Assisted dying became legally available in New Zealand from 7 November 2021. It is available to some New Zealanders who are experiencing unbearable suffering from a terminal illness that is likely to end their life within six months. A person must go through a formal assessment process, which includes strict criteria and safeguards that are set out in law. Not everyone with a terminal illness will be eligible for this service.
- Related areas: Palliative care
Printable resources and public information sheets
These information sheets can be downloaded and also printed. The resources include a general information sheet and more detailed information sheets about assisted dying and the steps for a person considering this option. There is also a resource for whānau, carers and support people, and a care plan document.
For accessible, alternative formats, and translations of the overview information sheet go to our Accessible information for the public page.
Assisted Dying Service – general information sheet
Considering assisted dying – information sheet
The assisted dying process – information sheet
Planning for an assisted death – information sheet
Supporting someone who is using the assisted dying service – information for whānau
Assisted Dying Service – quick reference guide
My Journey, My Needs – assisted dying care plan
About assisted dying in New Zealand Aotearoa
Assisted dying is one option for a person at the end of their life
Assisted dying means that a person with a terminal illness who meets the eligibility criteria can request medication that will end their life.
The Assisted Dying Service does not replace existing end of life care options, such as palliative care. It provides another option for a person with a terminal illness in specific circumstances. Palliative care is about managing pain and symptoms for people who have an illness that cannot be cured. It can be provided at home or in a community facility, like a hospice. More information can be found on the Ministry’s website.
The person may also be receiving other end of life care, such as palliative care, and they can continue to receive this care while also accessing the assisted dying service. As part of the assisted dying process, the person’s doctor will make sure the person understands their other options for end of life care.
There is a set process for accessing assisted dying
The process for accessing assisted dying is set out in the Act. The steps involved include:
- a doctor assessing whether the person is eligible
- a second, independent doctor assessing whether the person is eligible
- if required, a psychiatrist assessing whether the person is competent to make an informed decision
- planning for the assisted death, including choosing a date and time and the method for the administering the medication
- a doctor or a nurse practitioner (under the instruction of a doctor) administering the medication.
There is more detail about these steps in our assisted dying process information sheet.
There is not a set timeframe for how long this process takes, as the time taken will vary based on the person’s situation. The assisted dying service aims to be responsive to a person’s needs. However, assisted dying is not an urgent or acute health service, and there is a set formal process that a person must go through.
It is expected that confirming a person’s eligibility for assisted dying could take four to six weeks from when the request is made. The timeframe for the process may also depend on the availability of practitioners, particularly if the practitioners are travelling to provide services.
The Ministry of Health’s role
The Ministry of Health is responsible for overseeing and funding the assisted dying service. This includes monitoring the service and improving it over time. The Ministry has a secretariat team that is a contact point for the person, their whānau and the involved health professionals.
The Registrar (Assisted Dying) is part of the secretariat. They will check that the processes required in the Act have been complied with for each eligible person.
The Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) Group
The Support and Consultation for End of Life New Zealand (SCENZ) Group is a statutory body created for the assisted dying service. The SCENZ Group is responsible for maintaining lists of medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists who provide assisted dying services.
A person can ask for the name and contact details of a medical practitioner from this list if their doctor does not provide assisted dying services, or they do not want to talk to their own doctor.
Assisted dying is a sensitive topic and may be difficult for some people. If reading this information raises distressing feelings for you, there is support available.
You can call or text 1737 for free to speak to a trained counsellor at any time.