Legal Key Issues - Euthanasia

Advance Directives and Living Wills

The first living will document was developed for the Euthanasia Society of America (now called Choice in Dying) for the purpose of gaining public acceptance of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (EAS). EAS opponents are concerned that the ambiguity and vagueness of the language used, can lead to confusion and to doctors making their own interpretation.

Enduring Powers of Attorney

An Enduring Powers of Attorney gives another person the right to make medical decisions, in the event the donor becomes incapable of making informed decisions. There are cases where EPOA's have been abused by the guardians and could, where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legalised, lead to withdrawal of food and water, even when it is against the wishes of the donor.

Protective Medical Documents

Like an Enduring Power of Attorney, a Protective Medical Document (PMD) enables the signer to name a trusted family member or friend as the 'agent' to make medical decisions if he/she is unable to do so. PMD's explicitly define and prohibit euthanasia, and specify that nutrition and hydration are to be provided, unless death is inevitable AND truly imminent so that the effort to sustain life is futile or unless one is unable to assimilate food and fluids.

The Law in New Zealand

Euthanasia and assisted suicide is illegal in New Zealand under the Crimes Act 1961 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights. Those who are convicted of a 'mercy killing' usually receive a reduced sentence but there are cases where courts have allowed doctors to remove life support.

Global Euthanasia Laws

Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is only legally practiced in the Netherland, Belgium and the State of Oregon in the US. In other countries, an altruistically motivated death by physician assisted suicide is not usually not punished.