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New Zealand's euthanasia bill passes, referendum to be held

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Wellington (AFP)

New Zealand lawmakers voted Wednesday in favour of making euthanasia legal, paving the way for the issue to be put to voters in a referendum next year.

The law, enabling terminally ill people to request a medically assisted death was passed 69-51 at its final reading, ending years of passionate debate in parliament.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has publicly stated her support for euthanasia reform and reluctantly voted for the referendum saying it was the only way of advancing the legislation.

The referendum was a demand of the New Zealand First Party, which threatened to vote against the legislation if it wasn't put to the public -- possibly condemning it to fail.

"New Zealanders elect us, but they do not elect our consciences," New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin said.

The bill sponsor, libertarian MP David Seymour, said before the vote he was confident it would be passed.

"We've had the arguments -- I don't think anyone will ever be able to say that parliament didn't properly scrutinise this bill," he said.

"It's been nearly two years since the parliamentary process started. And over that time we've kicked around every conceivable argument for and against the bill."

While MPs voted, protesters against euthanasia -- carrying placards reading "assist us to live not die" and "euthanasia is not the solution" -- staged a vigil outside parliament.

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