New Zealand will join a number of countries that have legalized the suicide diet after their citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum this month.
A second question on the ballot in the Oct. 17 federal election – about legalizing recreational use of marijuana – failed, according to preliminary results released on Friday.
Cannabis measure advocates expressed disappointment to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who declined her view of legalization ahead of the election and revealed only Friday that she voted in favor of it.
In terms of euthanasia, however, her stance was clear. Ms. Ardern, who remains as prime minister with a landslide victory in federal elections, has long expressed support for the legalization and the measure passed with 65% of the vote.
The question of a bipartisan vote, with her main rival in the election, Judith Collins of the center-right National Party, also expressed support. Congress passed a bill legitimizing the right to suicide last year, though it needs to be ratified with at least 50% backing in a referendum to take effect.
Now, starting November 6 of next year, doctors will be able to legally prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients who are likely to end their lives within six months. .
To qualify, the patient must experience significant and persistent impairments in physical ability and experience “irreversible suffering”. They must voluntarily ask for the process and show that they can make an informed decision. Two doctors will have to sign the decision.
“What a great day to be a Kiwi,” David Seymour, the lawmaker who sponsored the action, told supporters gathered to celebrate the outcome in Congress on Friday. He added that the vote turned “New Zealand into a kinder, more compassionate, more humane society.”
Euthanasia is legal in five other countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and Colombia. Physician-assisted suicide, in which a doctor gives a patient the means to commit suicide, is legal in Switzerland. Several states in the US and Victoria of Australia have legalized various forms of hospice assistance.
Likewise with regard to cannabis, only a handful of countries have legalized its recreational use, although some have disabled it.
In New Zealand, the voting measure requires voters to approve not only the general principles of legalization but also specific provisions to create a legal market. Fifty-three percent of the voters opposed the measure, and 46 percent voted in favor.
Unlike the euthanasia vote, the marijuana referendum is not binding, but Attorney General Andrew Little said on Friday that the government will quit efforts to legalize or decode the drug. .
Cannabis legalization advocates said they believe the results could be changed if Ms. Ardern – who admitted during the September 30 debate that she had been using the drug “long ago” – proclamation statement.
Richard Shaw, a professor of politics at Massey University, said the seven-point gap would most likely have “been a lot tighter if the Prime Minister held a public position that we know she had left on her own. promissory note.”
In particular online, he said, “there are certain measures of dissatisfaction, frustration, and anger when she says she has this position and doesn’t make it clear why she’s not. take this position before the election. “
According to Marta Rychert, a drug policy researcher at Massey University, New Zealand has historically adopted a conservative approach to drugs – in law if not always applied in practice. The results, she said, “showed that it is difficult to garner public support for a radical cannabis law reform.”
Dr. Rychert added that the message used by advocates, focused on the health and well-being of New Zealanders, may be less effective than those that are economically focused. support in some US states.
The New Zealand Drugs Organization said the country still had to work to reverse its punitive approach to disproportionate reduction drugs for young people and indigenous Maori.
“Although the majority of New Zealanders did not vote for the proposed legalization model, the debate showed a clear public desire for a change in the law in some form,” said the chairman. of the group, Tuari Potiki, said in a statement.
Half a million “special votes” in the referendum still have to be counted and the final results won’t be announced until Nov. 6. But Little says the results “are unlikely to be overturned. “.