New Zealanders have chosen to legalize euthanasia for those with the deadly disease, in a crushing win for campaigners who say anyone suffering from excruciating pain should be given a choice about how and when to end their life.
The decision on whether to legalize euthanasia comes as a referendum question on the October 17 election ballot, alongside a second referendum question on whether to legalize marijuana – which doesn’t work.
The results of the euthanasia referendum are binding and the law will go into effect 12 months from the final result – on November 6, 2021. Help dying will be managed by the Ministry of Health.
Preliminary results announced today by the election commission showed 65.2% of eligible voters voted “yes” to legalize euthanasia, with 33.8% choosing “no”.
Only 46.1% of New Zealanders voted to legalize marijuana, while 53.1% voted no, meaning the law will not go to parliament.
Over the years, support for euthanasia has reached around 60-70% in opinion polls, with broad support across the political spectrum, from prime minister Jacinda Ardern to opposition leader Judith Collins.
The vote made New Zealand only the seventh country in the world that legalized assisted death, and it is an “important day” for the country, said campaigner Mary Panko.
“It is now clear what we have known for decades that the Kiwis want, and have always wanted, the right to die on their own terms,” said Panko.
“One day New Zealanders will shake their heads in amazement that the human right to say ‘no’ to intolerable suffering must be debated in this country … now that this Law has passed, our lives as well as our deaths will be much better. . “
The referendum follows the passage of the End of Life Choice Act in parliament in 2019. The law will allow those with terminal illnesses to apply to end their lives. Even so Graduated it will only take effect if more than 50% of voters put a “yes” on the referendum ballot – which preliminary results suggest they did.
The law outlines the criteria for who can apply to end their life, including that they are 18 or over New Zealand citizens, suffering from a deadly disease that will end their life in six months, “suffer significant and persistent physical impairment”, “endure unbearable and unbearable suffering” and are in a position to make “the right decisions About their death.
Those with mental illness or decline will not be eligible, nor will those who enroll only on the basis of “old age” or disability. Two doctors – one independent – must sign the decree, with a psychiatrist called in if either doctor is in doubt.
ACT party MP David Seymour, who sponsored the bill, has been a tireless campaigner for euthanasia, saying New Zealand continues to be “decades” behind the world’s most progressive nations.
“I think it is time for New Zealand to move towards a more compassionate and tolerant society,” Seymour told the Guardian.
“People continue to suffer in traumatic ways. I don’t want to suffer to follow other people’s morality. They have a body of their own if they want to experience a terrible death. “
Although the results of the euthanasia referendum are binding, the cannabis issue is non-binding, which means that whatever the outcome, the government still needs to debate the issue and issue policies through parliament.
In the run-up to the October elections, opinion polls show a country is divided; with support for legalization of cannabis that veers between 30-50%.
Voters are asked to decide whether they want to pass the bill that will legalize marijuana and govern how it is used and sold. This includes producing and selling both fresh and dried cannabis, including plants and seeds – for people over the age of 20. The changes will impose stricter restrictions than rules around the sale of alcohol and tobacco.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly refused to state her position on cannabis but said she would reveal her voice once official results were announced.
Ardern recently said he had been using marijuana “for a long time.”
Former Labor prime minister, Helen Clark, said the cannabis ban was “unsuccessful” and must be abandoned, a position echoed by many leading public health professionals.
Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in New Zealand, and the most recent New Zealand Health Survey found that 15%, or 590,000 adults in New Zealand used marijuana in the past 12 months.
Māori make up 16% of New Zealand’s population and are shown to be disproportionately affected by New Zealand’s drug laws, facing three times as many arrests and prosecutions for marijuana possession than non-Māori.