New Zealand – victory for compassion and choice

New Zealand is set to become the latest Commonwealth country to legalise assisted dying after preliminary referendum results showed 65.2% of voters supported the End of Life Choice Act 2019. 

Final results will be announced on 6 November, but with such a strong majority, these are unlikely to change. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and opposition leader, Judith Collins, both supported the End of Life Choice Act.

The Bill was approved by Parliament in 2019, who then put it to a public referendum, which was held alongside the country’s general election – the Bill will become law in November 2021. It will allow euthanasia for terminally ill people, with less than six months to live, subject to strict safeguards and oversight. 

New Zealand joins the Australian states of Victoria and Western Australia and 10 jurisdictions in the United States, including California, Washington, and Oregon. Earlier this month members of Ireland’s Dáil voted to progress a bill to committee stage. It will now undergo pre-legislative scrutiny by one of the select committees.

This news comes as polling was released today by partners Friends at the End, Dignity and Dying and Humanist Society Scotland. These results showed that 76% of Scots would like to see the Scottish Parliament debate the crucial issue of assisted dying after the election in May, and that 66% wish to see a commitment to introduce assisted dying in the political parties election manifestos.

It is at times difficult to keep up with the momentum that powers the assisted dying debate. Just weeks ago, the results of the largest ever survey of British doctors’ views on assisted dying revealed that half of doctors personally support a change in the law and a clear majority believe that the BMA should drop its longstanding opposition. 

Increasingly, jurisdictions the world over are voting for greater compassion and choice at the end of life. It is clear that the new Scottish Parliament must grasp the nettle and give Scots what they have long called for – a safe, compassionate assisted dying law. 

Michelle Ballantyne MSP, Convener of the Cross-Party Group on End of Life Choices said:

“New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries are leading the way and legalising assisted dying in a bid to safeguard citizens and show that they are a compassionate and considerate country. It has been five years since the Scottish Parliament last debated assisted dying – parliamentarians must listen to the 87% of Scots who support a change in the law and avoid being on the wrong side of history”

Parliamentarians will discuss assisted dying again at the Cross-Party Group on End of Life Choices on Tuesday 24th November 2020. Please email if you wish to attend.