NZNO shares members' diverse views on assisted dying

21 September 2016

Nurses acknowledge that assisted dying is likely to become legal in New Zealand but hold a diverse range of perspectives on the issue, NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku told Parliament's Health Committee today.

The co-leader of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation was speaking at the committee's public hearings on the Maryan Street petition to allow medically-assisted dying in the event of terminal illness or unbearable suffering.

In a statement issued today the organisation said it wanted to contribute to the discussion on assisted dying as any legislation around medically assisted dying (AD) would have serious implications for nurses and their duty of care for patients.

"Based on legislative trends overseas, nurses acknowledge it is likely that AD will become legal in New Zealand," said the statement. "NZNO therefore takes a principled approach to AD and respect individuals’ desire to have a choice."

Nuku echoed this in her address to parliament by saying that like there was no one view on AD there was also "no one Māori view or approach to death and dying".

"While NZNO members are supportive of the patient’s right to dignity and ability to have control over the timing of their death, of course with 48,000 members there is a diverse range of perspectives on this issue," said Nuku.

Jane MacGeorge, NZNO's Nursing and Professional Services Manager who has had several years’ experience managing services in the palliative care sector, joined Nuku in presenting on NZNO's behalf to the committee.

“Those who support legalising AD have witnessed many prolonged deaths where the desire for AD has arisen despite access to pain medication," said McGeorge.

 “Nurses have extensive expertise in care of the dying and should be fully involved in the drafting of any legislation. As frontline health practitioners it is also imperative that nurses know the legal implications of AD. 

“In addition, the legislation should provide nurses with the right to conscientious objection as it has been allowed under reproductive services.

“Members who oppose legislation for AD have concerns that centre on the protection of the vulnerable. We need improved access to quality palliative care available to all who need it.

“NZNO encourages open discussions about death and dying and also supports the movement in advance care planning,” MacGeorge said.

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