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The End of Life Choice Act

Our organisational position on the End of Life Choice Act

August 4, 2020

New Zealand voted into law the End of Life Choice Act 2019 in the September 2020 referendum. Rotorua Community Hospice has taken an organisational position of conscientious objection and will not be providing euthanasia services.

We have taken this position because we fully support the philosophy of hospice to aim to neither hasten nor postpone death and we believe that euthanasia does not have a place in palliative care.  We believe with good support people can live well until they die, and their family and whānau can be an important part of this time and need support also.

Please be assured Rotorua Community Hospice will continue to provide palliative care for all people with a life limiting condition, their family and whānau, regardless of a desire for assisted dying. 

We acknowledge and respect a person’s right to make choices that are best for themselves, particularly around end of life. However, no Rotorua Community Hospice staff will be involved in the administration and will not be present during the administration of euthanasia medications. Euthanasia medications cannot and will not be administered on any Rotorua Community Hospice premises.

Any requests for euthanasia made to Rotorua Community Hospice employees from patients of Rotorua Community Hospice will be managed according to the obligations under the Act and we will ensure there is clarity on our position with any patient upon their referral to hospice services.

If you want further information about assisted dying, you can view the Community Information sheet on the Ministry’s website https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/regulation-health-and-disability-system/end-life-choice-act.

Our staff can be asked questions about assisted dying and they will provide answers that adhere to the guidelines of the End of Life Choice Act. The Act is clear that the person requesting assisted dying must be the one to raise it first. Our staff are not able to suggest assisted dying as an option or initiate discussion about assisted dying unless the person has done so first.

If you ask us about End of Life choices we will communicate in the following way:

• Rotorua Community Hospice conscientiously objects to euthanasia and we are unable to help you with your inquiry.
• You can contact the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) Group for the name and contact details of a medical practitioner who is willing to participate in assisted dying.

The Act establishes the SCENZ Group to oversee a range of responsibilities related to assisted dying. These responsibilities include making and maintaining a list of health practitioners who are willing to provide assisted dying services.

Discussions about euthanasia can raise many questions and concerns. Below we have highlighted some questions and answers that we have been asked previously or believe will be relevant.

Where can I find out more information about the Act?

The Ministry of Health has information on its website that is regularly updated. Information about the End of Life Choice Act can be viewed here – https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/regulation-health-and-disability-system/end-life-choice-act

Why don’t you want to give people euthanasia?

Whilst we appreciate a person has every right to make choices in their care, euthanasia does not fit with hospice’s philosophy of neither hastening nor postponing death. Hospice palliative care is holistic care that works to address the physical, spiritual, cultural and social issues that might be motivating a person living with a terminal illness to seek euthanasia. We believe that with good support for both the person who is dying and their family and whānau, people can manage well until they die naturally.

Is giving someone a syringe driver (morphine) euthanasia?

No, when a patient is given a syringe driver that delivers morphine/pain relief or other medications, the purpose is to relieve pain and control symptoms to take away their distress. The syringe driver is simply another way of giving medicines when a person can no longer take them by mouth. With euthanasia, certain medications are given with the sole intention of ending the person’s life.

Does active and passive euthanasia exist?

No. It is important to realise that all euthanasia is active; it is a deliberate act to end a person’s life.

We have been told “there is nothing more we can do.”

There is always something that can be done. Palliative care is provided up until the very moment a person dies and beyond when it comes to bereavement support for family and whānau. Palliative care does help people with pain and other distressing symptoms – a lot can be done for a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Palliative care is active treatment.

End of life care does not mean doing nothing and just letting someone die. It is not about “giving up” – it is about being with the person. Stopping a treatment does not mean no treatment, palliative care is very active total care. Excellent pain and symptom control will continue to the end of life, and emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing are ever present.

My family member has stopped eating and drinking – is that euthanasia?

No, it is okay and normal for a person to stop eating and drinking as the body slows down and prepares for death. The body only needs a small amount of fluid at the end of life.

For information on the End of Life Choice Act visit https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/regulation-health-and-disability-system/end-life-choice-act

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