New Zealand Allows Euthanasia for Coronavirus Patients ‘in Some Circumstances’

Euthanasia injection
AFP/Brendan SMIALOWSKI

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has confirmed that patients suffering from the Wuhan coronavirus could be eligible for a right to a lethal injection under the nation’s new euthanasia law.

The End of Life Choice Act 2019, which came into force last month, was enacted “to give persons who have a terminal illness and who meet certain criteria the option of lawfully requesting medical assistance to end their lives; and to establish a lawful process for assisting eligible persons who exercise that option.”

The Health Ministry responded to a request for clarification regarding provisions of the Act, declaring that “in some circumstances a person with COVID-19 may be eligible for assisted dying,” the Catholic Herald reported last week.

The request for clarification under New Zealand’s Official Information Act came from Henoch Kloosterboer, editor of an anti-euthanasia website called The Defender, and was worded as follows:

“Could a patient who is severely hospitalised with Covid-19 potentially be eligible for assisted suicide or euthanasia under the Act if a health practitioner viewed their prognosis as less than 6 months?”

The Ministry of Health said that the determination of eligibility is made by medical personnel and could include a person suffering from the coronavirus. Its official response reads:

There are clear eligibility criteria for assisted dying. These include that a person must have a terminal illness that is likely to end their life within six months.

A terminal illness is most often a prolonged disease where treatment is not effective. The EOLC Act states eligibility is determined by the attending medical practitioner (AMP), and the independent medical practitioner.

Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis; therefore, the Ministry cannot make definitive statements about who is eligible. In some circumstances a person with COVID-19 may be eligible for assisted dying.

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