The following is a re-post of an Op Ed piece by Simon O’Connor published by the Wanganui Chronicle today May 7th 2018
A few weeks ago David Seymour dismissed tens of thousands of New Zealanders who wrote to Parliament with their concerns about his End of Life Choice bill.
Submissions on his bill, which allows for euthanasia or assisted dying, have barely closed and he has already stated he doesn’t care what people have to say.
Armed with a handful of polls that assure him of just how right he thinks he is on this issue, he has decided Parliament no longer needs to think for itself.
The problem with relying on public polling to decide serious, complex social issues is that it inherently reduces the issue to a simple yes or no question. This is a dangerous way to address difficult subjects, especially when lives are at stake.
Polling questions are not only simple, they are entirely dependent on the imagination of those polled. It is very easy to support just about any proposition if you are asked only about the idealised version in your own mind.
While polls may indicate broad public support for the concept of “assisted dying”, the public has never been asked about the specifics. Supporting an abstract principle is very different from writing a law that will shape the real world.
Assisted suicide, and this bill in particular, is a serious risk to many people in our society.
Though Seymour is at great pains to remind everyone this bill advocates only voluntary euthanasia, we also know that many people are vulnerable to abuse, bullying and exploitation.
Seymour must be convinced that no one will ever be coerced into dying for the convenience or financial gain of another.
He obviously believes no one in his family would ever encourage someone to end their life early so that the will could be read that much sooner. Indeed, it is tempting to think that of all families in New Zealand.
However, we know that elder abuse is rampant, and that seniors, the sick, and the disabled are already marginalised in our society.
Many feel unvalued and unwelcome, either through the deliberate actions of others or because of a prevalent unconscious bias.
In the face of these and other concerns, it is unfortunate that Seymour has dismissed anyone not wholeheartedly supporting him as “fearmongering”. This is an injustice to the issue, to those who disagree with him, and to his own bill.
I can understand why he reacts this way. Unable to find an audience willing to listen to him and with Act facing electoral oblivion, he needs to find a way to remain relevant.
In fairness, he has long been very confused about his position on the political spectrum.
Yesterday he was the most outspoken libertarian in New Zealand, the champion of individual rights and liberties. Today, he is so wedded to populism he makes Donald Trump look like an elitist.
He will follow any poll that suits his ends and will happily ignore the more than 25,000 Kiwis who have written in to the committee on his assisted suicide bill.
It is a shame that the old David Seymour, that champion of individual rights, can’t have a chat with the new populist one. The old one would have surely said that allowing the majority to override the rights of minorities is a risk to everyone’s rights.