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Statutory body established for New Zealand’s assisted dying service

Hand of woman touching senior man in hospital

Implementation of the End of Life Choice Act 2019 (the Act) is well under way, in preparation for when assisted dying becomes legally available in New Zealand from 7 November this year.

The statutory body for the assisted dying service, the Support and Consultation for End of Life in New Zealand (SCENZ) group, has now been formed, with appointments made by the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

“Eleven people have been appointed for a term of two years to SCENZ.  The calibre of candidates was extremely high, and the members together bring significant clinical and health and disability sector experience,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“The SCENZ group brings collective experience in the awareness of Te Ao Māori and an understanding of Tikanga Māori; clinical expertise, expertise in ethics and law, and the disability sector; and includes representation of the views of patients, whānau and the community. Membership includes health professionals, among them a psychiatrist, a pharmacist, and a nurse practitioner, all of them currently practising.”

The SCENZ group is required to be established under the Act. As part of the role, SCENZ will work closely with the secretariat of the assisted dying service.

Responsibilities include maintaining the list of health practitioners and psychiatrists involved in providing assisted dying services; and providing contact details for replacement, or independent medical practitioners as part of the service, and the contact details for when psychiatrists may be required.

The SCENZ group will also support the development of the standards of care for medicines as part of the implementation being led by the Ministry of Health, and SCENZ will then go on to have oversight of the standards.

The other statutory body, the End of Life Review Committee, which will report on compliance with the Act to the Registrar (assisted dying), is expected to be appointed by the Minister of Health around October in preparation for when assisted dying services becomes lawful in November.

Assisted dying remains illegal in New Zealand until 7 November 2021.

For more information,  visit the Ministry of Health website.

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