What is the End of Life Choice Act 2019?
The End of Life Choice Act 2019 (“the Act”) is a piece of New Zealand legislation that came into effect on 7 November 2021. The Act gives the option of Euthanasia or assisted suicide to those suffering from a terminal illness and sets out a lawful process for those who choose to request this option.
What is the eligibility criteria?
To be eligible for assisted dying, a person is required to have two medical practitioners confirm that the following eligibility criteria are met: –
Assisted dying will not be granted to people solely due to old age, having a disability or suffering from mental illness. Assisted dying also cannot be suggested to a patient as an option; it must be raised by the person themselves.
What if I am eligible?
If a person is found eligible they can then choose the date and method of administration of the medication to complete the assisted dying. The doctor or nurse for the eligible person can refuse to assist them with this process if they have an objection on the ground of conscience. The doctor or nurse must then refer the person to the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand Group where they will be given the details of a replacement doctor or nurse.
How common is it?
The Ministry of Health has published the Registrar’s annual report which confirms there have been 328 people who have had an assisted death between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023. In that time, there were 807 formal applications.
The Act is still very new to New Zealand and a controversial topic for many. The Ministry of Health will continue to report on the Act and any updates in the future.