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The End of Life Choice Act 2019

Jump to: Current status • Content of the Act • History of the Legislation • Surveys 

Current status

After two years of working its way through the parliamentary process, the End of Life Choice Bill was finally passed into law on 13 November 2019, and will be known as the End of Life Choice Act 2019.

The Act is, however, subject to a binding public referendum, which will be held at the same time as the 2020 General Election on 17 October. The question that will be asked at the referendum is: "Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?” Yes/No

More information on the referendum »

Content of the Act

The criteria and processes of the EOLC Act.

Click here to download »

History of the Legislation

In 1995 MP Michael Laws Private Member’s Bill “Death with Dignity” was defeated by 61 votes to 29, with many abstentions. A few years later (2003) MP Peter Brown’s Private Member’s Bill once again raised hopes but was defeated by 2 votes at its first reading.

Maryan Street was the next MP to tackle this issue and promoted her End of Life Choice Bill, but was forced to withdraw her Bill in advance of the general election in 2014. However, she got the ball rolling once more with her successful petition on medically-assisted dying in 2016. The tide was turning.

June 2015 saw the tragic death of lawyer Lecretia Seales, the same day that her case for medically assisted dying was turned down. Lecretia had filed a claim with the High Court arguing that her GP should not be prosecuted under the Crimes Act (1961) in assisting her in her death with her consent, and that under the Bill of Rights Act (1962) she had the right to not be subjected to the unnecessary suffering of a long, cruel death.

Finally, MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill was drawn from the members’ bills ballot on 8 June 2017. The Bill passed its first reading in parliament on 13 December 2017 (76 to 44 votes), and was referred to the Justice Select Committee.

After a year of hearings, the Select Committee reported back to parliament on 9 April 2019. 

It was then debated by the Committee of the Whole House between August and October 2019, during which time a large number of amendments were made, the most significant being:

  • People with “grievous and irremediable conditions” would no longer be eligible to apply for assisted dying. Only those with a terminal illness and a prognosis of 6 months or less to live would qualify.
  • A binding public referendum would be held, should the Bill pass its third reading.
  • Doctors are not permitted to raise the issue of Assisted Dying with their terminally ill patients.

On 13 November 2019, the End of Life Choice Bill passed its third reading (69 to 51 votes). It will be known as the End of Life Choice Act 2019. The Act is, however, subject to a binding public referendum, which will be held at the same time as the 2020 General Election on 17 October.


1. In 2018 a group of Otago University researchers reviewed existing data on New Zealanders’ attitudes to euthanasia or assisted dying over the past 20 years. A total of 36,304 people had been surveyed. Across all these surveys, on average, 68.3 percent of people had supported euthanasia and 14.9 percent opposed, while 15.7 percent were neutral or unsure.

2. A Horizon poll in April 2019 of over 1300 people were very similar to previous Horizon polls:

    • 74% of adults supported medical assistance to die for those experiencing irreversible unbearable suffering at end stage terminal disease, with 19% opposed. The highest support was among 18-24 and 55-64-year-olds: 80%.
    • 65% supported medical assistance to die in the case of irreversible unbearable suffering which may not cause death immediately, with 19% opposed.

3. The next Horizon poll in November 2019 showed that 70% of New Zealanders think they will cast a referendum vote in favour of the End of Life Choice Act becoming law.

    • The survey showed support for end of life choice has largely held at levels measured before the bill was passed. The removal of “not sure” and “don't know” answer options consolidated opposition, up from 18% in April 2019 to 30%. 
    •  While concern has been expressed about the law potentially exposing some elderly to risk, 72% of those aged 65 to 74 and 61% of those aged 75+ say they intend to vote Yes to enact the Act.

4. On 8 March 2020, results of a poll undertaken by Horizon on behalf of The Hui revealed that 72% of Māori said they would vote in support of the End of Life Choice Act at this year's referendum.

    • One of the most divisive discussion points amongst MPs during the Bill’s passage through Parliament was whether or not assisted dying is a transgression of tikanga Māori. 
    • However, The Hui's poll shows that 58 percent of respondents did not believe the End of Life Choice Act was incompatible with tikanga Māori, and 55 percent felt that for the terminally ill, choosing to die was an act of tino rangatira / self-determination.

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