Euthanasia – inner turmoil of scheduling time and date


Two hundred and fifty-seven people chose to die by euthanasia in first year since euthanasia became legal in New Zealand, says Victoria University assisted dying researcher Dr Jessica Young.

Hundreds more explored the service but chose not to proceed, she says.

However, Young’s conversations with 19 individuals who opted for euthanasia paint a picture of the inner turmoil and the weight of making such a final choice.

According to her research, many did not foresee the difficulty in setting the date and time for their own death.

Young describes the waiting period as a double-edged sword.

While it provided time to say goodbye, it also initiated a distressing countdown.

“Waiting for the day to arrive was an opportunity to prepare themselves and their families and friends for death but, for some, it felt like an unwelcome countdown – and choosing it was very tricky” says Young.

Young acknowledged that it is not an easy task for providers to euthanise people, and families of those who chose to die this way described it as a bittersweet experience.

“Families are both relieved that their loved one is no longer suffering, but also it’s really hard to have this date hanging over your head of when you will die … it’s bittersweet.

“Before the assisted dying law came in there was so much discussion about how contentious this was and it is certainly a sensitive subject,” she says.

“But the stigma from colleagues that assisted dying providers expected has largely not eventuated, which is great” says Dr Young.

Young says she has not encountered much stigma from people disagreeing with people’s decision to be euthanised.

She says she recently started discussing euthanasia applications with cancer patients, their families and physicians and is describing the feedback as positive.

However despite the positive feedback, Young found that those being euthanised experienced gaps in the service.

“Patients who wanted counselling found that some of the professionals they spoke to were ill-equipped to discuss assisted dying” she says.

“Providers said they faced a steep learning curve in terms of navigating the eligibility assessment requirements and the Ministry of Health portal, and families said that there was a big gap in support after death for them.”


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