Euthanasia could be legal in New Zealand in less than a year with legislation to come before Parliament in as little as a few weeks.
The End of Life Choice Bill was plucked at random from the members’ ballot on Thursday, almost two years after it was first included, and there is confidence it has the numbers to pass.
It would give people over 18 with a terminal illness or a “grievous” medical condition the option to choose assisted dying if they have the support of two doctors.
Act Party leader David Seymour, the party’s sole MP, is confident MPs will easily pass the legislation and says at best, assisted suicide could be legal in just under a year.
He says New Zealanders are capable of having the discussion, taking aim at Australian politicians who are yet to consider same-sex marriage or physician-assisted dying.
“It might be an issue with the Australian public but in New Zealand, they are quite capable of separating issues around euthanasia,” he said.
But the timing could be troubling for some MPs, with it yet to be determined if the legislation will come before the House of Representatives ahead of the September election.
“It will then take another six months to a year after that before it’s potentially passed into law and of course we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the numbers at each of the three votes,” Mr Seymour said.
New Zealand’s unicameral system means the legislation only needs to pass through a committee stage and three readings in the House of Representatives before becoming law.
In the last count six months ago, there were 40 votes in support, 27 opposed and around 50 MPs undecided.
The unknown factor is new MPs who will enter parliament after the September 23 election.
Across New Zealand, polling puts public support for legalising euthanasia above 70%.
If successful it would be the second major piece of conscience legislation passed by New Zealand’s parliament in the last few years.
While the same-sex marriage debate continues to rage in Australia, New Zealanders have been happily marrying for four years.
State parliaments in both Victoria and New South Wales are expected to consider euthanasia legislation later this year.
But just last month legislation failed to pass Tasmania’s lower house, with twice as many MPs opposing change as those in favour.
A bill in South Australia was defeated by a single vote last November. AAP