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New Zealanders vote in favour of introducing assisted dying

New Zealanders have voted for introducing assisted dying. 

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Breakfast talked to PhD candidate Jessica Young and palliative care practitioner Dr Sinead Donnelly on their views on assisted dying. Source: Breakfast

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.

New Zealanders voted against legalising cannabis, in the other referendum held at this month's election. 

This means if the final vote is reflected in the official results, assisted dying will become legal for people who meet a certain set of criteria. 

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. The results could impact the final referendum results.

Support for the End of Life Choice Act coming into force Source: 1 NEWS

A 'yes' result would mean the End of Life Choice Act would come into force 12 months after the official results are released (November 6, 2021). If it is voted down by the public, it will be repealed.

If the majority say yes, it will lead to those that meet a certain set of criteria being able to request an assisted death.

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.

If a medical or nurse practitioner suspects a person is being pressured into assisted dying, then no further action is allowed.

Support for the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill Source: 1 NEWS

The End of Life Choice Act passed in Parliament on November 13, 2019.

The provision for a referendum was a bottom line for New Zealand First MPs, who voted in favour of the second reading but threatened to pull any further support if one was not held. 

It was a long process of MPs working through proposed changes, occasionally staying until 1am to comb through the finer details of the bill. In that time the scope of the bill was narrowed to allow people with a terminal illness with less than six months to live.

The bill passed the first time in 2017 by 76-44, and the second 70-50 in June, 2019.