“Tomorrow will mark one year of the End of Life Choice Act and terminally ill New Zealanders being able to die with dignity,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“More than 200 New Zealanders who were terminally ill and sufferings have used the legislation to end their lives in peace and dignity, on their terms, surrounded by loved ones.
“This law is clearly making New Zealand a more humane society. In the meantime, the opponents who forced compromises on the legislation have melted away. They are nowhere to be seen but the restrictions on the law they demanded remain a real issue.
“By September 30, the last quarter reported on, 596 people had applied for Assisted Dying, and 294 had been deemed a person eligible for assisted dying. Of those people, 214 had had an assisted death.
“Of those 302 applicants remaining, 120 were assessed as not eligible, 31 withdrew from the process, and 108 died while being assessed. The remainder are still working their way through the process.
“The figures overwhelmingly show a law that is working, People can and do get through the process to become eligible for assisted dying, some change their mind, some are assessed as not eligible. That is what we’d expect if the law was working.
“However, there are two areas that deserve scrutiny. At present one-in-six people die of underlying condition while applying. Given applicants need to have a terminal illness to apply, there will always be some people in this position. But, it is worth asking whether there are unnecessary delays in the process. Anecdotally, it can take two months to get through the entire process, and that is longer than necessary to observe all the safeguards in the law.
“The figures also show more than a third of people who are assessed as not eligible, or one-in-fifteen of all applicants, are declined because they do not have a terminal illness likely to end their life within six months. That may because they are found not to have a terminal illness at all, but I suspect at least some if not many have an illness that is terminal but without a certain timeframe.
“To get the bill passed I had to put in place the six month requirement. The Green MPs, among others, demanded this. I fear that compromise is leading to people such as my namesake David Seymour of Whangarei, Rachel Rypma of Christchurch, and Frank Sanft of Remuera miss out on having choice and control, even though their long suffering is just as real as those with a more immediate terminal condition.
“A society should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. New Zealand is now a country that gives those who face terrible suffering at the end of their life compassion and choice.
“I’m proud of the work we 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
“Many thought the sky would fall in because of this legislation, when in reality, it has eased suffering and pain.”