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New Zealand votes to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill adults

New Zealand votes to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill adults
© Getty images

Voters in New Zealand have approved a referendum legalizing euthanasia for terminally ill adults, according to preliminary results from the country’s Oct. 17 general election.

Early figures show almost two-thirds of voters supported the End of Life Choice Act, with 33 percent opposing it.

The new law would apply to adults who have to have a terminal illness and are likely to die within six months, according to The Associated Press. The person must also be enduring “unbearable” suffering.

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Candidates would have to be medically evaluated, including by a government-appointed professional, CNN reported. Health care professionals would not be permitted to initiate talks about assisted dying, and providers would not be obligated to help people who wish to go through with the process.

The libertarian ACT Party applauded the preliminary results of the referendum, saying in a statement: “New Zealand has become a more compassionate and humane society. Thousands of New Zealanders who might have suffered excruciating deaths will have choice, dignity, control, and autonomy over their own bodies, protected by the rule of law.”

Several countries have legalized some variation of euthanasia, the AP noted, including Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Preliminary results of the New Zealand election also showed that voters opposed legalizing marijuana, 53.1 percent to 46.1 percent.