New Zealand has just reached the second anniversary of legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide, euphemistically called “assisted dying”.
Data published on the Health New Zealand (Te Whatu Ora) website shows that 558 people had ended their lives prematurely at the conclusion of September of this year.
In the first year of the practice being legal, 257 people were killed or assisted in taking their own lives. It is probable that, in this second year, that number will have grown close to 600 as acceptance rises, and choosing death “on your own terms” becomes more enticing.
An annual report detailing all the cumulative data for November 2022 – November 2023 will be published in the first quarter of 2024. The Annual Report for November 2021 – November 2022 was very telling.
Palliative Care and Hospice
Sadly, nearly ¼ of all people who have applied for euthanasia or assisted suicide were not receiving palliative care at the time of their request, strongly suggesting that not all avenues of care have been exhausted for these people.
Although most deaths by euthanasia or assisted suicide have taken place at the person’s home or other suitable private dwelling, alarmingly, some have occurred in public hospitals, aged care residences, funeral homes, and even in hospices.
While the vast majority of hospice facilities object to the practice and do not help facilitate the process in any way (outside of the requirement of the law), several have questionable policies allowing consultations to take place on-site.
Further, Tōtara Hospice in Manukau, Auckland, offers the killing service within their scope of practice and on their premises so patients may, as their website declares, “access this in a seamless way.”
Doctors of Death
There are 134 medical practitioners – doctors and psychiatrists – and 13 nurse practitioners on the SCENZ (Support and Consultation for End of Life New Zealand) group practitioner list. However, it is not a requirement for medical practitioners to be registered on the SCENZ list, and they are free to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide to their patients.
In an age where doctors may kill or facilitate someone taking their own life, the elderly, disabled, and sick must be fully aware of their rights, know what they want, and do all they can to find medical assistance from those who still uphold life and the precept “first do no harm.”
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