The End of Life Choice Bill in a Nutshell
Parliament will vote on this Bill soon after the Justice Committee has submitted their report in early April.
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The Bill proposes immunity from prosecution for medical practitioners who perform ‘assisted dying’, which is a euphemism for euthanasia and assisted suicide using lethal drugs.
Four methods are proposed for the administration of a lethal dose: ingestion or intravenous delivery triggered by the person (assisted suicide); and ingestion through a tube or injection (euthanasia). – Clause 15(3)(a)
It is assisted suicide when the person who dies takes the final action that ends their life. It is euthanasia when someone else takes the final action that ends the person’s life.
This Bill is NOT about turning off life support, ‘do-not-resuscitate’ requests (CPR) or stopping medical treatment. In these situations, a person would die of natural causes – from their underlying medical condition.
The eligibility criteria are wide enough to include life-limiting conditions, as well as some disabilities, ageing-related and degenerative conditions, chronic (longstanding) conditions and mental illnesses. It would be up to the individual to define ‘grievous’, ‘advanced’, ‘unbearable suffering’, ‘capability’ and ‘intolerable’.
Based on the Oregon law, “a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within 6 months” means that a person is likely to die within six months if the condition is allowed to take its course without medical treatment. In Oregon eligible conditions have included diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis, sclerosis, arteritis and arthritis.
After a person has made a formal request for ‘assisted dying’, two doctors would assess whether the person is eligible. The second doctor must be a member of SCENZ, a purposely created group of medical practitioners who are willing to be involved in this process. If one or both doctors doubt whether the person has the ability to understand the nature and consequences of ‘assisted dying’, a psychiatrist or psychologist would assess whether the person is able to understand this. Each medical practitioner would send their paperwork to a registrar who would co-sign the prescription for lethal drugs.
In this Act, person who is eligible for assisted dying means a person who—
(a) is aged 18 years or over; and
(i) a person who has New Zealand citizenship as provided in the Citizenship Act 1977; or
(ii) a permanent resident as defined in section 4 of the Immigration Act 2009; and
(c) suffers from—
(i) a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within 6 months; or
(ii) a grievous and irremediable medical condition; and
(d) is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and
(e) experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable; and
(f) has the ability to understand—
(i) the nature of assisted dying; and
(ii) the consequences for him or her of assisted dying.
The complete Bill is online at: www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_74307/tab/submissionsandadvice