High Court Action By Hospice New Zealand
On 9 April 2020 Hospice New Zealand lodged an application under the Declaratory Judgments Act 1908 in the High Court in Wellington. The application asks the Court to provide rulings on the legal meaning of certain aspects of the End of Life Choice Act 2019, including:
• Whether an organisation such as a hospice can conscientiously object to Assisted Dying and operate a ‘euthanasia-free’ service.
• Whether a DHB or other funding agency can decline to fund or contract with an organisation if it does not agree to provide Assisted Dying services.
• Whether the Act’s mandatory obligations on a health practitioner override the ethical, clinical or professional judgments of that practitioner and their obligations under the Code of Health and Disability Consumers’ Rights.
• Whether a health practitioner may exercise a right of conscientious objection on the basis that they hold as a core value that they must not act in a way that is contrary to their ethical, clinical or professional judgment and obligations.
This application is necessary in order for Hospice New Zealand to be able to provide accurate advice to its 33 member hospices in advance of the referendum on the Act to be held on 19 September 2020. Accordingly, Hospice New Zealand has requested an urgent hearing before the Court.
The Attorney-General, as respondent, requested that other medical and nursing organisations should have the opportunity to apply for intervener status on this matter, if they wish. In order not to delay a hearing, Hospice New Zealand’s counsel agreed that eight organisations should be served with the proceedings, while emphasising they have no obligation to appear if they do not wish.
Hospice New Zealand is represented in this matter by Ms Steph Dyhrberg of Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law and Ms Victoria Casey QC of Thorndon Chambers.