New Zealand votes to legalise euthanasia in referendum

Our Foreign Staff
·2 min read
Jacinda Ardern supported the right-to-die bill - GETTY IMAGES
Jacinda Ardern supported the right-to-die bill - GETTY IMAGES

New Zealanders have voted overwhelmingly to legalise euthanasia, according preliminary referendum results released on Friday.

The referendum was held on October 17, alongside the general election that returned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to power with a landslide majority, and another vote on allowing recreational cannabis.

Preliminary figures showed 65.2 per cent of voters supported euthanasia, with 33.8 against, while 53.1 per cent opposed legalising recreational marijuana, compared to 46.1 in favour.

The initial figures do not include special votes - including ballots cast overseas - which account for almost 20 per cent of the total and could still see the cannabis vote go either way.

However, the overwhelming support for euthanasia means the measure will pass, regardless of how the special votes are divided, when final figures are released next Friday.

The result of the euthanasia vote is binding, while the cannabis one is not.

The cannabis vote could yet go either way - AP
The cannabis vote could yet go either way - AP

Legislation allowing medically assisted death passed through parliament last year but lawmakers delayed implementing it until the public had its say through a referendum.

Under the law, a mentally sound adult who has a terminal illness likely to kill them within six months and is experiencing "unbearable suffering" can request a fatal dose of medication.

The request needs to be signed off by the patient's physician and an independent doctor, with a psychiatrist called in if either has doubts about the person's ability to make an informed decision.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said it would come into effect in November next year.

Ms Ardern supported the right-to-die bill, saying last year she reluctantly agreed to the referendum because it was the only way to advance the legislation.

She was coy during the election campaign about her stance on recreational cannabis, although she did admit to smoking marijuana "a long time ago".

Ms Ardern's office confirmed on Friday she had voted "yes" in both referendums.

The Prime Minister "will progress any legislation in line with the will of the people following the release of the final results next week", her spokeswoman said.

Under the proposed cannabis law, anyone aged over 20 could buy up to 14 grams (half an ounce) a day, and households could each grow up to four plants.

Recreational cannabis will remain illegal if the "no" vote is still over 50 per cent next Friday.