New Zealand has voted resoundingly in favour of legalising euthanasia, preliminary referendum results show.
A referendum on the End of Life Choice Bill - which gives people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying - was held alongside the general election and cannabis legalisation and control referendum earlier this month.
Preliminary results released by the Electoral Commission on Friday afternoon show 1,574,645 Kiwis (65.2 percent) are in support of bringing the End of Life Choice Act 2019 into force, with 815,829 (33.8 percent) against.
Special votes are yet to be counted, but the gulf between the number of Kiwis who voted 'yes' and those who voted 'no' indicate it's impossible the result will be overturned.
Official results will be released on November 6, 2020.
As the End of Life Choice referendum is binding, the result means assisted dying will be legal from November 6, 2021 - a year to the day from when the final votes are counted.
Until then, euthanasia will still be considered "aiding and abetting suicide" under Section 179 of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961.
The success of the End of Life Choice Bill marks the first time an assisted dying law reform has been passed, at the fourth attempt.
MPs had proposed similar Bills on three occasions in the past - the Death with Dignity Bills of 1995 and 2003, and an earlier edition of the End of Life Choice Bill in 2012 - but all failed to make it past the first reading.
Once the End of Life Choice Act is enshrined in law, Kiwis will be eligible for assisted dying so long as they:
- Are aged 18 years or over
- Are a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand
- Suffer from a terminal illness that's likely to end their life within six months
- Have significant and ongoing decline in physical capability
- Experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased
- Are able to make an informed decision about assisted dying
Those considered able to make an informed decision about assisted dying are those who can understand the information, remember it, weigh it up and communicate their decision in some way.
The Government says people will not be eligible for assisted dying if the only reason they give is that they are suffering from a mental disorder or mental illness, have a disability of any kind, or are of advanced age.
In the case of a request for assisted dying, the physician in charge must do their best to ensure it's the person's own choice.
"If, at any time, the doctor or nurse practitioner thinks a person is being pressured about their decision, they must stop the process," Government information reads.
"A health practitioner is not allowed to suggest that a person consider assisted dying when providing a health service to them."