Categories: HealthWorld

New Zealand votes yes to Euthanasia

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New Zealand legalizes Euthanasia for terminally ill patients but receives a “no” for recreational cannabis after a popular vote.

The majority of New Zealand people choose to legalize Euthanasia, the End of Life Choice Act to come into force as a new law. After a referendum, around 65.2% of voters choose to pass the law.

Under this law, people with terminal sickness and with less than six months to live can choose assisted dying. However, it will only be accepted after approval from their doctors.

The referendum results announced on Friday did not include the special votes and overseas ballots. Those alone can make up to 480,000 votes. Despite the matter, the final result is speculated to be the same.

Support from the opposition as well

The voting procedure went on alongside the general elections of New Zealand. It also received support from the newly elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the opposition leader, Judith Collins.

The verdict received strong support from the public as well. At the same time, another poll to legalize recreational cannabis was carried out. It received a borderline negative result of 53.1% no and 46.1% yes.

With just 53%, it’s said that it could receive a yes after the special votes are tallied. The Euthanasia law will be binding and will come into effect from November of 2021.

Negative feedback and awareness

However, it received negative feedback that suggests the law lacks adequate safeguards. It is argued that people with chronic conditions would choose the measure to reduce any possible burden on their families. Some also state that the parliament should make the process safe bypassing further amendments.

The government first passed the End of Life Choice Act in 2019 after a long struggle of debates and public submissions. It was first initiated by Lecretia Seales, a lawyer who succumbed to a brain tumor five years ago.

Later on, her husband, Matt Vickers, took up the cause and raised awareness amongst the population, and persuaded the politicians. As a part of the campaign, he also released a book titled Lecretia’s Choice: A Story of Love, Death and the Law in 2016.

Its terms in New Zealand

The process will be carried out only if the person is facing a significant decline in physical capability or diagnosed with a terminal illness that’s likely to end their life within six months. The person should also be capable of making an informed decision about the procedure.

Under the said conditions, the legislation authorizes a certified doctor or nurse to prescribe a lethal dose of medication and will be carried out under supervision. However, it does not apply to individuals dying based on advanced age, mental illness, or disability.

Furthermore, the law makes New Zealand a part of the few groups of countries like Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, where Euthanasia is legal. It is also legal in Victoria, Australia, and many states of the USA.

Images courtesy of palam/Shutterstock

Purnima Kodali

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Purnima Kodali

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