Euthanasia
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New Zealand Votes To Legalize Euthanasia but Not Marijuana

New Zealanders voted to legalize euthanasia in a binding referendum, but preliminary results released Friday showed they likely would not legalize marijuana.

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New Zealanders voted to legalize euthanasia in a binding referendum, but preliminary results released Friday showed they likely would not legalize marijuana.

With about 83% of votes counted, New Zealanders emphatically endorsed the euthanasia measure with 65% voting in favor and 34% voting against.

The “No” vote on marijuana was much closer, with 53% voting against legalizing the drug for recreational use and 46% voting in favor. That left open a slight chance the measure could still pass once all special votes were counted next week, although it would require a huge swing.

In past elections, special votes — which include those cast by overseas voters — have tended to be more liberal than general votes, giving proponents of marijuana legalization some hope the measure could still pass.

Proponents of marijuana legalization were frustrated that popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wouldn’t reveal how she intended to vote ahead the Oct. 17 ballot, saying she wanted to leave the decision to New Zealanders. Ardern said Friday after the results were released that she had voted in favor of both referendums.

Conservative lawmaker Nick Smith, from the opposition National Party, welcomed the preliminary marijuana result.

“This is a victory for common sense. Research shows cannabis causes mental health problems, reduced motivation and educational achievement, and increased road and workplace deaths,” he said. “New Zealanders have rightly concluded that legalizing recreational cannabis would normalize it, make it more available, increase its use and cause more harm.”

But liberal lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick, from the Green Party, said they had long assumed the vote would be close and they needed to wait until the specials were counted.

“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,” said the ACT political party, whose leader David Seymour sponsored the End of Life Choice Act.The law contains several stipulations for those eligible to receive “assisted dying.”The person must be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18 with a terminal illness “likely to end the person’s life within 6 months”; is in an “advanced state of irreversible decline in physical capability”; and is experiencing “unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable.”They would have to be evaluated by multiple medical professionals, including one from a government-appointed medical practitioner.Doctors and nurses are not allowed to start the conversation about assisted dying, and health practitioners are not obligated to assist people who wish to die if they have a conscientious objection.Assisted suicide and euthanasia are only legal in a handful of countries and jurisdictions around the world, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Canada.

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