New Zealand euthanasia: Assisted dying to be legal for terminally ill people
New Zealand has voted to legalise euthanasia in what campaigners have called “a victory for compassion and kindness”.
Preliminary results showed 65.2% of voters supported the End of Life Choice Act coming into force as a new law.
The law will allow terminally ill people with less than six months to live the opportunity to choose assisted dying if approved by two doctors.
Its opponents say the law lacks adequate safeguards.
The referendum results announced on Friday do not include an estimated 480,000 special votes, including overseas ballots, so the final outcome will not be confirmed until 6 November. But with such strong support, the decision is not expected to change.
The referendum is binding and the law is expected to come into effect in November 2021.
It will see New Zealand join a small group of countries, including the Netherlands and Canada, which allow euthanasia.
The referendum on assisted dying was held alongside the general election earlier this month. In a separate non-binding referendum held at the same time, New Zealanders narrowly rejected a proposal to legalise recreational cannabis.
The preliminary results on the cannabis vote was 53.1% no and 46.1% yes – though this result may be subject to change when the special votes are counted.
What has the reaction been?
The “yes” verdict had been anticipated after polls suggested strong public support for the law, which was also backed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the opposition leader, Judith Collins.
But it was the result of an emotional, years-long campaign with strong views on both sides of the debate.
For Matt Vickers, who took on his late wife Lecretia Seales’ fight to legalise assisted dying, the result is “a victory for compassion and kindness”.
“I am grateful that terminally ill New Zealanders will have a say about the ends of their lives,” he told this medium after the announcement.
Ms Seales was a lawyer who launched a legal challenge for the right to end her life with medical assistance after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. But her case was unsuccessful and she died of her illness five years ago, aged 42.
Mr Vickers pressed on with her campaign and in 2016 his book, “Lecretia’s Choice: A Story of Love, Death and the Law”, was published.