Welcome to referendum.govt.nz
This referendum will determine whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 comes into force
- The End of Life Choice Act 2019 gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying
- Parliament has passed the End of Life Choice Act 2019, but it has not come into force (has not started operating as law)
- The End of Life Choice Act 2019 will only come into force if more than 50% of voters vote 'Yes' in the referendum.
The referendum question
The question is:
Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?
Yes, I support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.
No, I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.
Key terminology used
For consistency, and to ensure that references to the Act are accurate, this website uses the terminology of the Act. This does not signal a preference for this terminology over any other. There is no Government position for or against the End of Life Choice Act 2019.
Assisted dying. In the End of life Choice Act 2019, this means:
- the administration by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner of medication to the person to relieve the person's suffering by hastening death; or
- the self-administration by the person of medication to relieve their suffering by hastening death.
Medication. In the End of Life Choice Act 2019, this means the lethal dose of the medication.
The End of Life Choice Act's core elements
The Act is built on three core elements:
- defining who is eligible for assisted dying (the eligibility criteria)
- ensuring that the person requesting assisted dying is competent to understand the nature and consequences of their decisions (establishing competence)
- ensuring there is free choice, made without coercion, to engage in the process.
Eligibility criteria (Section 5 of the Act)
To be eligible for assisted dying, a person must meet ALL of these criteria:
- 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 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 tolerable
- be competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
A person will not be eligible for assisted dying if the only reason given is that they are suffering from a mental disorder or mental illness, have a disability of any kind or are of advanced age.
Competence (Section 6 of the Act)
A person is competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying if they can:
- understand information about the nature of assisted dying
- retain that information to the extent necessary to make the decision
- use that information to weigh up and inform their decision
- communicate their decision in some way.
Requesting assisted dying (Section 11 of the Act)
A medical practitioner must do their best to ensure that a person's choice to access assisted dying is made of their own free will. The End of Life Choice Act 2019 contains several provisions that seek to ensure this. This includes requiring that the medical practitioner:
- periodically discusses the choice with the person, and ensures that they understand their other options for end of life care
- talks with other health practitioners who are in regular contact with the person, and with members of the person's family/whānau with the person's permission
- ensures that the person knows they can change their mind at any time.
If the medical practitioner suspects a person is being pressured about their decision, they must stop the process.
Health practitioners, such as doctors and nurses, do not have to assist a person with assisted dying if the practitioner has a conscientious objection.
The process of assisted dying
The request for assisted dying
The process begins with an initial request from the person to their medical practitioner.
Health practitioners are not allowed to suggest to a person that they consider assisted dying, in the course of providing a health service to that person.
Two medical practitioners must agree that the person meets all the criteria for assisted dying, which includes being competent to make the request. If either medical practitioner is unsure of the person's competence, a psychiatrist needs to assess the person's competence. If a person is ineligible, the process ends. The person may not access assisted dying.
Choosing the method and time of assisted dying
If the person is eligible, they select a method for receiving the medication, and when they want to receive it.
Administering the medication
At the chosen time of administration, the medical practitioner or nurse practitioner must ask the person if they choose to receive the medication. If the person chooses to receive it, the medical practitioner or nurse practitioner administers or provides it. The practitioner must be available to the person until they die. If the person does not want to receive the medication at that time, it must be taken away.
What happens after the votes are counted?
If more than 50% of voters vote 'Yes' in the referendum, the End of Life Choice Act 2019 will come into force 12 months after the date the final votes are announced.
If more than 50% of voters vote 'No' in the referendum, the End of Life Choice Act 2019 will not come into force.