During this year’s election, voters will make a decision on two referendums. One of these will determine whether the End of Life Choice Act comes into force.
If passed, this Act would give those living with terminal illnesses and with less than six months left to live the option of requesting assisted dying by euthanasia, which is currently illegal in New Zealand.
The Act passed in parliament in November last year with 69 votes in favour and 51 opposed, but will only come into force if more than 50% of voters vote yes in the upcoming referendum.
But how do Auckland students feel about the End of Life Choice Act?
The Chair of Princes Street Labour, Adam Brand, thinks young people are engaging with this issue.
“I think there’s a stereotype that young people aren’t interested in the End of Life Choice referendum; I don’t think that’s true at all. Having talked to people throughout O-week, people definitely have heard of it and are aware of the issue.”
Young people aged 18-24 are the age bracket with the lowest voter enrollment with just 61.52% of eligible voters enrolled.
Brand says as a political organisation, it’s their role to discuss issues like this with students, bridging the gap between students and politics.
“This sort of high information issue would be difficult for anyone, particularly young people who might not have had experience engaging with these issues before.”
Greens on Campus Executive, Ryan Blackmore, thinks it is important to understand both sides of the issue.
“I’ve talked to a few people about it and what they support, and there are a lot of fair arguments for and against.”
Amendments to the Bill were made before its third reading to narrow the conditions of eligibility to request assisted dying.
Blackmore said these amendments are closer to reflecting Green Party policies in regards to improving the quality of health services and end of life care.
Concerns about how the Bill would protect people living with disabilities and the elderly were expressed in its early stages before amendments were made.
“When David Seymour first promoted this, it was very ambiguous and it was very wide ranging. I think that ambiguity made a lot of people worried and you want clarity on who this bill will affect.”
In its current stage, the Act requires the physician in charge of the case to ensure the patient can make an informed decision and must do their best to ensure a person’s choice to ask for assisted dying is their own.
Brand said a main concern of students surrounding euthanaisa and the Act were these protections and the limitations.
“There’s a lot of details that make a huge difference: who’s able to access it, what restrictions there are, what protections are in place.”
Brand agrees it is important that these restrictions have been added to the Act.
“People are probably open to the idea that they should have freedom of choice, as long as there are proper precautions and safety around it.”
Blackmore says it is important to consider the perspectives of people living with terminal illness.
“I think that what needs to be considered when you’re weighing it up, is that they are the person who is feeling that pain and is going to be affected by this Act”.