An overview of the Assisted Dying Service, including how assisted dying fits into other end of life care options.
The Assisted Dying Service allows a person with a terminal illness to request medication to end their life. The person must meet strict criteria and follow the process set out in a law called the End of Life Choice Act 2019 (the Act). Assisted dying became legal in New Zealand on 7 November 2021.
- The Assisted Dying Secretariat, within the Ministry of Health, is responsible for overseeing, funding, and monitoring the Assisted Dying Service.
The te reo Māori translation for assisted dying is mate whakaahuru – to die in a warm and comforting manner.
This wording was used by Māori media and proficient te reo speakers prior to the End of Life Choice Act 2019 coming into force. It has since been adopted by the Ministry of Health as the translation for the name of the service, based on consultation with Te Apārangi Māori Partnership Alliance and the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) Group.
Assisted dying is a personal choice
Assisted dying is a personal choice. The decision to have an assisted death must be made by the person with a terminal illness.
A person considering this option needs to raise it with their doctor or someone in their health care team. Health professionals are not allowed to raise assisted dying with a person or suggest it as an option.
Assisted dying is provided as a free service by medical and nurse practitioners, usually in home and community settings. The person and the involved practitioners are supported by the Assisted Dying Secretariat (within the Ministry of Health) throughout the process.
You can contact the Assisted Dying Secretariat by emailing [email protected] or calling freephone 0800 223 852.
The assisted dying process
- a person making a request for assisted dying
- a doctor assessing whether the person is eligible
- a second, independent doctor assessing whether the person is eligible
- if required, a psychiatrist assessing whether the person is competent to make an informed decision
- planning for the assisted death, including choosing a date and time and the method for the administering the medication
- a doctor or a nurse practitioner administering the medication.
The person can choose to involve their whānau or other support people in parts of the process, but they do not have to. The whānau or support people cannot choose an assisted death on the person’s behalf.
Timeframes for the Assisted Dying Service
Everyone must follow the set process. How long this process takes depends on a person’s situation – it is different for everyone, and there is no set timeframe.
It is expected that the process for confirming a person’s eligibility may take between four and six weeks after a request is made.
The timeframe for the process may also depend on the availability of practitioners, particularly if the practitioners are travelling to provide services.
End-of-life care options
Assisted dying gives people who meet the criteria another option. It does not replace the care a person is already getting, such as palliative.
As part of the assessment process, the attending medical practitioner must ensure a person understands their other options for end-of-life care.
It is likely that a person’s existing care will continue throughout the assisted dying assessment process. This means that a person’s health needs continue to be met if they are found not to be eligible for an assisted death, or if they change their mind.