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Assisted dying in New Zealand became a legal choice from this coming Sunday, just as our health system is being increasingly overwhelmed by COVID.
End-of-Life Choice Society President, Dr Mary Panko, is worried that terminally ill patients who want to end their suffering may now hesitate to ask their doctor for help for fear of adding to the medical burden.
Dr Panko recognises it’s an awkward time for the new legislation to come into force, but she says “Anyone who fits the criteria of being terminally ill, diagnosed to die within six months, and suffering unbearably, please don’t be put off. Be brave, ask for assistance and if you are not getting it, come to us. We are here to help. The End-of-Life Choice Society continues to provide public education and information on its website at www.eolc.org.nz.”
“We highlight the eligibility criteria, how to express a request for assisted dying and what to do if your doctor turns out to be a conscientious objector.”
Dr Panko says “the new law brings enormous peace of mind for those whose dying would otherwise be protracted, terrifying, agonising or dehumanising. They can now ask a doctor to help them die earlier thus avoiding days, weeks or perhaps months of unbearable suffering.”
Aotearoa New Zealand has around 35,000 deaths each year. Of these, it is expected only 1% or 2% will meet the eligibility criteria for assisted dying. “Our eligibility criteria are very strict, much stricter than in, say, Belgium, the Netherlands or Canada. We have strong safeguards and protocols to ensure scrutiny and oversight both before and after the assisted death.”
“As it happens, today, 2 November is World Right-to-Die Day – celebrated each year by the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies. Around 250 million people worldwide are now covered by assisted dying laws and that number is growing. People will no longer be fobbed off with false promises that palliative care can relieve suffering for everyone if only enough money is put towards it. Data-driven and anecdotal evidence from around the world show that it simply cannot.”
“We thank our politicians for changing the law, New Zealanders for voting to endorse the legislation at the 2019 referendum, and most importantly we thank our medical workforce for their compassion and willingness to help those of us who would otherwise face a tortured end.”
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