About the Assisted Dying Service

An overview of the Assisted Dying Service, including how the service works, end of life care options and the Assisted Dying Service secretariat.

The Assisted Dying Service allows a person with a terminal illness, and who meets the eligibility criteria, to legally request medication to relieve their suffering by ending their life. The service aims to be equitable and ensure people and their whānau are at the centre, that there are effective safeguards as set out under the law, and that the service is accessible to those who meet the eligibility criteria.

The process for accessing assisted dying is set out in a law called the End of Life Choice Act 2019 (the Act). Assisted dying became a health service on 7 November 2021. 

Assisted dying is not a replacement for palliative care or health care services. It provides another option for people with a terminal illness in certain circumstances. 

The Ministry of Health is responsible for overseeing and funding the service. The secretariat Assisted Dying Service at the Ministry supports the provision of the services. The Registrar (assisted dying) within the secretariat ensures the processes required by the law are followed for each person accessing the service.

Assisted dying services are most often delivered in home and community settings. Medical and nurse practitioners providing the services are supported by the secretariat. The secretariat also works with the Support and Consultation for End of Life New Zealand (SCENZ) group that maintains the lists of medical and nurse practitioners and psychiatrists willing to provide parts of the assisted dying services.

How the service works

Assisted dying services are delivered as a free service by medical and nurse practitioners. These practitioners work with the secretariat Assisted Dying Service at the Ministry of Health, along with advice and support from the Support and Consultation for End of Life New Zealand (SCENZ) Group. The SCENZ group maintains the lists of medical and nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists willing to provide parts of the assisted dying services.

A person wanting to access assisted dying needs to raise this 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. 

A person can contact the SCENZ group directly if they don’t want to ask their own doctor about the service or if their doctor does not provide assisted dying services.

The assisted dying process involves: 

  • Helping someone who is terminally ill to make an application for assisted dying, and undertaking a first assessment. This is done by an attending medical practitioner (the person’s doctor).
  • Undertaking a second independent assessment. This is done by a second medical practitioner from the SCENZ list.
  • A third assessment by a psychiatrist from the SCENZ list may be undertaken, if one or both of the initial assessments was unable to determine that the person is competent to make a decision. 
  • Confirming that someone is eligible for assisted dying.
  • The Registrar (assisted dying) will check that the processes required under the law have been complied with.
  • The administration of the assisted dying medication by the attending medical practitioner or an attending nurse practitioner under their supervision.

Get more information about how the service works, the eligibility criteria and contact details on our Information for the public page.

End-of-life care options 

Assisted dying does not replace the care a person is already getting. Instead, it provides another option in some circumstances. If a person chooses to access assisted dying services, this option will most likely be in addition to the care they are already getting, such as palliative care. 

As part of the assessment process, the attending medical practitioner must ensure a person understands their other options for end-of-life care. In some situations, this may lead to a person seeking other options such as referrals to palliative or hospice care in addition to, or instead of, seeking assisted dying. 

A person’s health care team should support continuity of care and optimisation of wider care so that their other health needs are addressed during the assisted dying assessment process and/or up until the assisted death takes place. Continuing this care also means that if the person is found not to be eligible for assisted dying or the person chooses not to have an assisted death, their wider health needs continue to be met.

The secretariat

The Assisted Dying Service secretariat provides a consistent point of contact for and oversight of the service. They serve the person, their whānau and involved health practitioners. 

The Registrar (assisted dying) is part of the secretariat. Their role is to check that the processes required by the Act have been complied with.

The secretariat also includes clinical advisors who provide information and support to help the person and their whānau navigate the steps in the assisted dying service, and provide pastoral support following an assisted death. 

The secretariat works with the Support and Consultation for End of Life New Zealand (SCENZ) group to identify practitioners from the SCENZ list to undertake assisted dying assessment processes.

Data and reporting

The Ministry of Health recognises the interest in the assisted dying service and aims to provide regular data as part of its role in monitoring the service over time.

The Ministry plans to publish data on applications, assisted deaths and the number of practitioners on the SCENZ Group lists on its website on a quarterly basis from April 2022.

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