In the debate over the End of Life Choice Bill next year we are in for quite the feast of obfuscation and fact-fiddling.

We will be likely to hear repeatedly, for instance, that the doctors' representative group the New Zealand Medical Association is opposed. But "representative" in this case means representing just 20 per cent of registered doctors, as Graham Adams, writing at, has pointed out.

But, although truth will be elided and economised, there is much clarity to be found in the bill itself. In fact, this issue is so important, 20 minutes devoted to finding out what's actually in it on the way to forming an opinion would be time well spent.

Fair warning: those hoping for unconscious black humour in the bill will be sorely disappointed. The sole example I could find was its requirement for the medical practitioner to "inform the person of the irreversible nature and anticipated impacts of assisted dying." You'd think having got to the stage of seeking euthanasia individuals would have a pretty clear idea of the concept of dying and its effects.


The bill is chock-a-block with safeguards to protect the vulnerable so often quoted as at risk from voluntary euthanasia. Should it become law, there's obviously going to be a lot of paperwork.

The person wanting to end their life will have to be suffering from a terminal illness likely to end it anyway within 12 months or have an irreversible condition that in their view renders life unbearable. They will have to go through three sets of examinations by qualified professionals to ascertain that they meet the criteria.

That itself, although a necessary safeguard, will be a gruelling experience for many. The many would also include the predatory will-sniffing rellies who are often brought up as an argument against euthanasia and likely to be smoked out along the way. They are further taken care of by a requirement for the patient to satisfy the medical practitioner that there has been no coercion.

One issue to have been raised early is the emotional and psychological effects on medical practitioners who will be required to carry out the procedure.

The reality is, of course, that there will be no such medical practitioners: "This Bill ensures that medical practitioners who are opposed to the practice are under no obligation to advise on or provide assisted dying."

So, far from having to perform euthanasia, doctors don't even have to tell their suffering patients that it exists.

Research and reports from jurisdictions where voluntary euthanasia is legal shows that many doctors do indeed struggle with the act. And that's to be expected.

Doctors training is to keep people alive, thank goodness.


But the world changes. Many conditions that previously saw us off quickly no longer do so. Thanks to doctors many people who get cancer, for instance, can survive it for many more years than they previously could.

But not all. There remain cases where people can be kept alive to lead lives that they feel are not worth living. Fortunately, the number of such people is very few. This bill deals with a small number of extreme cases who deserve a compassionate and dignified end to their lives; not a prolonged and pointless existence of pain.

As the years go medical training will be adjusted to accommodate a new attitude that reflects the realities of what can or can't be done for patients. This final act that the End of Life Bill will permit will be seen as one of kindness and best practice - more humane, more honourable, more transparent. It really is about death with dignity.