New Zealand Law Society - End of Life Choice Bill to go before Parliament

End of Life Choice Bill to go before Parliament

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ACT Party MP David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill has been drawn in the ballot of private members' bills and will go before Parliament.

The purpose of the bill is to give people with a terminal illness or a grievous and irremediable medical condition the option of requesting assisted dying.

In its statement of purpose, the bill says it  "carefully defines those eligible for assisted dying, details a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure this is a free choice, made without coercion, and outlines a stringent series of steps to ensure the person is mentally capable of understanding the nature and consequences of assisted dying."

The bill defines a person eligible for assisted dying as someone who:

  • is aged 18 years or over,
  • has New Zealand citizenship or is a permanent resident,
  • suffers from a terminal illness likely to end their life within 6 months or has a grievous and irremediable medical condition,
  • is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability,
  • experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that he or she considers tolerable,
  • has the ability to understand the nature and consequences of assisted dying.

It requires the Director-General of Health to establish a group of medical practitioners, serviced by the Ministry of Health, known as the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) Group. This group will maintain a list of medical practitioners, specialists in mental health, and pharmacists willing to participate in assisted dying.

The group will be responsible for allocating replacement and independent medical practitioners, thereby ensuring that the attending medical practitioner does not choose the replacement or independent practitioner. The group will write standards of care, provide advice on medical and legal procedures, and provide practitioners practical assistance if requested.

A Registrar (assisted dying) must be nominated by the Director-General of Health and will have a number of responsibilities under the legislation. These responsibilities include maintaining a register of forms lodged with the Registrar as required, cosigning prescriptions, establishing a procedure to deal with complaints, and reporting to the Minister of Health and End of Life Review Committee as required.

The bill states that no person is obligated to take a role under the legislation, although medical practitioners who conscientiously object must refer people to the SCENZ Group.

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