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Coercion the red flag that doctors will be looking out for as euthanasia becomes legal

Despite today's preliminary result, there is still more than a year to go before the End of Life Choice Bill comes into force.

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Here’s what you need to know about the End of Life Act before it comes into force. Source: 1 NEWS

Referendum results today revealed 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.

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.

Majority of Kiwis vote in favour of euthanasia in referendum

“We do worry about the safety of people and people being coerced so if there is any hint of coercion then its a no,” says Dr Samantha Murton of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs.

A lawyer for Lecrectia Seales, who worked on the legislation says it's one of the strictest in the world.

"A GP has to make about 11 different things which includes making sure you know all about the alternatives having numerous conversations over a period of time,” says Catherine Marks of Russel McVeagh.

Other safeguards are there to prevent abuse of the law.

People who are only suffering from mental illness, a disability or old age will not be eligible, the request has to come from the person affected and their doctor has to get a second opinion from another, who will be chosen for them and the patient can change their mind at any stage.


“There are two doctors who are involved and then also there can be a psychiatrist if there is any question,” Murton says.

'Highly unlikely' referendum results will be overturned by special votes, says Andrew Little


The Ministry of Health will now be in charge of the rollout, including assembling a list of willing doctors and setting up a review committee for complaints.

“They will have to make sure to the extent there are any processes or oversight required to be in place,” Justice Minister, Andrew Little says.

That involves selecting the drug and how it will be administered.

“In different countries around the globe they use different types of systems and drugs that they use and we would have to work out in New Zealand,” Murton says.

Doctors urging the priority must be safety.

“How do we do that? All of us have to be really cautious and really have our ears up to any coercion and any sense that people feel like it’s there only option,” Murton says.

The official results are set to come out on November 6, which would include special votes that are estimated to make up 17 per cent of the overall vote.