Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Kill the Act, not the vulnerable

Peter Thirkell explains how the End of Life Choice Act is a dangerously weak law that would not protect the most vulnerable people in Aotearoa New Zealand from an untimely death if it were voted in this October.

Peter Thirkell  |  03 Sep 2020

The End of Life Choice Act is a risk not worth taking.

Whatever your views of death and dying, this Act is poor legislation because it does not fully protect people from a wrongful death.

Two thirds of New Zealanders are unaware there is a referendum on euthanasia at this year’s election. Yet the risky and badly constructed End of Life Choice Act could become law with a simple majority on the 17th October.

Getting people to consider what is in the Act, and the implications of making it law is the aim of Vote No to the End of Life Act, a group of medical, law and ethics professionals who have recently launched their campaign heading into October’s election.

“We are 22 professionals covering a range of disciplines that have come together to oppose this Act,” says Peter Thirkell, Chair of Vote No to the End of Life Act.

“Put simply, the Act is flawed."

"It will put vulnerable people at risk and will have too many unintended, negative consequences.”

The 'Vote No to the End of Life Act' campaign focuses on six reasons why people might choose to Vote No.

Of these, the primary reasons are that the Act is bad law.

The focus for our approach to the end of life needs to be on providing compassionate care.

The Act has received overwhelming opposition from New Zealand doctors with more than 1,500 signing an open letter to oppose the Act as part of the ‘Doctors Say No’ campaign.

The New Zealand Medical Association also opposes the End of Life Choice Act. There is also the unprecedented aspect of this being the first time an Act has gone to a binding referendum in New Zealand. 

“Under the law held in the End of Life Choice Act, any New Zealander with a terminal illness of six months or less, is at risk of an early death."

This could be through a wrong diagnosis, a wrong judgement about how long they have to live, or pressure from uncaring or abusive family members.

The fact that 98% of palliative care professionals and most doctors are opposed to this Act reinforces how risky and flawed it is.

We’ve never had a fully drafted Act go to referendum in New Zealand before and few are aware of the implications of this.

The group is encouraging people to visit and follow their social media channels on Facebook and Instagram so they can make an informed decisions ahead of the referendum. 

The Vote No. campaign can also provide experts available to speak at community events and people can request a speaker through the website.

New Zealanders need to take the time to look at what is exactly in this Act. Only 1 in 5 people know what is in it.

There is the very real prospect that most New Zealanders will wake up on the morning after the referendum and not even know what they had voted for.

There’s no going back, and we implore New Zealanders to do make sure they understand what they are signing up for.