death across the Tasman?

End of life issues have taken a turn for the worse in New Zealand, with ramifications for Australia.

This week, New Zealand approved the introduction of euthanasia subject to a public vote.

Approved by parliament, 69 votes to 51, the public vote will be held in conjunction with the coming general election, due next year.

The bill passed the parliament after years of gruelling debate, a record 39,000 public submissions, and numerous amendments.

One of these was the restriction of euthanasia to those with a terminal illness and having less than six months to live, rather than the originally planned “grievous and irremediable medical conditions” (whatever that means).

Quite aside from the déjà vu aspect of a public vote on a major social question (the 2017 marriage vote, anybody?) the NZ public vote on euthanasia will likely weigh on state-level debates here in Australia.

The Western Australian debate is already well-advanced, with Queensland and other states set to follow in its wake.

And all this after Victoria’s death laws have come into effect and seen life ended.

Please be in do doubt: euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are about much more than “turning off the machine”. They mean the deliberate taking of human life – with real consequences for the families and societies affected.

What experience proves, though, is that – with sufficient public disquiet and despite what public opinion polls profess to tell us – we can still cut through to our policymakers.

As we’ve said before, it’s all well and good to have the alleged “best argument”, but as the saying goes: “victory goes to those who show up”.

Let’s keep that thought foremost in mind.