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 was, however, subject to a binding public referendum, which was held at the same time as the 2020 General Election on 17 October. The question that was asked at the referendum is: "Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?” Yes/No.
The final results, 65.1% in favour, were declared on 6 November 2020. This means that the EOLC Act 2019 will come into force on 6 November 2021.
The criteria and processes of the EOLC Act.Click here to download »
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:
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:
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.
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.