Overview

Definitions & language

Euthanasia

A deliberate act to end the life of a patient who is suffering with a serious illness.

Assisted Suicide

When lethal drugs are prescribed or supplied by to a person at their request and self-administered by the patient with the aim of ending his or her life.

Assisted Dying

A term that is used broadly to cover acts such as euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

It is a controversial term because it fails to differentiate acts of ‘assisted suicide’ from acts of ‘euthanasia’, a difference that has significant legal, political, ethical, practical and social implications. 

It also fails to adequately distinguish between ethically acceptable acts such as withdrawing or withholding treatment (when it is no longer medically indicated) and the intentional ending of a person’s life.

Medical Assistance in Dying or Physician Assisted Suicide

Terms used to describe acts of euthanasia and assisted suicide that actively involve the intervention of one or more health professionals.

Terminal Illness

A progressive life-limiting disease that cannot be cured and where death is foreseen as an imminent consequence.

Irremediable Condition

Any condition, including but not limited to a terminal illness, which has a life-limiting or debilitating effect on the person. Many people with irreversible conditions continue to live normal or near normal lives with appropriate levels of care and support.

Current New Zealand Law

Under current New Zealand law both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal.

The Crimes Act 1961 provides for the protection of human life as follows:

No one has a right to consent to the infliction of death upon himself or herself; and, if any person is killed, the fact that he or she gave any such consent shall not affect the criminal responsibility of any person who is a party to the killing.

Every one who has actual care or charge of a person who is a vulnerable adult and who is unable to provide himself or herself with necessaries is under a legal duty— (a) to provide that person with necessaries; and (b) to take reasonable steps to protect that person from injury.

Every one who undertakes to do any act the omission to do which is or may be dangerous to life is under a legal duty to do that act, and is criminally responsible for the consequences of omitting without lawful excuse to discharge that duty.

Homicide is the killing of a human being by another, directly or indirectly, by any means whatsoever.

(2) Homicide is culpable when it consists in the killing of any person—

(a) by an unlawful act;

(3) Except as provided in section 178 [which refers to Infanticide], culpable homicide is either murder or manslaughter.

Every one who by any act or omission causes the death of another person kills that person, although the effect of the bodily injury caused to that person was merely to hasten his or her death while labouring under some disorder or disease arising from some other cause.

Every one who by any act or omission causes the death of another person kills that person, although death from that cause might have been prevented by resorting to proper means.

(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who—

(a) incites, counsels, or procures any person to commit suicide, if that person commits or attempts to commit suicide in consequence thereof; or

(b) aids or abets any person in the commission of suicide.

(2) A person commits an offence who incites, counsels, or procures another person to commit suicide, even if that other person does not commit or attempt to commit suicide in consequence of that conduct.

(3) A person who commits an offence against subsection (2) is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years.

No one shall be deprived of life except on such grounds as are established by law and are consistent with the principles of fundamental justice.

Everyone has the right to refuse to undergo any medical treatment.