The Facts about End of Life Choice

The End of Life Choice Act is a safe, workable law for terminally ill New Zealanders.

The End of Life Choice referendum is a question about whether an adult who is already dying from a terminal illness and is suffering unbearably at the end of their life should be able to have a choice over how and when they die.

Here are the 10 safeguards that will give that choice to New Zealanders in need, while keeping vulnerable people safe.

Click on each safeguard to get the facts and vote smart.

Only adults with a terminal illness who are suffering unbearably and in a state of advanced irreversible physical decline can request to use this law.

To use the law, people must meet all six eligibility criteria:

  1. aged 18+
  2. citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand
  3. suffer from a terminal illness likely to end your life within 6 months
  4. are in a state of advanced permanent decline in physical capability
  5. experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased
  6. able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
The law cannot be changed once it has been passed by New Zealanders.

The law we are voting on at the referendum is the law we will get. It has been thoroughly debated and passed by New Zealand’s parliament. Nothing can be added or changed without it going back through the full parliamentary process.

Two independent groups will review and scrutinise the law for the first three years and then every five years to make sure it is working as intended.

Similar laws are working very well overseas. Read more about the overseas experience here.

People with mental illness, a disability or of advanced age cannot request to use the law, unless they are also suffering from a terminal illness and meet all other eligibility criteria.
Anyone who only gives mental illness, disability and/or advanced age as their reason for wanting to use the law is not eligible.
Doctors cannot suggest assisted dying.

If you are terminally ill and want to know more about using the End of Life Choice law, you must start the conversation with your doctor first.

This law is all about personal choice for terminally ill people who are already dying.

Two doctors must agree if you’re eligible to use the law.

If a person’s doctor decides they are eligible, an independent doctor appointed by the oversight body must repeat the assessment of criteria and also agree the person is eligible.

If there are any doubts by either doctor about someone’s mental competence to make a decision on assisted dying, a psychiatrist must provide a third opinion.

Doctors must complete more than 45 robust checks before they can agree to letting someone use the End of Life Choice law.

As well as meeting all six eligibility criteria outlined in safeguard one, before a person makes a formal request, the first doctor must make sure a terminally ill person is:

  1. fully informed about their prognosis and assisted dying process
  2. free from pressure and mentally competent
  3. aware of other options for end-of-life care
  4. encouraged to speak to family, friends and other healthcare professionals about their choice.

Once the request is made there are multiple requirements that must be meet through every stage. The Registrar for Assisted Dying must approve that all the requirements have been met at every stage before assisted dying can proceed

Any coercion stops the process immediately.

If the doctor suspects someone is being pressured into the decision, they must stop the process immediately and report it to the Registrar.

Terminally ill people must be mentally competent throughout the process.
If at any stage a person requesting assisted dying loses the capacity to make this decision, their doctors must stop the process immediately – including at the time of taking life ending medication.
Terminally ill people can change their minds at any time.

Terminally ill people seeking assisted dying must be asked throughout the process if they want to continue, delay for up to six months or stop altogether – including at the time they have chosen to take life ending medication. If they choose to stop, the entire process stops immediately.

There are criminal consequences for breaking the rules.

If a doctor breaks the rules, they face a fine, having their medical licence revoked, being charged with serious criminal offences and being sent to prison.