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New Zealand has voted to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide, following a public referendum.

The End of Life Choice Act was passed in the country’s parliament last year by 69 votes to 51, allowing doctors to administer or supply lethal doses of drugs to patients. However, it still required official public support before it could become law.

New Zealand will join a tiny group of countries that allow the practices, including the Netherlands and Canada.

Assisted suicide
From 6 November 2021, citizens over 18 years old will be permitted to kill themselves with a doctor’s assistance.

Criteria include having a terminal condition that is ‘likely’ to end life within six months, a ‘significant decline’ in physical capability, and having the ability to make an ‘informed’ decision.

The law also states that two doctors must approve before administering any life-ending dosage.

Pro-life group Euthanasia-Free NZ said following the referendum that the public had voted for a “flawed” law, which did not contain proper safeguards.

Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ, said: “The New Zealand Parliament voted down 111 out of 114 amendments that could have made this law safer. Many amendments were rejected without even being debated.”

The group said there was “widespread confusion” as to what the law would actually entail, with polls showing that 80 per cent of voters believed the End of Life Act would legalise turning off life-support for patients, which is already legal in the country.

There has been vocal opposition to the legislation throughout the process.

When the Bill was voted on by MPs last year, protesters outside held signs reading “assist us to live not die” and “euthanasia is not the solution”.

The vote has also raised concerns that those facing chronic conditions may feel pressured to die so as to not be a ‘burden’ on their families, as has been the case in Canada.

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Date published: 27/11/2020
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