We don’t know at this stage whether New Zealand First’s requirement for a referendum on assisted dying will be accepted if the End of Life Choice Bill passes all three readings.
But as a grass-roots supporter interfacing frequently with the public in a variety of ways, I can see that a referendum is likely to be successful for assisted dying.
Together with fellow-supporters, I frequently attend market stalls where our objective is to provide factual information about the Bill to passers-by. This is to counter the fanciful scaremongering put about by its opponents.
Our colourful T-shirts and our banner with messages signalling us as supporters of assisted dying attract plenty of well-wishers in this kind of mixed forum, and there’s nothing select about a market group: it is highly representative of the local population.
Of course, some people (politely) let us know they have an opposite opinion, but they are decidedly in the minority. I can’t help wishing Parliament could be as civil and tolerant as the market crowd.
When we present the Bill to a mixed group such as a U3A club, a Grey Power group, a church group (yes, the Presbyterian Outreach Group invited us to speak to their members), people are in principle supportive of choice and autonomy at death even though they may not be very knowledgeable about the contents of the Bill. Learning about it doesn’t put them off one whit. On the contrary, they are impressed by the many safeguards and the care inherent in the process.
In summary, I can’t help but extrapolate the enthusiasm we see at ground level to the likely result of a referendum on assisted dying. We have no sense of fighting a losing battle or even that we’re fighting to make headway: on the contrary the public support is palpable.