Become a member »
Receive our newsletter »
Welcome to our news and social media page. Please note: you must be a member and logged in to leave comments on our posts.
Andrew Denton investigates the stories behind Victoria’s landmark Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) law: Who seeks to use it, and why? Who are the doctors stepping forward to help them? And how does the Church continue to resist a law it describes as ‘evil’?
New episodes out Tuesdays and Thursdays.
More here »
The End of Life Options Act was approved by Governor Lujan Grisham in the USA state of New Mexico on 8 April 2021. The legislation was originally named for the late Hon. Elizabeth Whitefield, a distinguished and trailblazing member of the New Mexico legal community, who in her later years, after a terminal cancer diagnosis, became a fierce public advocate for dignity in dying. She died in 2018.
Read more »
Judge Elizabeth Whitfield and her husband.
Monday, 29 March 2021, 9:04 am
End-of-Life Choice Society President Dr Mary Panko is pleased to see that the percentage of New Zealand doctors willing to provide assisted dying services has increased from 24% in 2018 to 30% in 2021. “This was anticipated, as it happens in every jurisdiction where assisted dying is legalised”, she said. “As doctors begin to realise that some of their patients may request active assistance to die under circumstances of intractable, irreversible suffering, they begin to prepare themselves to assist.”
In March 2018, the NZ Doctor publication commissioned a survey by Horizon to determine the level of support among doctors for providing assisted dying services. The results showed that 24% would be willing to provide life-ending medication to an eligible patient for self-administration while 12% would be willing to directly administer the medication to the patient.
But a survey of 1,900 doctors by the Ministry of Health in March 2021 shows the number of possibly or definitely willing doctors has risen to 30%.
“The Society is working with Minister of Health Andrew Little during the establishment phase of the regulation,” said Dr Panko. “We want to ensure that fully protective safeguards are in place and also that access to the service is fairly and equitably distributed.”
“Given the tightness of the eligibility criteria, we anticipate that only about 5% of patients will qualify for assisted dying. It may be that fewer than that will request it. So we believe, along with Minister Little, that an adequate workforce will be found.”
Listen to EOLC President Mary Panko speaking on RNZ »
Man-of-the-hour Tasmanian MP Mike Gaffney was delighted that his voluntary assisted dying bill passed in the Legislative Council on 23 March 2021. “It’s been a wonderful journey” he said, “as smooth as I could have hoped for”.
His Independent member’s End-of-Life-Choices bill was unanimously passed in 2020 by Tasmania’s Legislative Council (Upper House). It then went to the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) for further examination. A number of amendments were made and the bill eventually made its way back to the Council for approval.
It is expected to come into force in 18 months’ time.
The Tasmanian Act is slightly more permissive than the New Zealand End of Life Choice Act 2019, in that it also gives assisted dying access to those suffering with a neuro-degenerative disease likely to end their life in 12 months or less. Both Acts allow access to assisted dying for those with other terminal diseases likely to end their life in 6 months or less.
This was Tasmania’s fourth attempt at passing assisted dying legislation. After Victoria and Western Australia, Tasmania will now become the third Australian state to adopt assisted dying laws.
End of Life Choice Society president, Dr Mary Panko, today congratulated Spanish lawmakers on passing their assisted dying bill into law. “This is the sign of a compassionate society” she said.
Spain’s legislation is expected to come into force in June. Its eligibility criteria are more liberal than those of the New Zealand End of Life Choice Act which will come into force on 7 November 2021.
“Religious and far-right political groups have threatened challenges to the Spanish legislation, as expected” said Dr Panko, “even though a 2019 poll indicated 90 percent support for assisted dying legalisation among Spanish citizens. It is the usual case of an ultra-conservative minority attempting to suppress the will of the more progressive majority.”
Spain follows a number of other European countries where assisted dying is permitted, namely Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
“The right to die with dignity is an expanding social and medical movement across the world of westernised medicine”, said Dr Panko. “We expect a number of other jurisdictions to legalise assisted dying this year, especially in Australia and the US.”
Dr Mary Panko
President, End of Life Choice Society
Mob: 027 419 7802
Portugal's parliament has passed a law allowing medically assisted dying, putting the Catholic-majority country on course to become the fourth in Europe to legalise euthanasia.
Before coming into force the bill must first be signed into law by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a staunch Catholic and conservative who was re-elected only last weekend.
However, the president - who has yet to make public his position on the issue - could also either use his veto against the legislation, or refer it to the country's constitutional court for further study.
The bill was adopted in parliament by 136 votes to 78 with four abstentions - thanks largely to a majority of votes from the ruling Socialist Party which had allowed its MPs to vote freely.
If the president did decide to veto, a second vote by lawmakers would override it.
Politicians had approved proposals aimed at changing the law in February, setting up the vote despite a campaign by the Church for a national referendum on the issue.
Socialist MP Isabel Moreira, a constitutional law expert who helped draft the law, said that it would respect "free choice and every individual's independence".
The bill legalises access to assisted suicide for adult patients in a situation of "extreme suffering and irreversible damage".
Several doctors must green-light the procedure, while a psychiatrist would be called in if there are doubts about the patient's ability to make a "free and informed" choice.
Euthanasia is legal in three European countries - Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg - while others allow terminally ill people to refuse life-maintaining treatment or to have help to die.
"People deserve the right to be able to choose," retired oncologist Jorge Espirito Santo, who has campaigned for years to make euthanasia legal in Portugal, said before the vote.
He said he was expecting a "historic day".
The Catholic Church, which predominates in Portugal, campaigned against the bill both among its own faithful and those of other denominations.
Its bishops' conference immediately expressed outrage at parliament's approval of the legislation, calling the law an "unprecedented step backwards".
In December, parliament in neighbouring Spain voted by a wide margin to approve a bill that will allow euthanasia under strict conditions, despite fierce opposition from the Catholic church and conservative parties.
The Act Party's deputy leader Brooke van Velden had a commanding first day in Question Time on 3 December, highlighting that the Government has a big job implementing the End of Life Choice Act.
The Hon Andrew Little mentioned the involvement of the Medical Council and the Colleges, but omitted the NZ Medical Assn. The Minister also invited the ACT Party as sponsors of the Act to be involved in the process of set-up.
Question 1 - Brooke van Velden to the Minister of Health from New Zealand Parliament on Vimeo.
The Ministry of Justice has announced that the End-of-Life Choice Act will be administered by the Ministry of Health.
Information about the oversight and monitoring for assisted dying is available on the Ministry of Health website.
Source: Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand November 2020
The New Zealand Nurses' Organisation will start drawing up guidelines for nurses over the next 12 months on how to work within the new end-of-life law next year.
In last month's referendum, 65 per cent voted in favour of the End of Life Choice Act, which will come into effect in November 2021. NZNO policy adviser Sue Gasquoine said now the act would become law,
NZNO would be launching a research project among members, subject to ethics approval, on what clinical practice support nurses in Aotearoa New Zealand needed when nursing people at the end of life.
The research findings would inform a member survey, the responses to which would then form the basis of a national nursing framework.
"A valid framework for Aotearoa New Zealand would need to support nurses work-ing in 'mainstream' end-of-life care and practising te ao Māori," Gasquoine said.
NZNO had not taken a position on end-of-life legislation, but would support its members to work within the law. That included opting out of providing end-of-life care, which was provided for in the act, Gasquoine said.
"NZNO's stance on the bill, and now the act, is that while there are members representing the full spectrum of views on end-of-life choice, the concern is to support members to work within the law as they care for patients and their whānau who are making choices about end of life."
Following NZNO submissions in 2018, nurse practitioners were included among health practitioners who would provide care for people who choose to use the act to end their life, Gasquoine said.
NZNO hoped to lead or collaborate with organisations such as the Ministry of Health, Nursing Council, College of Nurses Aotearoa and medical colleges to develop guidelines for practitioners. It was also important to brief incoming Minister of Health Andrew Little on the need for nursing input as the Government prepared to implement the act over the next 12 months, she said.
NZNO acting associate professional services manager Kate Weston said nurses must "absolutely" be represented on the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) group. SCENZ will keep records of health professionals willing to participate in assisted dying, maintain standards of care, and provide legal, medical and practical advice to health professionals.
"Some may be prescribing, but for most it will be in providing the actual care and we must have a voice in what this looks like," Weston said.
By Eva Corlett of RNZ
Doctors are gearing up for a hefty year of planning and preparation with the End of Life Choice Act set to come into force.
The preliminary referendum result shows 65.1 percent of voters supported the act and 33.8 percent opposed it.
Assisted dying remains illegal in New Zealand until November 6 2021.
The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) opposed the law, but its chair Kate Baddock said the country had spoken.
"It now behooves the NZMA to work with its doctors and with the public to ensure that everybody understands just what the act will entail and what people's obligations, responsibilities, and options will be."
The law allows doctors to be conscientious objectors of euthanasia.
One of the first steps will be creating a list of which doctors are happy to be part of the process, Dr Baddock said.
"Doctors will be making their choices well before the 12 months are up as to how they feel about being engaged - first of all in the process of decision-making and then the execution of the medication itself."
There is a lot of uncertainty over what the next year will entail, she said.
"It's going to be really important as an organisation that we engage with our membership over what the provisions of the law mean. So as a doctor, what does it mean precisely in terms of your responsibilities and your options."
The Royal College of General Practitioners took a neutral stance on the issue. President Samantha Murton said it will advise and support its members through the transition.
"There'll have to be training and learning about the legislation, how it works, what your requirements are, what you do if you think someone is under coercion, how do you access the services if you don't want to do it yourself."
Dr Murton said there will also be a lot of planning around logistics.
"There might be places where you don't have two doctors to be able to provide the services in a particular centre, there may be logistics around that.
"It's just making sure all the checks and balances are in place and that the system's very robust and people know how to access the services if they want it," she said.
There's a huge amount of ground to cover in a year, she added, and implementing the law will need "extremely good management".
Many of those who choose to access euthanasia will be terminal cancer patients.
The Cancer Society also remained neutral on the issue but its medical director Chris Jackson said the society will support people no matter their decision.
"It's important that people who want to pursue [the] end of life choice can achieve that, as required under the law, and the Cancer Society will be neither obstructing nor encouraging but we will be supporting people in every way, shape and form we possibly can."
The referendum results show people "heavily reject" the idea of suffering at the end of life and that means everyone needs access to good end of life care options, Jackson said.
"I would never want to see anyone presented with the false choice of either suffering or assisted dying because that is not the choice that should be available to people. It should be excellent supportive care with all possible efforts to relieve suffering made in all cases, at all times.
"We're currently not there, so we need to make sure that funding is there to do that, that the laws are there to allow carers to take time off work and the like, and if we don't do that, we're letting people down," he said.
There are still half-a-million special votes to be counted in the referendum, with final results due on Friday.
More news »
What we doOur peopleHow you can helpSociety rules
027 419 firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to the top