When New Zealand goes to the polls in seven weeks, voters will also be asked whether or not they support the proposed End of Life Choice Act 2019. The legislation has already passed through Parliament but whether it comes into force or not depends on the outcome of what is a binding referendum. Lucy Drake canvasses local candidates and experts on the issue.
To get an idea of the interest in the subject of euthanasia in New Zealand you only have to look at the number of submissions to the select committee on the bill.
Forty thousand people made written submissions and more than 1000 gave verbal evidence.
Colin Gavaghan is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago and said that kind of public consultation was a good thing.
"It meant that Parliament got to hear a whole range of different perspectives and concerns," he said.
"It also meant that people got to make suggestions about how the law could be improved, and quite a few of those were taken on board."
However, he was not in favour of referendums on these sorts of issues because they did not allow for any nuance.
"There's no way to learn what people actually think or know about the law, and no way to improve the law based on their experiences or insights," he said.
"But we are where we are, so I'd just encourage everyone to find out what the law actually says before voting."
Gavaghan said people all had different "values and fears and ideas about what makes life worth living".
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"To a large extent, we're free to choose to live our lives according to those views and values.
"The act will make it more likely that we can see out our days in the same fashion. It's not an option that will suit everyone. I don't know if I would want it myself. But I know I'd want the choice."
But he said it ends up being a very restrictive law, too much so for a lot of supporters.
"But I think it's a good compromise between freedom and safety."
The safeguarding is one of the main concerns of opponents of the bill.
Te Tai Hauāuru MP and Labour candidate Adrian Rurawhe said he has always voted against the bill based on consultation with his electorate.
"I'm going to vote against the referendum principally because there basically are not enough protections for vulnerable people in my opinion," he said.
Others, like Jessica Young, who has just completed a PhD at the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago on the views of terminally ill New Zealanders, believes there is.
Young said the bill was a narrow piece of legislation with strict safeguards some might consider onerous.
"My research participants saw the tight controls on assisted dying as a good thing," she said.
"They were willing to have some limits placed on their freedom to ensure the safety of everyone. They believed, and I agree, that any risks could be managed safely by the many safeguards in the End of Life Choice Bill, now Act."
Young said in her research she found people approaching the end of life found it reassuring to potentially have the option of assisted dying even if they did not use it.
"The main benefit is for assisted dying to complement the limitations of palliative care when suffering can no longer be relieved."
Young said it was important for people to have their say on the topic.
"Research has shown that 68 per cent of New Zealanders have supported it for the last 20 years," she said.
Other electorate candidates have mixed views on the referendum - or are undecided.
Labour's Whanganui candidate, Steph Lewis, said she had not decided yet which way she would vote but was leaning towards voting in favour of the referendum on the basis that if she were ever to find herself in a situation where she had a terminal illness she would want to consider her options.
"I know there are some people who are concerned about the safeguards in place and in particular from the disability community so one of the things I've done is gone back and read the bill as purposed," she said.
Lewis said it was not an easy topic to talk about and a personal issue where many people have had to watch a loved one slowly die an agonising death from a terminal illness.
"I watched my grandpa die and he was a very strong Catholic man but I still very clearly remember as a 13-year-old the last time I saw him when he was withering in pain and couldn't talk and it was hard and it is an incredibly personal issue."
Green Party's Whanganui candidate, Alan Clay, said he was strongly in favour of the act.
"Because, again, it's a matter of updating our laws to suit where we are as a society now and it's appropriate to give people the power to end their own life when they want to if they are in pain and there is no way to heal them," he said.
National's Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie said had been against the bill right through its process in Parliament and suspects he will vote the same way in the referendum.
"I don't see why I would change my mind because I'm not really satisfied the bill puts in place enough safeguards in two areas partially around disability and aged people, which I'm almost one of."
Whanganui New Conservative party candidate Jonathan Marshall said he said would vote against the bill.
"It's just one thing step in what I think is the wrong direction, it's one step that's on a slope and it slides."
Green Party candidate Ali Hale Tilley is in support.
"Although some people I have chatted with feel fearful that some vulnerable people may be coerced by family members to end their life early, having read the act thoroughly, I feel certain that the strict eligibility criteria for assisted dying is stringent enough to eliminate any and all possible misconduct."
Labour's Rangitīkei candidate Soraya Peke-Mason will vote no in the referendum.
"It is not part of my belief system to do so. I have been raised in a whānau where collectively we come together to nurture and care for those preparing to leave this world."
Whanganui MP and National candidate Harete Hipango, Māori Party Te Tai Hauāuru candidate Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Hospice Whanganui have been approached for comment.
The Ministry of Health and district health boards are politically neutral and are unable to comment on matters relating to the End of Life Choice referendum.