It's been interesting for me to note that half a dozen NZ parliamentarians and candidates at a semi-public meeting all announced that their intention for the End of Life Choice Bill was to vote "according to the wishes of my electorate".
It was as though a "conscience" vote was something they were not prepared to make. I suggested to our local MP (who was at the time "undecided") that I would rather have his vote "in good conscience" against the Bill than have him go into the debate still vacillating.
But, actually, I didn't think too much about the issues. A "conscience" vote is note just a vote for one's own personal opinions and beliefs. For instance, We saw many MPs vote for the First Reading of the Bill although their personal inclinations were against it. They were taking the attitude that at least the Bill deserved a thorough hearing from a competent Committee before being thrown out by Parliament. That was a responsible act and I told my MP so.
When the next Readings of the Bill come along I would like to see a few MPs paying less attention to their own views than to the good of the country as a whole. I hope that some swinging MPs and even some who have decided to oppose the Bill might, in conscience, pay enough attention to the negative aspects of end of life as it is for many people at present that they might even vote for the Bill against their personal convictions. I'd like them to say "I do not want the personal choice of a different end of life for myself" but my "conscience" tells me I should vote for the Bill to give others the choice.
So personal views and opinions are not the whole of a "conscience" vote. It must also include consideration of more issues than just personal ones. It must include the understanding that the conscience of an MP has to do with making decisions for the good of the greatest number of the population. Even against one's own personal beliefs.
When this Bill comes back to the House MPs will be free to vote according to their consciences. Hopefully, the consciences of some will remind them they are voting for the whole population, not just the promotion of their own beliefs.