Back to all publications

Hospice and the End of Life Choice Act 2019

The End of Life Choice Act 2019 ("the Act") has been the subject of significant debate due to the controversial nature of the topic involved. With 65.1% of New Zealander’s voting in support of the Act in the 2020 referendum, the Act came into force on 6 November 2021. Healthcare providers have many questions around the extent of their rights and obligations – in particular, their ability to refuse to provide end of life services. The issue was taken to the High Court in the case of Hospice New Zealand v Attorney General.

Hospice New Zealand (Hospice) is an organisation that provides palliative care during the stages of the end of life. Hospice applied to the Court for directions on a number of queries they had, being:

  • Whether an organisation could lawfully operate a ‘euthanasia-free’ service;
  • Whether such an organisation would be subject to any funding disadvantages;
  • What obligations such an organisation would have if a client requested end of life services; and
  • Whether individuals can refuse to undertake end of life services.

The jurisdiction of the Court to answer these questions was limited at the time of the judgment – as it was prior to the referendum the queries were hypothetical in nature. Despite this, some relevant points of guidance were able to be provided.

First, it was made clear that no organisation is under an obligation to provide assisted dying services – any organisation is free to refuse to provide such services for any (or no) reason. Following from this, such an organisation must have proper processes in place to ensure any medical practitioner is able to meet their objection obligations under the law. These obligations are to inform a person requesting assisted dying services of the practitioner’s conscientious objection, and of the person’s right to ask the SCENZ Group for the contact details of a replacement practitioner who is willing to provide assisted dying services. Finally, the Act does not impact professional obligations – above all, health practitioners must only act in any situation if they have the competence to do so.

The case provides greater guidance on the ability for organisations and individual practitioners to object to the provision of assisted dying services. Ultimately, each situation that arises will depend on the individual circumstances at play.

The Act also brings up a lot of questions around a person's affairs at the end of life. If you would like to review your estate arrangements, get in touch with our Asset Planning Team.

Kaylee is a Solicitor in our Asset Planning Team and can be contacted on 07 808 6066.

Back to all publications