The ACT Party is urging religious leaders who object to the End of Life Choice Act to respect the choices of others.
Catholic Bishops released an election statement this week opposing the Act, which would give people with a terminal illness the option of lawfully requesting help to die.
In their statement, the bishops say they believe the Act fails to meet the “extremely high safety threshold” they believe it would require, because of risk to elderly and disabled people who find themselves within the scope of the Act.
But ACT leader David Seymour – who authored the Act – has rejected claims made by the bishops, saying the act explicitly forbids anyone being eligible to choose assisted dying because of old age or disability.
The Bishops also claimed the Act has no mandatory stand-down period, weak processes for detecting whether people feel pressured and no requirement for a patient to discuss their decision with a family member or other significant person.
A person would not be eligible to ask for assisted dying under the Act if the only reason they give is that they are suffering from a mental disorder or mental illness, or have a disability of any kind, or are of advanced age.
They must be a citizen or permanent resident over 18 years old, suffer from a terminal illness expected to end their life within six months, have significant and ongoing decline in physical capability, experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
People who are eligible must also get approval from two separate doctors and go through an extensive checklist.
If any doctor believes the person is being pressured into the decision, the process must stop, and doctors cannot initiate a conversation about it.
Seymour says the religious leaders need to understand the End of Life Choice Act is about choice, dignity and respect.
“They may have a philosophical view that life belongs to God, and they have a right to their belief. They don’t have the right to force it on others,” he said in a statement.
“If the bishops want their freedoms respected, they need to engage in honest debate that respects others have difference choices from theirs.”