By Isaac Davison - New Zealand Herald - August 16, 2012
Ms Barry's All Party Parliamentary Group on Palliative Care will meet for the first time today and aims to improve MPs' understanding of the care available.
Palliative care focuses on relieving the suffering of patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
Ms Barry was partly inspired to form the group after witnessing the high-quality care her parents received before their deaths.
Her father was diagnosed with cancer and stayed in Mary Potter Hospice until his death 15 years ago.
"Mum and I were able to go up there and spend time with him. I had dreaded it but it was as good as it could have been."But her primary motivation is to oppose assisted suicide as an alternative for seriously ill patients.
She said euthanasia was part of the discussion when she chaired a working party on "Care of people who are dying", but she had concluded it was not a sensible option.
Assisted suicide is illegal in New Zealand, but Labour MP Maryan Street is working on a private member's bill that would legalise some end-of-life options.
Ms Barry said many advocates of euthanasia were unaware of the world-class palliative care available in New Zealand's 35 hospices, palliative care homes, and in hospitals.
The parliamentary group would aim to ensure palliative care remained free and would look to expand and increase hospice services.
Ms Barry said interest had been strong, with 25 MPs planning to attend the inaugural meeting.
Ms Barry was later criticised for her approach to the first meeting. This further article by Isaac Davidson also from the New Zealand Herald the very next day continues the story:
National MP Maggie Barry has defended her new cross-party parliamentary group against accusations it was created solely to kill off a Labour MP's bill to legalise assisted suicide.
Opposition MPs were furious that Ms Barry's discussion group for palliative care focused only on arguments against euthanasia at its first meeting yesterday.
She was accused of using the all-parliamentary group on palliative care to derail Labour Party MP Maryan Street's End of Life Choice Bill.
Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said Ms Barry had let down the "noble tradition" of cross-party talks.
"I'm very angry about it. I had been going along to that wanting to contribute to a cross-party effort to support great palliative care.
"When we got there, it turned out that actually Maggie Barry had invited us there to be part of her agenda against Maryan Street's bill on assisted dying. I don't believe that the cause of great palliative care ought to be exploited in order to advance Maggie's agenda against the bill."
Ms Street said she had welcomed the discussion on caring for terminal and chronically ill patients, but her invitation gave no indication that the debate would target her bill.
Ms Barry admitted after the meeting that only one side of the euthanasia debate had been heard, but said this was mainly because of technical difficulties.
The guest speaker, Baroness Ilora Finlay, could participate only by conference call and therefore a full debate was not possible.
Asked whether it could be considered a cross-party discussion when only one point of view was given, Ms Barry said all parties were invited to the meeting.
"My aim for today was that people would be better informed about the options that exist in New Zealand at this time so that politicians can make a better informed decision if the [private member's bill] is ever drawn out."
Baroness Finlay strongly criticised the bill during the meeting, saying it was "full of black holes".
She said a law change would normalise assisted suicide, and would lead to people ending their lives prematurely or without properly considering rehabilitation.
"With many conditions, we know that with time people not only adapt but go on to retrieve a quality of life they never imagined they would find again."
Ms Barry echoed these concerns after the meeting, saying Ms Street's proposed law change was a terrible bill that failed to protect vulnerable patients.
Ms Street said no legislation was foolproof, and her bill would make every effort to "mitigate the worst of human behaviour" during the select committee process.
The Labour MP said she was distressed that the meeting appeared to create a divide between palliative care and euthanasia and she felt the two options were not exclusive.