The End of Life Choice Act 2019

About the law that makes assisted dying legal in New Zealand and the implementation of this Act.

The End of Life Choice Act 2019 is the law that makes assisted dying legal in New Zealand. The Act outlines the legal framework for assisted dying, including eligibility criteria and some key safeguards. 

The Act was a Member’s bill and was passed by Parliament on the condition that a public referendum was held on whether the Act should come into force.

There was a majority ‘yes’ vote in the public referendum held at the 2020 General Election. The Act came into force on 7 November 2021, a year after the referendum results were announced.

Reviewing the Act

The Ministry of Health must review the operation of the Act within three years of it coming into force.

This includes considering whether any amendments to this Act or any other enactment are necessary or desirable and making recommendations to the Minister of Health based on these findings. The Minister will then present a copy of this report to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Following the first review, this process must be repeated at least every five years.

Implementing the Act

In the 12-months leading up to 7 November 2021, the Ministry worked to implement the Act. The key objectives of this work programme were to ensure that:

  • medical and nurse practitioners who offer to provide assisted dying services to eligible people are trained and available
  • the wider health workforce is aware of the Act, their obligations under the Act, including the right to conscientious objection
  • the statutory roles of the SCENZ Group, the Review Committee and the Registrar (assisted dying) were established
  • administrative systems, regulations, and professional guidance, information and supports were in place; and
  • public information about the assisted dying service is available and health practitioners can provide information to people about the SCENZ group if appropriate.

Wide engagement with the health and disability sector was undertaken during the implementation of the Act. This included engagement with the disability sector, Māori led primary health organisations, Pacific primary health organisations, professional colleges, councils, unions, and other health organisations. Engagement continues as part of the ongoing role of the Secretariat and its work to monitor and improve the service.

Implementation governance group

The Ministry’s implementation programme was overseen by a governance group with the following membership:

  • Deputy Director-General – Health System Improvement and Innovation (Co-Chair)    
  • Deputy Director-General – Māori Health (Co-Chair)     
  • Deputy Director-General – System Strategy and Policy
  • Chief Nursing Officer – Ministry of Health    
  • Chief Medical Officer – Ministry of Health    
  • DHB Chief Executive
  • Member of the Council of Medical Colleges    
  • Member of Te Apārangi: Māori Partnership Alliance

Ministerial decisions

While the Ministry was responsible for implementing the Act, key decisions that shaped the service were made by Government. Cabinet papers and minutes related to these decisions have been proactively released.

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