About assisted dying
Assisted dying is a new health service in Aotearoa New Zealand and has been introduced following public support in a referendum held at the 2020 General Election.
The process for accessing assisted dying is set out in a law called the End of Life Choice Act 2019 (the Act). This Act gives the person who experiences unbearable suffering from a terminal illness the option of legally asking for medical assistance to end their lives.
This law sets the eligibility criteria, assessment process and safeguards for the assisted dying service. Assisted dying is legal in Aotearoa New Zealand from 7 November 2021.
Assisted dying is one option for a person at the end of their life
Assisted dying means that a person with a terminal illness who meets the eligibility criteria can request medication to stop their suffering by ending their life.
The assisted dying service does not replace existing end of life care options, such as palliative care. It provides another option for a person with a terminal illness in specific circumstances. The process for accessing assisted dying will include informing the person about the other options for end of life care.
The person choosing to access assisted dying may also be receiving other end of life care, such as palliative care. This care can continue throughout the process of accessing assisted dying.
Palliative care is about managing pain and symptoms for people who have an illness that cannot be cured. Palliative care can be provided at home or in a community facility, like a hospice. Palliative care is another option for someone who has a terminal illness. More information can be found on the Ministry’s website.
There is a set process for accessing assisted dying
The process for accessing assisted dying is set out in law. The steps involved include:
- a person requesting assisted dying, and being assessed for eligibility by a doctor
- a second assessment for eligibility that is completed by an independent doctor
- a third assessment by a psychiatrist may be completed, if it is not clear if a person is competent to make an informed decision
- confirming that someone is eligible for assisted dying
- planning for the assisted death, including choosing a date and time and the method for the administration of the medication
- the administration of the medication by a doctor or a nurse practitioner (under the instruction of the doctor).
More detail about these steps can be found in further down this information sheet, as well as in the other resources on the Ministry website.
The Ministry of Health’s role
The Ministry of Health is responsible for overseeing and funding the Assisted Dying Service. This includes monitoring the service and making improvements to the service over time.
The assisted dying secretariat in the Ministry will provide a consistent point of contact for a person, their whānau and the involved health professionals.
The Registrar (assisted dying) will check that the processes that are required to be followed under the law have been complied with for each eligible person.
The Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) Group
The Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) Group is a statutory body created for the Assisted Dying Service. The SCENZ Group is responsible for maintaining lists of medical and nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists, who provide assisted dying services.
A can ask for the name and contact details of a practitioner from the list held by the SCENZ Group if their doctor does not provide assisted dying services, or they do not want to talk to their own doctor.