Understanding the issue

What is euthanasia?

An act which of itself and by intention causes the death of another person in order to eliminate their suffering. Medically assisted euthanasia (or Physician Assisted Euthanasia, PAE) refers to an act undertaken by a physician or other health professional.

What is assisted suicide?

This happens when a person commits suicide with assistance from others, often by self-administering a lethal substance that has been obtained with the assistance of a third party.

What is physician-assisted suicide?

Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) refers to a situation where a doctor prescribes or provides a lethal substance to a person which they can then take themselves at some later time when they decide to end their life.

Withholding or withdrawing treatment is not euthanasia

When a treatment is judged to be medically futile, or when the benefits of a particular treatment are deemed to be outweighed by the burdens for a particular person, it is a question of accepting the inevitability of death and allowing the person to return to their dying.

The New Zealand Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights allows for any person to refuse services and to withdraw consent to services.

People have a right to be free of pain

When a health professional administers medication with the sole intention of relieving a patient's pain, that action is morally acceptable even if it foreseeably shortens the patient's life. This is not an act of (slow) euthanasia as some claim.


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