Campaigners against the End of Life Choice Act coming into force have expressed their dismay at today's referendum results.
The preliminary referendum results show 65.2 per cent - or 1,574,645 Kiwis - were in favour of the End of Life Choice Act coming into force.
Those voting 'no' totalled 33.8 per cent of the vote (815,829), with one per cent not casting a clear vote.
Euthanasia-Free NZ said the referendum result was based on "confusion".
The group said in a statment today that it is "disappointed that the New Zealand public voted to pass a flawed euthanasia law, based on widespread confusion".
"It seems that most New Zealanders voted for an end-of-life choice that is in fact already legal,” says Renée Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
"Two-thirds of respondents were confused about the scope of the eligibility criteria," she said.
“The New Zealand Parliament voted down 111 out of 114 amendments that could have made this law safer,” says Joubert. “Many amendments were rejected without even being debated. Two of the passed amendments were solely about the referendum.”
“At least Parliament could have included the safeguards that have been standard requirements in US assisted dying laws for the past 22 years."
A spokesperson for the Catholic church in New Zealand says the approval of the End of Life Choice Act Referendum "puts vulnerable people and those who care for them on an unwelcome and dangerous path".
“For very many people the End of Life Choice Act will bring a new and unwelcome dynamic into their lives. The very presence of the option of euthanasia will present as a burden and a pressure for many people and families,” says Dr Kleinsman, who is Director of the bishops’ Nathaniel Centre for Bioethics.
“The introduction of assisted death will have a huge impact on all those who work with the dying – doctors, nurses and other health carers, as well as chaplains, priests and lay ministers," Kleinsman said.
Another group against the bill, Voice for Life, called the result "a dark day in the history of our country".
"We cannot understate how serious this is. Today’s referendum outcome (65.2% voters support) will result in the wrongful killing of vulnerable New Zealanders as a direct result of the passing of the End of Life Choice Act," a spokesperson wrote on their Facebook page.
"The overseas evidence of harm is irrefutable, so it is not a matter of if, it is now a matter of when these harms begin to occur in our country as well."
The binding referendum means the law comes into force a year after the official results of the referendum are declared - November 6, 2021.
It would mean people who meet a certain set of criteria would be able to request an assisted death.
Assisted dying means the medication could be administered by a medical or nurse practitioner, or self-administrated.
They would have to be a New Zealander aged over 18, suffering from a terminal illness that’s likely to end their life within six months, be in an advanced state of irreversible physical decline, be experiencing unbearable suffering that cannot be eased in a manner the person considers tolerable and also be competent to make an informed decision.
Reasons that can’t be used to request assisted dying include - being of advanced age, suffering from a mental disorder, or a mental illness or having a disability of any kind.