Assisted Dying - The Law in NZ
In New Zealand, the process of allowing a natural death by refusing medical treatment or intervention is quite legal. A clause in our Bill of Rights Act 1990 gives an unambiguous right to refuse medical treatment. Our Code of Health Consumers' Rights confirms that statutory right and also enshrines in law the use of an appropriate Advance Directive. It goes even further, in that Advance Directives do not necessarily have to be in writing. In emergencies an oral directive has an equal effect.
Assisting in a suicide or hastening a death is illegal. Aiding or abetting in any way is illegal and subject to heavy penalties. However, recent court cases reveal the compassion of New Zealand judges when they consider the charges, especially in cases in which it is obvious that the accused did not stand to benefit from the death. Where a conviction is brought in by a jury, the Courts seem to be inclined to take a lenient view when handing down sentences.
We asked people how they feel about aid-in-dying laws.
And the Survey Says:
Most New Zealanders support aid-in-dying legislation.
Nearly 7 out of 10 New Zealanders support or strongly support an End-Of-Life Choice, for those who qualify and who request it.
This holds true across all demographics, including political party, religion, age, gender, geographic location and income level.
Read the results of the Horizon Research Survey, focused on the End-Of-Life Choice Bill by clicking here.
Why we support End-of-Life choice
By Jack Havill, president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand
- To prevent suffering at the end of life, including pain that cannot be relieved by drugs. Some patients don’t want to be anaesthetised for their last days.
- To maintain dignity in death. Terminally ill patients often lose control of their bodily functions and would prefer to die before becoming completely dependent on carers.
- To retain personal control and be able to say when and how those with unbearable suffering die.
- To allow terminally ill people who want to end their suffering to die in the company of friends and family and not have to commit suicide alone. While suicide is legal, a loved one who assists, or is even present at the time, risks prison.
- To allow sufferers to depart this life while still possessing their mental faculties. This would allow dignified goodbyes to friends and relatives and limit mutual distress.
- To eliminate compassionate law-breaking which risks prosecution. It is recognised that some family members and doctors and nurses already assist patients begging for help to die because they cannot bear to see the suffering. A law change would legitimise their humane actions.
- Surveys show that nearly seven out of 10 New Zealanders across every section of society favour End-Of-Life Choice for those who qualify and request it. Many are angry after watching and caring for family members who have suffered long drawn out deaths and want a good death for themselves.