Euthanasia: A brief reminder about what's actually coming into force from November 7

From November 7, assisted dying - otherwise known as 'euthanasia' - will be available in New Zealand; but you may rest assured that family members will have no power over decisions.

Assisted dying was legalised after ACT leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill passed into law thanks to 65.1 percent support in a public referendum held alongside last year's general election. 

"Very soon our country will give those who face terrible suffering at the end of their life compassion and choice. It will be a good day to be a Kiwi," says ACT deputy Brooke van Velden, who helped whip up support for the law behind the scenes. 

"I'm proud of the work ACT and David Seymour did to champion the End of Life Choice Act through Parliament and through a nationwide referendum.

"We heard overwhelmingly from thousands of members of the public at public meetings, in person, and in the referendum result that this is a choice they wished for themselves and others."

Health Minister Andrew Little says systems are in place to begin. 

"The Government is committed to ensuring health services are available equally to everyone who needs them, and this includes assisted-dying services," he said. 

"We expect that in most circumstances, these services will be provided in the community and will be free for people who meet the strict eligibility criteria.

"Medical and nurse practitioners who provide care as part of the assisted-dying service will be paid for their work and for their travel costs."

The End of Life Review Committee to oversee assisted dying, which must include a medical ethicist, a doctor specialising in end-of-life care and a health practitioner, were announced last month as Dr Dana Wensley, Brenda Close and Dr Jane Greville, respectively. 

Who can access it?

Assisted dying won't be available to just anyone; in fact, there are a lot of criteria people have to meet in order to be considered. 

Those who choose it must be 18 years or over, must be a New Zealand citizen or resident, must suffer from a terminal illness that's likely to end their life within six months, and must be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability. 

People cannot access assisted dying because of mental illness, a disability, or old age. Only those experiencing unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that's considered tolerable, can get the service. 

They must also be competent enough to make the decision. 

It's forbidden to use what's called an 'advance directive' to request assisted dying. For example, people can't write a letter setting out ahead of time that they want to receive assisted death in the future. 

They'll also need both their medical practitioner and an independent medical practitioner to agree it's appropriate. If either is unsure, a psychiatrist must undertake an assessment as confirmation. 

Do doctors have to offer it?

Health practitioners do not have to help a person with assisted dying if they have a conscientious objection. A list of medical practitioners, psychiatrists and pharmacists who are willing to be involved will be available. 

But those medical practitioners who object will be required to help their patient find one who is willing, from the list that will be provided by the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand group, or SCENZ. 

How will it work?

If someone is approved for assisted dying, a date will need to be chosen for the medication to be administered. The date can be delayed for up to six months, and the process can be stopped at any time up until the point that the medication is administered. 

People can administer the medication themself in the presence of a medical or nurse practitioner, or have an expert do it. They can also choose to do it in the hospital or at home. 

Do family members have a say?

Family members will have no power over assisted dying decisions. A medical or nurse practitioner must stop the process if coercion is suspected.

Anyone who is eligible for assisted dying and chooses to proceed with it is under no obligation to discuss it with their friends and family if they don't want to. 

Family members, whānau and welfare guardians will not have any power to make decisions on behalf of a family member. However, medical practitioners must encourage the person to discuss their wish with family, whānau, friends and counsellors.