Saturday, November 27

Assisted dying is now an option for some terminally ill

People suffering excruciating suffering from a terminal illness can now seek medical help to end their lives.

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The End-of-Life Election Law underwent a binding referendum in last year’s elections and garnered 65.2 percent support.

It went into effect yesterday, exactly one year later.

For Bobbie Carroll, who has terminal cancer, the law has always been simply to allow the choice.

“Every kiwi in New Zealand was a winner when this happened. No one is obliged to do anything. Anyone who wants to be assisted can have it and people who don’t want to don’t have to fend for themselves.

“It’s one of the few times that legislation or a referendum ends with everyone winning and it’s just brilliant.”

But palliative care expert and spokesperson for the Care Alliance group, Sinead Donnelly, said the legislation made a mockery of the election.

“We were told that the Ministry of Health apparently had around 40 people hired or working on this End of Life Choice Law. You know, there is no one in the Ministry of Health that oversees the development of palliative care, so What option is that really? “

“If people are burdened by symptoms and distress and have inadequate hospice service in their region for whatever reason and as a result their distress becomes intolerable and then they request this, that was not a real choice.

“The fact that palliative care, 50 percent of its funding in this country depends on tents and bake sales and fundraising … and the Ministry of Health is fully funding the Choice Act end of life So what option is that?

Carroll disagrees. He said that sometimes even those with the best end-of-life care eventually have enough.

“This is for serious illnesses, serious situations. Where people have just had enough. They are dying, nothing is going to change the fact that they are dying and this is how they die.”

The eligibility test includes only having six months to live and being of sound mind.

The person must also be over 18 years of age and be a citizen or permanent resident.

Two physicians must participate, one of them appointed by the SCENZ oversight committee of the Ministry of Health.

A psychiatrist can also be called in if there are any doubts.

A doctor cannot initiate a conversation about euthanasia and the person can change their mind at any time.

Ninety-six doctors have expressed an interest in helping patients who want to die.

Based on experiences abroad, the ministry estimates that up to 950 people could apply for assisted death each year, and up to 350 would receive assistance to die.

Now that it’s legal, for Donnelly and the Care Alliance, the focus is now on making sure you don’t operate in the shadows.

“The most important thing is the data collection. That is why we have engaged with the Ministry of Health, or we have tried to do so, to determine what data they will collect on why a patient would choose this assisted suicide.”

“So if the purpose of this legislation was simply a choice, you don’t actually have to collect any data because that doesn’t matter, but if the focus is also on security and safeguards … then it is imperative to collect data from the beginning. . “

More data is required than they had been told would be collected, he said.

“In Oregon, the data is collected on whether it is due to physical pain, loneliness, fear of pain, fear of being a burden, fear of institutionalization.

“Also data such as, how did the doctor determine that the prognosis was less than six months? How did they determine intolerable suffering? And what was the cause of that suffering? Did they know if the patient had mental health problems? The patient has a recent bereavement … all of these factors could affect the person’s decision to request this. “

Before ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden was elected to Parliament, she played a pivotal role in getting party leader David Seymour’s end-of-life election bill to cross the line.

He said it had been a long way.

“This weekend New Zealand became a kinder, compassionate and humane society by allowing people who are struggling and suffering in the last days with their terminal illness.

“Choice and compassion on how and when they go, I think that’s what we should have.”

The Ministry of Health will fully fund the costs associated with the end-of-life choice.

RNZ asked the ministry what data it plans to collect, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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