Oct 29, 2020 - World

New Zealanders vote to legalize euthanasia in referendum

A voter casts her referendum and election ballots in Auckland, New Zealand.

A voter casts her referendum and election ballots in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Rebecca Falconer/Axios

New Zealanders have voted to back the End of Life Choice Bill, which allows voluntary euthanasia for adults living in the country who have terminal illnesses, preliminary results announced by the NZ Electoral Commission show.

By the numbers: 65.2% voted in favor of the bill and 33.8% opposed it.

Driving the news: Members of Parliament last year voted individually in a conscience vote, rather than along party lines, to put the bill to a referendum. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was among those to support the measure.

  • Under the new law, applicants must meet strict requirements, including the ability to make informed decisions about assisted dying.

The big picture: Euthanasia and the variants of "assisted dying and assisted suicide" are legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Colombia and the Australian state of Victoria, the Guardian notes.

  • In the U.S., physician-assisted suicide has been legalized in nine states and the District of Columbia, per CNN.

Of note: The NZ vote was one of two referendums people voted on during the country's Oct. 17 general election, which Ardern's Labour Party won in a landslide.

  • In the other referendum, 53.1% voted against legalizing cannabis and 46.1% for the measure.
  • The results do not include an estimated 480,000 special ballots, such as those cast from abroad.

What's next: Final election results will be announced Nov. 6.

  • The End of Life Choice Bill will come into force 12 months after the official result is declared.
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