As the saying goes, nothing is more certain in life than taxes and death.

Taxes will feature in pre-election politicking but death - or the right for terminally ill people to choose their time to die - is less likely to be a podium issue.

Yet the subject should be discussed widely, according to a Northland focus group which will hold a public meeting in Whangarei next Saturday on living wills, called 'advance directives'.

An advance directive is a statement signed by a person setting out the treatment they do or do not want if they become so unwell in the future they are considered unable to give consent.


Whangarei woman Sandra Corston knows she has to consider the step because she has cancer in her brain.

"Until you're in that situation, you don't really think about it in regards to yourself,'' she said.

''I don't know enough yet to say that I'll definitely have an advance directive, but I'm pretty sure I will, and this is why I want to go to the meeting.

"I need to make the right choices now, because I might not be able to later."

Although she was a nurse, a personal family experience reinforced to her how important "dying with dignity" was, she said.

Under common law, people have the right to make choices about their medical treatment, provided they are deemed competent.

Advance directives regarding the health care an individual wants are recognised in the Code of Health and Disability Commissioners Rights.

Speakers on Saturday will provide information about how to complete legal advance directives, and discuss the need for a national standardised form.

Directives do not call for euthanasia as such, but ensure next of kin and carers know if a patient has chosen not to have life-extending medical treatment.

The decision can be made only while the person is fully capable of making it and no one except that person can override it.

ACT Party leader David Seymour has an End of Life Choice Bill before Parliament, with its first reading possibly still a year away. MPs would cast conscience votes and parties won't take positions.

The bill seeks to legalise assisted dying where individuals have advanced terminal illness, irreversible decline in capability, and suffering unbearably.

In June, a poll found 75 per cent of 1300 New Zealanders favoured a law change allowing terminally ill people with irreversible, unbearable suffering to be helped to end their lives peacefully.

Polls in 2015 had similar results, but right-to-life groups and other opponents consider state-sanctioned euthanasia puts vulnerable people at increased risk.

The Northland Focus Group public meeting is at Whangarei Library, Saturday, July 22, from 11am-1pm.