New Zealand to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill patients
The majority of New Zealanders have voted in favor of a proposed law to legalize euthanasia for people with terminal illnesses, which means the controversial law may go into effect next year, CNN reports.
More than 65% of voters supported the proposed law, according to preliminary results of a referendum announced by the country's electoral commission Friday.
Lawmakers voted 69-51 to approve the End of Life Choice Act 2019 last year before sending the issue to a referendum.
More than 2.4 million people participated in the poll, which was conducted during New Zealand's general election on October 17. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won the election by a landslide, earning her second term and an unprecedented majority for her center-left Labour Party.
New Zealanders were also asked to vote on whether cannabis should be legalized and a little over half of those who voted were against its legalization, with 53.1% saying no.
Official results of the euthanasia vote will be published November 6, and the law will take effect one year later.
The law includes several stipulations that must be met to be eligible for "assisted dying."
First of all, the person must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18 with a terminal illness "likely to end the person's life within 6 months"; is in an "advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability"; and is experiencing "unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable."
The person would also need to be evaluated by multiple medical professionals, including one from a government-appointed medical practitioner.
CNN reports that doctors and nurses are not allowed to start the conversation about assisted dying, and health practitioners are not obligated to assist people who wish to die if they have a conscientious objection.
Assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal in very few countries and jurisdictions around the world, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Canada.
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