What is the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide?

Assisted dying can take two forms: euthanasia or assisted suicide. Broadly, euthanasia describes the situation where the person who is asking for assistance to die has someone else take the action that leads to their unnatural death (like injecting a lethal drug), and assisted suicide is when the person is prescribed drugs that they must take themselves in order to die.

More technically, euthanasia is when the attending medical or nurse practitioner, takes an action with the singular intention of causing a patient’s death.[1] Generally, this is in the form of a lethal injection.

Assisted suicide is when a suicide is intentionally aided by the attending medical or nurse practitioner and the person self-administers the medication.[2] That is, the medical practitioner will prescribe a lethal drug which the patient will usually take orally.

However, it is important to note that “[b]oth practices are distinct from the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment in accord with accepted ethical and medical standards”.[3] Also, “Do Not Resuscitate” orders are already legal in New Zealand and not included in this Bill.

What would the End of Life Choice Act make legal?

The End of Life Choice Act 2019 legalises both euthanasia (someone else injecting or otherwise delivering a lethal drug) and assisted suicide (taking the lethal dose yourself).[4]


[1] H Graham and J Prichard, Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Dying in Tasmania: A response to Giddings and McKim, (2013) 6, https://www.academia.edu/4726630/Voluntary_Euthanasia_and_Assisted_Dying_in_Tasmania_A_Response_to_Giddings_and_McKim_-_by_Hannah_Graham_and_Jeremy_Prichard_2013_, accessed 26/03/20.
[2] H Graham and J Prichard, Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Dying in Tasmania: A response to Giddings and McKim, (2013) 6.
[3] New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, When Death is Sought: Assisted Suicide in the Medical Context, (May 1994), Preface, 4, https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/task_force/reports_publications/when_death_is_sought/, accessed 26/03/20.
[4] The End of Life Choice Act 2019 defines assisted dying in s.3 as “the administration by an attending medical practitioner or an attending 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.”

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