End of Life Choice Act

The NZ public are soon to be invited to vote in the referendum on the End of Life Choice (EOLC) Act.  This will be a highly significant moment for Aotearoa, with the bill encapsulating a decision-making framework around one of the most intimate and important moments for an individual and their loved ones. The enormity of this decision has been highlighted in views from both ends of the debate.
The NZ Psychological Society acknowledges the significance of this moment for us all as a country and we acknowledge the strength of feeling this topic raises in all of us.

The EOLC Act supports the right of individuals to have choice around the manner and timing of their death. It provides a framework around end of life choices with strict criteria, and roles for those involved, to ensure risks such as abuse or pressure in this choice is avoided.  Concerns raised have included possible inequitable access to or use of the Act across different cultures, heightened risks for the disabled community, and the potential costs of administering the Bill.
We at the NZPsS include below some useful articles for your consideration from both ends of the debate to assist you in this important decision.

Below is from the New Zealand Government website

About the End of Life Choice Act 2019

The Act gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.
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'.

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.

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.

https://www.referendums.govt.nz/endoflifechoice/index.html

 

Tikanga Māori Considerations in relation to Assisted Dying

To discuss the implications of assisted euthanasia for Māori, The Hui's Mihingarangi Forbes spoke with Hāpai Te Hauora CEO Selah Hart, Anglican minister Reverend Chris Huriwai, Cantebury University senior lecturer Te Hurinui Clarke and Māori lawyer and advocate Kingi Snelgar.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/03/m-ori-back-end-of-life-choice-bill-poll.html

An article written while the Bill was awaiting it’s second reading in the House – recognises that there are a range of viewpoints on whether assisted dying is at odds with tikanga Māori.

https://e-tangata.co.nz/comment-and-analysis/a-good-death/

 

Euthanasia referendum: How assisted dying laws work around the world

Of about 195 countries and 50 states in the US, only a handful have legalised some form of assisted dying to date.

The number of jurisdictions to decriminalise both euthanasia and assisted dying is smaller still – just five.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/euthanasia-debate/300060548/euthanasia-referendum-how-assisted-dying-laws-work-around-the-world?rm=a

 

Euthanasia referendum: There is no 'slippery slope' to the End of Life Choice Act, say senior legal professionals

As the referendum on the End of Life Choice Act approaches, people naturally want to know - are the safeguards in the Act safe enough? As two lawyers (one practicing and one academic) with extensive expertise in this area, our answer to this question is a resounding and evidence-based ‘yes’.

Our analysis has found New Zealand’s assisted dying Act is one of the most rigorous in the world. It strongly mirrors legislation that is working well in countries similar to ours (culturally and in terms of medical practice), including Victoria and Western Australia, with some additional protections.

https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/23-09-2020/the-end-of-life-choice-bill-is-safer-than-many-of-our-current-critical-care-laws/

 

From the Human Rights Commission

Ms Tesoriero has outlined her concerns regarding the End of Life Choice Bill in a submission to the Justice Select Committee.

“Much of the discussion so far has centred around the Bill allowing people with a terminal illness to end their life on their own terms. However, this Bill has wider implications for the disability community - it is not just limited to terminal illness,” Ms Tesoriero says.

“We must first work towards ensuring, to the greatest extent possible, that all people have the same freedom of choice in life before we consider legislating choice in death.

“It’s my role to reflect the concerns of the disability community and what I am hearing is that there are significant concerns about this Bill, particularly the inclusion of grievous and irremediable (but non-terminal) medical conditions. These concerns are important and relevant and need to be part of the conversation around this legislation.

“The bill does not reflect the reality for many disabled New Zealanders and undermines many years of hard work by disability advocates to change the way that society thinks about disability.

“Before we start talking about how disabled people can end their lives, we should be talking about how they can be supported to live their lives to their fullest potential,” says Ms Tesoriero.

https://www.hrc.co.nz/news/end-life-choice-bill-undermines-years-work-change-perceptions-disabled-people-new-zealand/

 

From the Australian Psychological Society

Further information regarding implications for psychologists in relation to assisted dying, not specifically linked to the New Zealand referendum or the proposed EOLC Act –

https://www.psychology.org.au/About-Us/What-we-do/advocacy/Advocacy-social-issues/End-of-life

https://www.psychology.org.au/for-members/publications/inpsych/2019/august/What-psychologists-should-know-about-voluntary-ass

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