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Study into effects on family members who assisted with the death of a loved one

Assisted dying – although illegal in New Zealand – is often in the spotlight and surrounded by much debate. The study Helping a loved one die: the act of assisted dying in New Zealand, by Svetlana Feigin and published in the Journal of  Mortality, explored the personal experiences of family members who had assisted with the death of a loved one and resulting consequences (legal, emotional, psychological). An abstract can be found by clicking here.

Findings suggest that the act of assisted dying was motivated primarily by altruistic reasons, driven by empathy and compassion towards a suffering loved one. The act of assisted dying resulted in unforeseeable life-changing events such as imprisonment, activism for legalisation of euthanasia, and loss of significant relationships. The overall experience was characterised by coping strategies, predominantly negative emotional states, and a deliberate defiance of established legal and medical systems. Participants represented a sub-group of altruistic offenders. Findings draw attention to the four principles of medical ethics – autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice in relation to assisted dying.