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Dying Badly – New Zealand Stories

by Dr Jack Havill and David Barber

Read it online for free.

Purchase your printed version now for $12 including postage.

Cheques to PO Box 48241, Upper Hutt 5142

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Why we support
End-of-Life Choice

By Jack Havill, past president of the End-of-Life Choice Society of New Zealand

  • To prevent suffering at the end of life, including pain that cannot be relieved by drugs. Some patients don’t want to be anaesthetised for their last days.
  • To maintain dignity in death. Terminally ill patients often lose control of their bodily functions and would prefer to die before becoming completely dependent on carers.
  • To retain personal control and be able to say when and how those with unbearable suffering die.
  • To allow terminally ill people who want to end their suffering to die in the company of friends and family and not have to commit suicide alone. While suicide is legal, a loved one who assists, or is even present at the time, risks prison.
  • To allow sufferers to depart this life while still possessing their mental faculties. This would allow dignified goodbyes to friends and relatives and limit mutual distress.
  • To eliminate compassionate law-breaking which risks prosecution. It is recognised that some family members and doctors and nurses already assist patients begging for help to die because they cannot bear to see the suffering. A law change would legitimise their humane actions.
  • Surveys show that nearly seven out of 10 New Zealanders across every section of society favour End-Of-Life Choice for those who qualify and request it. Many are angry after watching and caring for family members who have suffered long drawn out deaths and want a good death for themselves.

We believe individuals may seek medical assistance to die, under carefully defined circumstances. He or she (18 years or over) must suffer from either:

  • a terminal illness or other medical condition likely to end his/her life within 6 months.
  • constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering which cannot be relieved in a manner the patient deems tolerable.

Safeguards include:

  • The individual must request assistance in writing twice, with at least a 7 day interval, from a medical practitioner who will certify:

a) the qualifying conditions above exist

b) there has been no coercion from family or others

c) the patient is mentally competent

d) he/she has given advice to the patient on treatment options including palliative care

e) he/she has given advice to the patient to talk to family and seek counselling

  • In addition a second independent medical practitioner must interview the patient, read the first medical practitioners findings and record their opinion on an official form. If they agree with the first certifying medical practitioner, the procedure may take place. This independent second medical practitioner will be drawn from a panel of experienced participating medical practitioners set up by the Health Ministry.
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