Despite concerns raised, New Zealand voters back assisted suicide

A strong majority of New Zealand voters approved the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia for the terminally ill Oct. 30. Foes of legalization said many voters appeared confused about the measure’s far-reaching effects and warned that the move will have consequences for the vulnerable.

The nationwide referendum passed with support from 65% of voters on Friday. It allows terminally ill persons who are believed to have six months or fewer to live to be euthanized or to take a lethal dose of prescribed drugs themselves, on the condition that two doctors agree the person is well-informed. Patients are eligible if they show significant, ongoing decline in physical ability and experience “unbearable suffering that cannot be eased.” The law will take effect Nov. 6, 2021.

Legalization opponent Euthanasia-Free NZ said some 80% of adult New Zealanders appeared to misunderstand the referendum. Only 20% knew the act would not make it legal to turn off life support machines. Such a practice is not illegal under current law.

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