Dissertation Abstracts

Exploring the views of New Zealanders with terminal illness who would consider or who want an assisted death

Author: Jessica E. Young, jessica.young@otago.ac.nz
Department: General Practice and Rural Health
University: University of Otago, New Zealand
Supervisor: Associate Professor Chrystal Jaye
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: assisted dying , medical sociology , end of life care , euthanasia
Areas of Research: Health , Social psychology


Assisted dying is a highly topical and globally significant issue, and is of national interest given the current controversy over its legal status and proposed law changes. However, the voice of those who want or who would consider choosing an assisted death, if it were available to them, is missing from the discourse in New Zealand. Whether or not there is a law change, these perspectives need to be heard. This research is an open enquiry into the perspectives of people with a terminal, incurable, degenerative or progressive illness who want or would consider an assisted death. People near the end of life and their most important carers will be interviewed about their views on assisted dying. This study aims to add to the knowledge about assisted dying from the perspectives of the person nearing end of life and those who care for them. No research with this cohort has been conducted in NZ to date. It is the views of this cohort that are startlingly absent from the current debate, and given their vulnerability and the challenges they face as they progress towards inevitable death, it is important to collect empirical data that will extend our understanding and fill a knowledge gap. Those with shortened life expectancy are an important group to examine because they are faced with their own mortality and in the best position to know how they feel about assisted dying. Participants will be recruited by advertising in free community newspapers. The advertisement will also be circulated by interested community organisations and aged care facilities. The data will be viewed through the lens of medical sociology, drawing on interpretive and social constructivist frameworks to understand how people make sense of their experiences and choices at the end of life. Research that explores New Zealander’s explanations and motivations for considering an assisted death, is necessary to shed light on our unique local context and inform societal and political debate.

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