Hospice New Zealand launches court case asking whether a hospice can conscientiously object to Assisted Dying and operate a “euthanasia-free” service

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Hospice New Zealand has applied for an urgent court injunction concerning their right to conscientiously object to doing euthanasia. 

The New Zealand parliament passed a euthanasia bill—”The End of Life Choice Act”–in November 2019 by a vote of 69 to 51. In order to get the bill passed in parliament the government agreed to a referendum on the bill that will take place on September 19, 2020, in conjunction with the next election.

According to Emma Russell, the health reporter for the New Zealand Herald, the court application that was launched on April 9 by Hospice New Zealand asks the High Court to rule on the legal meaning of certain aspects of the End of Life Choice Act 2019. 

Russell explains that Hospice New Zealand asked the following: 

  • Whether an organisation such as a hospice can conscientiously object to Assisted Dying and operate a “euthanasia-free” service.
  • Whether a district health board or other funding agency can decline to fund or contract with an organisation if it does not agree to provide assisted dying services.
  • Whether the Act’s mandatory obligations on a health practitioner override the ethical, clinical or professional judgments of that practitioner and their obligations under the Code of Health and Disability Consumers’ Rights. 
  • Whether a health practitioner may exercise a right of conscientious objection on the basis that they hold as a core value that they must not act in a way that is contrary to their ethical, clinical or professional judgment and obligations.

Hospice New Zealand has likely launched the court case based on concerns with developments in Canada. In February 2020, the Delta Hospice Society was informed that they will lose their funding because they refuse to do euthanasia, even thought the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association supports the position of the Delta Hospice Society.

According to Russell, the Attorney General requested that other healthcare organizations be allowed to request intervener status. Hospice New Zealand agreed to 8 interveners to prevent a delay of the proceedings.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.