A Northland supporter of the End of Life Choice Act referendum says the overwhelming yes vote for the euthanasia bill shows the public fully understood what they were voting for.
However, North Haven Hospice medical director Dr Warrick Jones said the vote will mean a significant change for the whole healthcare sector, not just those providing palliative care, and the hospice would not take part in administering euthanasia.
The country gave an overwhelming yes, with preliminary results released yesterday showing 65.2 per cent (1,574,645 voters) voted for euthanasia, compared to 33.8 per cent (815,829) against.
Nearly 500,000 special votes still need to be counted, but the margin between the support and opposition is so wide that the referendum is likely to succeed. Once the official result is confirmed on November 6, it will be a year before New Zealanders get access to assisted dying.
Robin Lieffering, a member of the Northland End of Life Choice focus group, said the yes vote was an overwhelming victory.
''It's wonderful news and such a relief. It means that in a year's time people who are terminally ill and living with unbearable pain will be able to end their suffering,'' she said.
Lieffering said there was a lot of misinformation put out by some opponents of the Act before the vote, saying most people did not understand what they were voting for in the referendum.
But Lieffering said the huge Yes vote clearly showed that people were fully aware of what they were voting for.
''That level of support shows that people knew exactly what they were voting for. Voters know to do their research on issues of importance such as this, and it's insulting to say they do not.''
Lieffering said passing the Act will not be "bad news" as some opponents have said and it has plenty of safeguards in it.
''You have to go through eight different steps before you could have any hope of being eligible. You've got to be terminally ill and suffering horribly.''
She said people she spoke to were fully aware of the Act's possible implications and voted accordingly.
Lieffering said the Northland End of Life Choice focus group would be celebrating the win once it had the chance.
Dr Jones said a core philosophy of hospice is to neither hasten nor postpone death, and this will not change.
He said the pre-referendum High Court Declaratory Judgement received by Hospice New Zealand, ruled hospices and other healthcare providers such as GP practices, Māori health providers and aged care facilities are able to take an organisation-wide conscientious objection to involvement with euthanasia.
''Many, including North Haven Hospice, have decided to take this position. Hospice NZ says the concerns around a lack of safeguards and pressure on vulnerable people are even more apparent now the Act will come into force,'' he said.
''It is up to Government to ensure people have real choice in the care they choose to receive as they approach the end of life, particularly thinking about those who may be vulnerable to the presence of euthanasia through a lack of other options.''
Dr Jones said it is important for people to know that North Haven Hospice will continue to provide specialist palliative and end-of-life care to anyone needing support, regardless of a desire for assisted dying.
"We acknowledge and respect a person's right to make choices that are best for them, particularly around end of life. However, no North Haven Hospice staff will be involved in the administration or be present during the administration of euthanasia medications and these cannot be administered on any North Haven Hospice premises," he said.
"With good support, people can live well until they die naturally, and their family and whānau can be an important part of this time and need support also."
Dr Jones said people living with a terminal illness should be supported to live in whatever way is important to them and their loved ones.
"There is always something that can be done. Palliative care is provided up until the very moment a person dies and beyond, with bereavement support for family/whānau," he said."
Act Party leader David Seymour thanked MPs for supporting the End of Life Choice Bill that he introduced through Parliament.
He also thanked Dame Jenny Gibbs for "giving me the courage as a young MP to pursue this cause", Brooke van Veldon for her work in rallying support in Parliament for the Bill, and National MP Chris Bishop.
He said New Zealand would be "a kinder, more compassionate, more humane society - what a great day to be a Kiwi".
Meanwhile, Act's Whangārei candidate in this month's election - who is also called
David Seymour - welcomed the overwhelming Yes vote
Seymour had successful careers in insurance, building and then real estate in Northland until he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017.
He has been a big proponent of the Act and heard the result while on the Interislander ferry returning from the South Island.
''It's a fantastic result. It's what the team have been working for over the past three years and I'm delighted,'' he said.
''I think it's going to give so many people satisfaction knowing that they will have that choice and those that fit the criteria will be celebrating that they can make have that option, if they choose to do so.''
Seymour said he hadn't made the decision what to do if he got to that stage.
''But it's awesome to know that choice is going to be available to me should I decide to take it,'' he said.
Seymour said he was expecting about 60 per cent support for the referendum so to get 65.2 per cent support was outstanding and sent a clear message that Kiwis supported it.