Advance directives are technically legally binding and recognised by the major medical bodies and the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, which sets out your “right to be fully informed, make an informed choice and give informed consent”. But the decision to follow it ultimately rests with a clinician. –Peter Griffin, NZ Listener, 22 February 2023

By Ann David  

A horror story about advance directives

You may have read about this in the NZ Listener, Herald, Dominion Post or Christchurch Press, heard it on Newstalk ZB or seen it on the AM Show: some advance directives are being ignored. 

A petition will be presented to parliament in April asking it to make advance directives binding and to have them stored in a single, national repository.  The End-of-Life Choice Society NZ heartily agrees – this is long overdue.  Please consider helping this petition by signing up to it individually.  Numbers count.  See  https://barbiesbill.nz/   

A note of reassurance   

In the main, advance directives are followed provided they are clear, don’t request anything illegal, are signed, dated, and independently witnessed. 

For over a decade the End-of-Life Choice Society has been offering a free online booklet called “Guide to Dying Your Way” at https://www.eolc.org.nz   The form is well-accepted by medical professionals all over the country.   Download it and let others know to do the same.  Remember to re-sign your advance directive every 3 – 5 years, or more frequently if you risk losing competence.  Get your signature witnessed, preferably by your doctor.  

With medical involvement, this confirms your identity, your mental competence at the time of signing, that you understand your choices and have made them without coercion.   Ask your doctor to record your advance directive on your medical centre file and also to send it to your local hospital.  Give a copy to your Agent (trusted person).  You can change your advance directive at any time. 

Assisted dying not permissible by advance directive.  

Currently, the End of Life Choice Act expressly forbids the use of an advance directive for assisted dying.  The legislation is due for review sometime after November 2024.   The Ministry of Health’s Assisted Dying Service has just released its latest data to 31 December 2022: 0.82% of total deaths in 2022 were by assisted dying.