New Zealand votes to legalize euthanasia in referendum

New Zealand has voted to legalize euthanasia for those suffering from a terminal, life-threatening illness. The election ballot was addressing the referendum on Oct. 17. While a referendum on legalizing cannabis did not get majority votes.

The Guardian reported that the law will only be extended to those with a terminal illness. It is a victory for the campaigners who say people suffering extreme pain can now decide how and when to bring their lives to a close. The referendum question dated Oct. 17 appeared in an election ballot paper. The results will be binding and will be further developed into an act.

New Zealand’s ministry of health has said that the act will be effective from 12 months, that is from November 6, 2021.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is physician-assisted suicide. It refers to deliberate action taken to end a life to relieve persistent suffering. Common conditions that make patients seek euthanasia are terminally ill cancer patients. Also included are those with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other terminally ill conditions with no active treatment.

Physical conditions that affect these patients’ quality of life are unbearable pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, paralysis, incontinence, and breathlessness. Psychological factors include depression, feeling a burden, fearing loss of control or dignity, or dislike of being dependent.

Preliminary results

The commission saw 65.2% of eligible voters tick “yes” to legalizing euthanasia, with 33.8% ticking “no.”

Further, only 46.1% of New Zealanders voted to legalize cannabis, while 53.1% voted no. There is little hope among cannabis supporters since they will need a final overwhelming vote to legalize cannabis.

End of Life Choice Act 2019

The act outlines criteria for who can apply to end their life aged 18 or over and are New Zealand citizens. They must be suffering from a terminal illness that will end their life within six months. “Have a significant and ongoing decline in physical capability,” or are “enduring unbearable suffering that cannot be eased.” And are in a position to make an “informed decision” about euthanasia.

The act outlines criteria for who can apply to end their life, including 18 or over, and are New Zealand citizens. They are suffering from a terminal illness that will end their life within six months. Further, they need to “have a significant and ongoing decline in physical capability” or are “enduring unbearable suffering that cannot be eased.” They must also be in a position to make an “informed decision” about euthanasia.

Eligibility

Those suffering from mental illness or decline would not be eligible. Nor would those applying solely based on “advanced age” or a disability. Two doctors – one independent – would have to sign off on the decision, with a psychiatrist.

Image courtesy of joel bubble ben/Shutterstock

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