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Referendum on the End of Life Choice Act

03 Dec 2019 5:13 PM | Philip Patston (Administrator)

The NZ Government has released the following information:


This referendum will determine whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 comes into force

This referendum will give the public the opportunity to vote on whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force.

  • The End of Life Choice Act 2019 gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.
  • Parliament has passed the End of Life Choice Act 2019. But it has not come into force (started operating as law).
  • The End of Life Choice Act 2019 will only come into force if this receives majority support in a national referendum (more than 50% voting in favour).

The Referendum Question

The question is:

Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?

  • Yes, I support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.
  • No, I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.

Key Terminology Used

For consistency, and to ensure that references to the Act are accurate, this website uses the terminology of the Act. But this does not signal a preference for this terminology over any other. There is no Government position for or against the End of Life Choice Act 2019.

Assisted dying. In the End of life Choice Act 2019, this means:

  • the administration by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner of medication to the person to relieve the person's suffering by hastening death; or
  • the self-administration by the person of medication to relieve their suffering by hastening death.

Medication. In the End of Life Choice Act 2019, this means the lethal dose of the medication.

The End of Life Choice Act's Core Elements

The Act is built on three core elements:

  • defining who is eligible for assisted dying (the eligibility criteria)
  • ensuring that the person requesting assisted dying is competent to understand the nature and consequences of their decisions (establishing competence)
  • ensuring there is free choice, made without coercion, to engage in the process.

Eligibility criteria (clause 4 of the Act)

To be eligible for assisted dying, a person must meet ALL of these criteria:

  • be aged 18 years or over
  • be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand
  • suffer from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life within 6 months
  • be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability
  • experience unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that they consider tolerable
  • be competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying.

A person will not be eligible for assisted dying because they are suffering from any form of mental disorder or mental illness, have a disability of any kind, or are elderly.

Establishing competence (clause 4A of the Act)

A person is competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying if they can:

  • understand information about the nature of assisted dying
  • retain that information to the extent necessary to make the decision
  • use that information to weigh up and inform their decision
  • communicate their decision in some way.

Ensuring there is free choice, made without coercion (clause 8 of the Act)

A medical practitioner must do their best to ensure that a person's choice to access assisted dying is made of their own free will. The End of Life Choice Act 2019 contains several provisions that seek to ensure this. This includes requiring that the medical practitioner:

  • periodically discusses the choice with the person, and ensures that they understand their other options for end of life care
  • talks with other health practitioners who are in regular contact with the person, and with members of the person's family/whānau with the person's permission
  • ensures that the person knows they can change their mind at any time.

If the medical practitioner suspects a person is being pressured about their decision, they must stop the process.

A health practitioner does not have to assist a person with assisted dying if they have a conscientious objection.

The process of assisted dying

The request for assisted dying

The process begins with an initial request from the person to their medical practitioner. A medical practitioner is not allowed to suggest to a person that they consider assisted dying.

Establishing eligibility

Two medical practitioners must agree that the person meets all the criteria for assisted dying and is competent to make the request. If either medical practitioner is unsure of the person's competence, a third opinion from a psychiatrist is required. If a person is ineligible or not competent, the process ends. The person may not access assisted dying.

Choosing the method and time of assisted dying

If the person is eligible and competent, they select a method for receiving the medication, and when they want to receive it.

Administering the medication

At the chosen time of administration, their medical practitioner or nurse practitioner must ask the person if they choose to receive the medication. If the person chooses to receive it, the medical practitioner administers it. They must be available to the person until they die. If the person does not want to receive the medication, it must be taken away.

What happens after the votes are counted?

If more than 50% of voters vote 'Yes' in the referendum, the End of life Choice Act 2019 will come into force 12 months after the date the final votes are announced. If more than 50% of voters vote ‘No' in the referendum, the End of life Choice Act 2019 will not come into force and the current law will remain.

End of Life Choice Act 2019's information on the Parliament's website

End of Life Choice Act 2019

Final report of the Justice Committee to Parliament on the End of Life Choice Bill (PDF, 452KB)


Comments

  • 06 Dec 2019 1:39 PM | Anonymous
    This is an excellent summary: accurate and non-hysterical. The Ministry of Justice has done a good job.
    Link  •  Reply

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