Sir Bill and Dr Mary English make submissions on euthanasia


Former New New Zealand prime minister the Right Honourable Sir Bill English and his wife Dr Mary English made a submission to a parliamentary committee considering the End of Life Choice Bill last Thursday.

Mary English has worked as a general practitioner for 28 years.

She has a practice in the inner Wellington suburb of Kelburn.

They are both Catholics, but Bill English said euthanasia should not be seen as a battleground between believers and atheists, “just an issue of different belief systems”.

He said the argument was more about advocating for the collective good than a specific religious view.

Sir Bill English’submission

Bill English said the legislation was flawed in principle and beyond salvaging in practice.

“What starts out as permitted will become desirable, and then for some will become an unconsented necessity – that’s the slippery slope and there’s actually no way around it.”

He said:

  • The criteria for who would be eligible to request assisted dying was too broad
  • The test for whether a person had consented to die was too low
  •  There were too few consequences in place for anyone who broke the safeguards of the legislation.

The current bill was being supported by a small group of predominantly highly-educated pākehā, who placed high importance on personal autonomy Bill English said.

Dr Mary English’s Submission

She said she was opposed to “state-sanctioned killing”.

There was nothing in Seymour’s bill sufficient to contain the incredible power over life which doctors would have.

“If you ask [doctors], ‘What is your bottom line?’…most importantly, we don’t want to be responsible for the death of a patient that didn’t need to happen.”

Mary English expressed concern that elderly people would feel under pressure to kill themselves as if they were a burden, with not all families willing to provide necessary support and in some cases taking advantage of them.

Both Bill and Mary English drew a comparison with youth suicide.

“If assisted suicide is a triumph for autonomy and choice, how can youth suicide be a tragedy?” Mary English said.

Listen to submission


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