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Following New Zealanders voting in support of the End of Life Choice Act in a referendum held at the same time as last year’s election, the ministry has a year to devise and put in place the framework patients will use to avail themselves of the law’s provisions.
The ministry has recently surveyed all New Zealand senior medical officers to ask if they wish to be included in a list of physicians who agree to provide end of life services.
"I was shocked when, upon answering that I will not take part in assisted dying, the MoH survey offered the following question: ‘What areas would you want more information on for you to be willing to provide assisted dying services?’."
The first area listed in the question was "funding arrangements", which the doctor felt was "despicable".
"The ministry should respect my choice not to provide assisted dying services and should never try to sway my position, and certainly never use funding as an enticement."
Of the seven options listed in the question, "funding arrangements" was first alphabetically, perhaps explaining its prominence.
However, the doctor felt strongly that the question offered the possibility of money influencing a doctor’s position.
Ministry quality assurance and safety group manager Emma Prestidge said the survey was completely optional.
"It is aimed at understanding the views of the workforce today regarding the Act, and what areas they are interested in hearing about as implementation progresses."
The survey had been designed to give an early indication of the number of practitioners who might choose to have a role in the assisted dying service and any specific concerns they might have, she said.
"Health practitioners have a right to conscientiously object to providing assisted dying services, and it’s important to note that a response to this survey is not a confirmation of a health professional’s choice to either participate in, or opt out of, the service.
"The results will help inform our approach to workforce development for an assisted dying service."
Funding had been an issue in some countries that had introduced assisted dying, notably Canada, where committed doctors had at first offered it free but found that was unsustainable.