The General election in New Zealand this year, will be the option to vote in End of Life Choice Act 2019
Parliament passed the End of Life Choice Act, but it has not come into force. The Act will only come into force if more than 50% of voters in the referendum vote ‘Yes’.
The Act gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.
Terms used in the Act
In the Act, ‘assisted dying’ means:
- a person’s doctor or nurse practitioner giving them medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death; or
- the taking of medication by the person to relieve their suffering by bringing on death.
In the Act, ‘medication’ means a lethal dose of the medication used for assisted dying.
Who would be eligible for assisted dying?
To be able to ask for assisted dying, a person must meet ALL the following criteria. They must:
- be aged 18 years or over
- be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand
- suffer from a terminal illness that’s likely to end their life within 6 months
- have significant and ongoing decline in physical capability
- experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased
- be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
A person would not be eligible to ask for assisted dying 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.
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Who would be considered able to make an informed decision about assisted dying?
Under the Act, a person is able to make an informed decision about assisted dying if they can do ALL of the following things:
- understand information about assisted dying
- remember information about assisted dying in order to make the decision
- use or weigh up information about assisted dying when making their decision
- communicate their decision in some way.
Making sure the choice is freely made
The doctor must do their best to make sure that a person’s choice to ask for assisted dying is their own.
If, at any time, the doctor or nurse practitioner thinks a person is being pressured about their decision, they must stop the process.
A health practitioner is not allowed to suggest that a person consider assisted dying when providing a health service to them.
The assisted dying process
Requesting assisted dying
The process of assisted dying begins with the person asking their doctor.
Determining who is eligible
The person’s doctor and an independent doctor must agree that the person meets all the criteria, which includes being able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
If either doctor is unsure of the person’s ability to make that decision, a psychiatrist needs to assess the person. If a person is not eligible, they cannot receive assisted dying.
Selecting the method and timing
If the person is eligible, they choose a method, date, and time for taking the medication.
Administering the lethal dose of medication
At the time the person has chosen to take the medication, the doctor or nurse practitioner must ask the person if they still choose to take the medication.
If the person chooses to take it, the doctor or nurse practitioner gives it. The doctor or nurse practitioner must be available to the person until they die.
If the person changes their mind, the medication must be taken away.
What happens after the votes are counted?
If more than 50% of people vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum, the End of Life Choice Act will come into force 12 months after the date the final votes are announced.
If more than 50% of people vote ‘No’ in the referendum, the End of Life Choice Act will not come into force.