In places where forms of assisted dying are already legal, how many people actually choose it?
International experience shows us that after euthanasia and/or assisted suicide has become law the number of people who choose to die in this way each year will inevitably grow. When legislation like the End of Life Choice Act is initially passed, the trend has been that for the first few years the number of people assisted to die will slowly increase as people become acquainted with the new law and practices. After a few years, however, we see the annual numbers increase much more rapidly. This may be due to a shift in societal perception of death, dying, pain, and care. The increase in assisted deaths in jurisdictions with assisted dying legislation is seen in the graphs below:
Can we expect the same trends in New Zealand?
While it might be tempting to claim that the experience and legislation passed here in New Zealand would be different, and numbers of unnatural deaths from euthanasia and assisted suicide would remain minimal, there is no evidence to suggest that our experience would be different. The rapidly increasing number of people being assisted to die in Oregon, the Netherlands, and even Canada should give us reason to pause. In fact, commentators have suggested that, due to the inclusion of both euthanasia and assisted suicide in the legislation, each year over 1000 New Zealanders would be assisted to die.
“Shortcuts to the End of Life Choice Bill: How many would likely die by euthanasia and assisted suicide in New Zealand,” Maxim Institute, available at: https://www.maxim.org.nz/shortcuts/ accessed 6/4/20go back