The End of Life Choice Bill in a Nutshell
On Wednesday 13 November 2019 Parliament will vote on whether this Bill should become law.
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The Bill proposes immunity from prosecution for medical practitioners and nurse 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 (not administering CPR) or stopping medical treatment. In these situations, a person would die of natural causes – from their underlying medical condition.
In order to be eligible a person would need to have a life-limiting condition (a terminal illness likely to end their life within 6 months) as well as a physical disability (in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability). It would be up to the individual to define ‘grievous’, ‘advanced’, ‘unbearable suffering’, ‘capability’ and ‘intolerable’.
An otherwise eligible person who also has a mental illness will not be excluded.
The eligibility criteria can still include some disabilities, some degenerative conditions and some chronic (longstanding) conditions.
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 their 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 is competent, a psychiatrist would assess whether the person is able to understand this. Each medical practitioner would send their paperwork to a Registrar.
The attending medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner would administer the lethal dose and send an assisted death report about the administration process to the Registrar. The Registrar would send only this final document to the Review Committee. Nobody would be responsible for reviewing all the documentation pertaining to a particular case.
In this Act, person who is eligible for assisted dying or eligible person 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 a terminal illness that is likely to end his or her life within 6 months; and
(d) is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability; and
(e) experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable; and
(f) is competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
The above information is based on amendments passed by Parliament on 31 July, 21 August and 10 September 2019, as proposed by SOP 259 at http://www.legislation.govt.nz/sop/members/2019/0259/latest/LMS195423.html