The End of Life Choice Bill had its third reading in Parliament on 13 November 2019. It was passed by 69 votes to 51 (individual voting available here).
The bill was a private member's bill, introduced by ACT MP David Seymour on 8 June 2017. The bill gives people with a terminal illness the option of assisted dying and establishes a lawful process for assisting eligible persons who exercise that option.
The bill defines assisted dying as “the administration by an attending medical practitioner or an attending nurse practitioner of medication to a person to relieve the person’s suffering by hastening death” (clause 3 – Interpretation).
Clause 4 sets out eligibility. A person would be eligible for assisted dying if that person:
- is aged 18 years or over;
- is a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident;
- suffers from a terminal illness that is likely to end the person’s life within 6 months;
- is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability; and
- experiences unbearable suffering that could not be relieved in a manner they considered tolerable;
- is competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
Clause 4A sets out the meaning of competent to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
Part 2 of the bill outlines what would happen if a person asked for assisted dying.
Any medical practitioner could conscientiously object to participating in assisted dying (clause 5A) and then must tell the person of their objections and tell them of the person’s right to ask the SCENZ Group for the name and details of a replacement practitioner (clause 6 (2)(b)).
Clause 7 provides that assisted dying must not be initiated by a health practitioner.
Clause 8 describes the process after a person informs a medical practitioner of their wish. The medical practitioner must provide the person information about their prognosis, the irreversible nature of the illness and the anticipated impacts of assisted dying.
The medical practitioner must ensure the person understands their other options and knows that they can change their mind at any time before the administration of the medication (clause 8(2)(d)).
Clause 9 – Request confirmed – This section sets out the forms to be signed by the person receiving assisted dying (A) and another person if A is unable to sign the form.
Clause 10 provides for the first opinion to be given by attending medical practitioner and clause 11 provides for a second opinion to be given by an independent medical practitioner. Clause 12 provides for a third opinion to be given by a psychiatrist if competence is not established to the satisfaction of 1 or both medical practitioners.
Clause 13 provides for the process should the opinion be reached that the person is not eligible for assisted dying. Their reasons for the decision must be explained to the person requesting assisted dying.
Clause 14 provides for the advice, discussion and forms required to be given to the person requesting assisted dying when an opinion is reached that that person is eligible for assisted dying.
The eligible person chooses a date and time for the administration of the medication (clause 14A). Clause 15 provides for the provisional arrangement for the administration of the medication and asks the person to choose one of the methods.
Clause 16 provides for the process for the administration of the medication.
Clauses 18A provides that no further action is to be taken if the person rescinds their request to exercise the option and 18B provides that no further action is to be taken if pressure is suspected.
Part 3 of the bill- Accountability. Clause 20 provides for a Review Committee appointed by the Minister consisting of a medical ethicist and 2 health practitioners. Clause 21 provides for a Registrar to establish and maintain a register recording approved forms, Review Committee reports and Registrar reports to the Minister.
Commencement (clause 2)
(1) If a majority of electors voting in a referendum respond to the question in subsection (1A) supporting this Act coming into force, this Act comes into force 12 months after the date on which the official result of that referendum is declared.
(1A) The wording of the question to be put to electors in a referendum for the purposes of subsection (1) of this section is—
“Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force?”
(1B) The wording of the 2 options for which electors may vote in response to the question is—
“Yes, I support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force.”
“No, I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2017 coming into force.”
(1C) This section overrides any other enactment to the extent that the enactment specifies any wording of the question or the options for the referendum that is different from the wording in subsections (1A) and (1B).
(2) If this Act does not come into force under subsection (1) within 5 years after the date on which it receives the Royal assent, this Act is repealed.