“Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?”

Every voter was faced with this question at the 2020 election. Maxim’s research from the last six years on the overseas experience of legal euthanasia, and our analysis of the risks of the End of Life Choice Act led us to the conclusion that New Zealanders should vote no.

To help you get up to speed with the thinking and evidence that sits behind that recommendation, we prepared this Short Cuts information page.

Below you’ll find short answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions, a podcast with Dr Stephen Child and our researcher Danielle van Dalen, blogs, short video explainers, and the full text of both the End of Life Choice Bill and our submission on the Act at select committee stage.

If you have any feedback or questions about these resources, please feel free to get in touch with us at mail@maxim.org.nz.

FAQs

1.
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. Assisted suicide is when a suicide is intentionally aided by the attending medical or nurse practitioner and the person self-administers the medication. That is, the medical practitioner will prescribe a lethal drug which the patient will usually take orally.

READ MORE
2.
What is the current law?

Currently, it is not a crime to commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide, but it is a crime to “incite”, “counsel” or otherwise help “any person to commit suicide”. Additionally, Section 63 of the Crimes Act 1961 states that no one can consent to another person killing them, and any person is allowed to resort to force in order to prevent another person from committing suicide. The law’s desire in these provisions is to protect human life. In the modern era, there has been a recognition that the right to life is a natural right of persons and is foundational to a just, free, and peaceful society; it is a right that cannot be deprived or given away.

READ MORE
3.
Why not just allow the choice for others and don’t do it yourself?

While it is right and proper that we have autonomy over decisions about our medical care and treatment, the exercise of our autonomy can only stretch so far. As we’ve been forcefully reminded recently, sometimes our personal autonomy to make certain decisions needs to be limited for the safety of ourselves and others. When laws change, they change the paradigms and cultural norms we all live with. A change like this to our law takes an action (assisting in someone else’s suicide) that was once criminal and unthinkable under any circumstances, and makes it allowed and enabled in some situations. To say that legislating assisted dying won’t affect you if you don’t want it is simplistic and reductive. It’s like saying “if you don’t want to use methamphetamines, just allow the choice for others and don’t use it yourself.” We live in communities, families, and relationships, and the choices of individuals can’t be easily sealed off from affecting others. Our choices are messages about what we think is the right course of action, and these have an effect on everyone in our communities, whether they are currently feeling resolute or vulnerable.

READ MORE
4.
Who would be eligible for euthanasia and assisted suicide under the Act?

While the criteria outlined in the End of Life Choice Act may sound clear and reasonable, and seemingly specific about which cases are not eligible, in real world application a much broader group of people would qualify to be assisted to die—including many people we may not initially consider

READ MORE
5.
Is it possible to create a clear, immovable boundary between who should be eligible for assisted death and who is not?

The evidence suggests not. Our current laws protect all human life equally. No-one’s life is treated under law as more or less valuable because of their wealth, ethnicity, health, or for any other reason. Legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide would introduce inequality, treating some lives as though they don’t deserve the same protection. These would be the lives of the sick, the disabled, and others who are vulnerable. Everyone in this group would be marked by their medical condition so that the law views their life as less worthy of protection than others, regardless of how they want to be seen or valued.

READ MORE
6.
Where is euthanasia and/or assisted suicide currently legal?

Of a total 252 jurisdictions worldwide, only 19 allow some combination of euthanasia and assisted suicide, with two additional jurisdictions where the practices are somewhat allowed. The 19 jurisdictions are: the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Canada, Portugal, Germany, and New Zealand; the US states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maine, and the District of Columbia; and the Australian states of Victoria and Western Australia. The two additional jurisdictions are Switzerland and the US state of Montana. This means that euthanasia or assisted suicide are legal in only about 7% of jurisdictions worldwide.

READ MORE

Podcast

On this podcast we take a deep dive into what the text of the End of Life Choice Act would look like when translated into real life, with Maxim Institute euthanasia researcher Danielle van Dalen, and Dr Stephen Child (former Chair of the NZMA from 2015-2017, and currently serving as an elected member of the New Zealand Medical Council).

Short Cut Videos

Featuring international and local experts from information events we have held over the last five years.

#1 – “Would you still oppose assisted suicide if it was your family member who wanted it?”

#2 – “How easy is it to say someone is likely to die within six months?”

#3 – “What does a “normal” death look like?”

#4 – “How laws can change culture”

#5 – “The blurred lines between euthanasia and suicide”

#6 – “Euthanasia is a change for everyone”

#7 – “Can you explain the gargling sound that people call the “death rattle?”

Commentary

The best of our analysis and commentary on the End of Life Choice issue, published in news outlets around New Zealand.

Published Op Eds

Maxim Institute is an independent charitable trust that relies on the generous support of families, community groups, trusts, and individuals—without them, we wouldn’t exist.

We’d love to have you join our Community of Supporters. We need people like you to help us continue this work—and to grow it—so we can respond to today’s challenges and opportunities and help create a better future for the next generation.