End of Life Choice referendum

Your guide to the 2020 referendum

In this year's General Election, you can also vote in a referendum on whether you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019.

The Act uses words and language you might not be familiar with. The information below may help to explain the Act and what you can vote on in the referendum.


The referendum question is:

Do you support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force?

You can choose 1 of these 2 answers.

Yes


I support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.

No


I do not support the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force.


About the End of Life Choice Act 2019

The Act gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

Parliament passed the End of Life Choice Act, but it has not come into force. The Act will only come into force if more than 50% of voters in the referendum vote 'Yes'.


Terms used in the Act

In the Act, 'assisted dying' means:

  • a person's doctor or nurse practitioner giving them medication to relieve their suffering by bringing on death; or
  • the taking of medication by the person to relieve their suffering by bringing on death.

In the Act, 'medication' means a lethal dose of the medication used for assisted dying.


Who would be eligible for assisted dying?

To be able to ask for assisted dying, a person must meet ALL the following criteria. They must:

  • be aged 18 years or over
  • be a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand
  • suffer from a terminal illness that's likely to end their life within 6 months
  • have significant and ongoing decline in physical capability
  • experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased
  • be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.

A person would not be eligible to ask for assisted dying if the only reason they give is that they are suffering from a mental disorder or mental illness, or have a disability of any kind, or are of advanced age.


Who would be considered able to make an informed decision about assisted dying?

Under the Act, a person is able to make an informed decision about assisted dying if they can do ALL of the following things:

  • understand information about assisted dying
  • remember information about assisted dying in order to make the decision
  • use or weigh up information about assisted dying when making their decision
  • communicate their decision in some way.

Making sure the choice is freely made

The doctor must do their best to make sure that a person's choice to ask for assisted dying is their own.

If, at any time, the doctor or nurse practitioner thinks a person is being pressured about their decision, they must stop the process.

A health practitioner is not allowed to suggest that a person consider assisted dying when providing a health service to them.


The assisted dying process

Requesting assisted dying

The process of assisted dying begins with the person asking their doctor.

Determining who is eligible

The person's doctor and an independent doctor must agree that the person meets all the criteria, which includes being able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.

If either doctor is unsure of the person's ability to make that decision, a psychiatrist needs to assess the person. If a person is not eligible, they cannot receive assisted dying.

Selecting the method and timing

If the person is eligible, they choose a method, date, and time for taking the medication.

Administering the lethal dose of medication

At the time the person has chosen to take the medication, the doctor or nurse practitioner must ask the person if they still choose to take the medication.

If the person chooses to take it, the doctor or nurse practitioner gives it. The doctor or nurse practitioner must be available to the person until they die.

If the person changes their mind, the medication must be taken away.


What happens after the votes are counted?

If more than 50% of people vote 'Yes' in the referendum, the End of Life Choice Act will come into force 12 months after the date the final votes are announced.

If more than 50% of people vote 'No' in the referendum, the End of Life Choice Act will not come into force.


More information to help you make your choice

Visit the summary page to find out what the Act says about:

  • eligibility
  • the assisted dying process
  • what happens if the person is eligible
  • protections for health practitioners
  • oversight
  • existing rights and duties
  • insurance and other contracts.

Summary of the End of Life Choice Act


Cannabis legalisation and control referendum

At this year's General Election, you'll also be given the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the recreational use of cannabis.

Learn more about the cannabis legalisation and control referendum