To assist the smooth rollout of the Act, the EOLC has set up a strategy group to highlight any issues that are of particular concern.
A more compassionate society
By Mary Panko, President, End-of-Life Choice Society
Between 200 and 300 million people around the world are now living in jurisdictions where they have a right to medical aid in dying! This is an unstoppable change and New Zealand is part of the move towards a more compassionate society. While we have gained this victory, the effort to get the Act working effectively by November 7th (which is a Sunday!) goes on.
So far, representing the EOLC Society, I have had 2 meetings with the Ministry of Health Regulatory body (as well as directly with the nurses’ organisation) and I have passed to them a number of recommendations. In particular, we have talked about setting up a Care Navigators’ role (similar to that in Victoria) which would provide support to doctors, patients and nurses.
A timetable for change
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has now released its timetable for the implementation of the End-of-Life Choice Act. Please do have a look at their website.
Their timetable shows that by June, the MoH intend to have SCENZ and the Review Committee fully established, and to be starting their planning for workforce training.
They don’t expect this to be fully rolled out till late October but this looks frighteningly late – very close to the moment when terminally ill New Zealanders may be going to speak to their doctors, requesting assessment for assisted dying.
A strategy highlighting issues
To assist the smooth rollout of the Act, the EOLC has set up a strategy group to highlight any issues that are of particular concern. For example, as Dr Jack Havill pointed out, although the MoH has already contacted GPs to get their views, this still leaves a lot of specialist doctors out of the loop, not to mention the key role played by New Zealand nurse practitioners.
Maryan Street, our previous President, has stressed that the Review Committee must be given a wide-ranging brief to ensure any stumbling blocks to access for all who choose to use this law are identified and rectified.
All of this means that the EOLC remains deeply committed to the success of the Act, and is continuing to work hard towards this goal.
Additional news: action in Tasmania
On Thursday night, the Tasmanian End-of-Life-Choices Bill passed the Lower House with a vote of 16 in favour to 6 against. Since the Upper House has previously passed the bill unanimously, ratification is now virtually a formality and is scheduled for 23rd March. We can then welcome Tasmania as the third Australian state to legalise assisted dying.
Congratulations to the Tasmanian bill’s sponsor, Independent MP Mike Gaffney.