Assisted dying to be legal in New Zealand from 7 November

Assisted dying will soon become legal in New Zealand as the End of Life Choice Act is set to come into force from 7 November.

The country’s health minister Andrew Little on Tuesday said healthcare systems were ready to implement the law. Mr Little cited a public referendum that was held alongside general elections last year and said assisted dying received the approval of 65 per cent of the public.

The law was introduced in the New Zealand Parliament in 2019.

Under the law, a person with a terminal illness meeting the eligibility criteria laid out by New Zealand’s health ministry can request medication to relieve their suffering by ending their life.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s administration has mapped a legal framework and put in place a high-level process that will allow access to those seeking assisted dying.

“The Ministry of Health will be responsible for the Act and has an implementation programme underway to implement the assisted dying service,” the statement said.

The process will have a strict eligibility criteria and safeguards, the health ministry said in a statement.

The law will not be used as a replacement for palliative care or healthcare services.

Mr Little said an independent review mechanism will be one of the many safeguards put in place to ensure the service operates in line with strict criteria laid out by the law.

It is expected that in most circumstances “these services will be provided in the community and will be free for people who meet the strict eligibility criteria,” he added.

A person seeking assisted dying will have to 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 six months and be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability, according to the eligibility criteria.

The person’s experience of unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner the person considers tolerable will also be taken into consideration.

The person concerned will have to be competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying, according to the rules laid out in the End of Life Choice Act.

A medical practitioner or nurse who suspects that a person is being pressured over their decision to receive assisted dying at any stage must immediately stop the process.

Any individual who wishes to receive assisted dying also has the right to not have a discussion about their wish to die with their friends or family if they don’t want to.

A set of guidelines for nurses and nurse practitioners has also been shared by the health ministry.

Dignity in Dying, a rights group that backs assisted dying, praised the legalisation. “This is a tremendous victory for human rights,” it said.

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