The formal assessment process
The law sets out a formal assessment process for accessing assisted dying. These steps are important to keep the person safe. The steps have to happen in a certain order, and there are specific forms that will be filled out at each step to record the process.
Each step may be made up of more than one appointment. The doctor involved at each step will be able to travel to the person to undertake the assessments if needed, such as if a person is not well enough to travel. Telehealth appointments (such as over phone or video call) may sometimes be possible for some of these steps.
The person must make a formal request to their attending medical practitioner. As part of this conversation the attending medical practitioner will talk to the person about their other options for end of life care, and also explain that the person can change their mind about assisted dying at any time.
The attending medical practitioner will encourage the person to talk about their choice with their whānau. The attending medical practitioner will also talk to other health professionals who care for the person, and the person’s whānau (if the person consents to this) to make sure the person is not being pressured about their choice.
If the person still wants to proceed, they will sign a form. The person can ask someone to sign on their behalf if they are unable to write or sign the form themselves. The person must be present when the form is signed.
First opinion on eligibility
The person will be assessed by their attending medical practitioner to make sure they meet the eligibility criteria. This includes checking if the person is competent to make an informed decision and that they are making this choice without pressure from someone else.
If the person is found to not be eligible, the attending medical practitioner will explain the reasons, and then make sure the person is supported and has access to other end of life care options.
Independent assessment of eligibility
Where a person is found to be eligible after the first assessment, they will then see an independent medical practitioner for the second, independent opinion on eligibility. A second opinion is an important safeguard to make sure a person is eligible for assisted dying.
Again, this assessment includes checking the person is competent to make an informed decision and that they are making the choice without pressure from someone else.
Competency assessment (if necessary)
In some situations, a person will also be seen by a psychiatrist. This will happen if the attending medical practitioner and the independent medical practitioner both think the person is eligible, but one or both of them have concerns about the person being competent to make an informed decision.
The psychiatrist will assess the person to make sure they are competent. They will also check if the person is making the choice without pressure from someone else. The psychiatrist will not check the other eligibility criteria as this has already been checked by the attending medical practitioner and the independent medical practitioner.
Decision on eligibility
The person’s attending medical practitioner will talk to the person about the outcome of the eligibility assessments following the second independent assessment of eligibility (or the competency assessment if this is needed).
If the person is found to be eligible for assisted dying, they can then start making plans, including deciding the date and time, and preferred place, for their assisted death to take place. More information about this planning can be found further down in this information sheet.
If the person is found to not be eligible for the assisted dying services, the person’s attending medical practitioner will explain the reasons, and then make sure the person is supported and has access to other end of life care options.