GPs cautious about ‘yes’ vote on End of Life Choice Bill

30 October 2020

In 12 months’ time some of New Zealand’s GPs could be enabling their patient to end their life after today’s preliminary ‘yes’ vote in the End of Life Bill referendum.

In a similar way to the abortion legislation, GPs will work within the legal framework and will be able to distance themselves from the choice their patients make if they have a conscientious objection to it. The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners will support members with information so its 5,500 members can make their own professional choices.

Dr Samantha Murton, President of the College (pictured left) says, "Today’s results give us clear guidance about what options New Zealanders want at the end of their lives but that doesn’t make it any less complex for medical professionals, particularly in rural communities where some of our doctors are the only medical care for some distance.

"Our membership is diverse and will run the gamut on personal opinions about euthanasia. However, professionally we are steadfast; we will work within the law and continue to do what is best for our patients.

"The College will have a leadership role to play here in working with the Support and Consultation for End of Life In NZ (SCENZ) group that are in charge of administering the euthanasia process, and will support our members with clear information about their obligations, what to do if they conscientiously object, and offer the ongoing pastoral support to GPs that we already do," says Dr Murton.

As part of the incoming law, the director-general of health will establish the SCENZ group, a cohort of medical practitioners willing to assist with euthanasia. This group will maintain a list of medical practitioners (including GPs), specialists in mental health, and pharmacists willing to participate in voluntary assisted dying.

Leading into the referendum vote the College maintained a neutral stance, instead providing balanced information to its members about their choices. The College encouraged their members to vote along their own conscience lines.