12 things you need to know about the End of Life Choice Act 2019

12 things you need to know about the End of Life Choice Act 2019

Some will see the passing of the End of Life Choice Act 2019 as a victory and others will have a completely opposite opinion. We will all however be able to have our say in a referendum on whether or not the Act should come into force. This referendum is due to be held during the 2020 election. If a majority of electors vote yes, it will come into force 12 months after that.

  1. The Act uses the term “Assisted Dying” to refer to a medical practitioner or the person themselves administering medication to hasten their death.

  2. A person must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible to receive “Assisted Dying”:
    • Be over 18 years of age.
    • Have NZ citizenship or be a permanent resident.
    • Suffer from a terminal illness likely to end their life in 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
    • Be competent to make an informed decision about Assisted Dying.

  3. A Medical Professional is under no obligation to help anyone in relation to Assisted Dying if they have a conscientious objection to doing so.

  4. A Medical Practitioner must not suggest or initiate any discussions regarding Assisted Dying.

  5. The opinion of up to three Medical Practitioners may be required. If a person’s own Medical Practitioner forms the opinion, they are eligible to receive Assisted Dying, the opinion of an independent Medical Practitioner must be sought.  If either reach the opinion that the person is not able to make an informed decision, a Psychiatrist must provide a third opinion as to whether or not they are competent to make an informed decision.

  6. If a Medical Practitioner reasonably suspects that a person has been pressured to receive Assisted Dying, they must not take any further action.
  7. The person who is eligible to receive Assisted Dying gets to choose the date, the time and the method and are able to rescind their decision at any time.

  8. Anyone appointed as a welfare guardian under the Personal and Property Rights Act will not have any power to make any decisions for anyone in relation to Assisted Dying.

  9. For the purposes of any life assurance policy any person who dies as a result of receiving Assisted Dying will be taken to have died as a result of their terminal illness.

  10. Any provision in a will or other document in relation to Assisted Dying is invalid. The only way to make such a request is by following the processes under the Act.

  11. There will be a Registrar (Assisted Dying) appointed and their role will be to keep records of all the forms and liaise with the Privacy Commissioner, the Health and Disability Commission and Police in relation to any complaints.

  12. The End of Life In New Zealand Group will be established. Their role is to maintain lists of medical professionals (including doctors, pharmacists and psychiatrists) who are willing to help with assisted dying.

This legislation has important consequences to how we as a society deal with death and dying. The full version of the Act can be found here.

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